5 Yoga Exercises For Your Writing Routine
By Carol / February 4, 2013 /
Not long ago, I wrote about how walking stimulates my writing. Writer and yoga instructor Stephanie Renée dos Santos commented that she’s found yoga to be a great help to her writing. I asked her to share exercises anyone can do and she agreed. Welcome, Stephanie!
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A Writer’s Daily Yoga Practice
First, I’d like to thank Carol for inviting me to share ways writers can incorporate yoga into the daily writing routine. I write five days a week. Normally, I write in the morning for three hours and another two-three hour session in the afternoon in what is called the “unit system.” I write for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute break (For information about this writing method visit my blog post: Up Productivity: Writing & Editing). In the 15 minutes of downtime, I do housework and/or practice yoga. I am a yoga teacher when not writing, and like everyone some days I have tight regions in my body. I do yoga stretches to open and relax these areas–allowing me to comfortably write for long periods of time.
Writers often suffer from physical pain in the eyes, head, neck, shoulders, lower back, and hips. This stress in the body can inhibit or block creativity. A daily yoga practice helps reverse and relieve bodily tension; when the body is eased, so are the tensions of the mind.
Below are 5 yoga stretches most writers can perform easily, no matter your age or flexibility. (All postures are recommended to be done slowly and mindfully, meaning pay attention to what is going on inside your body–but don’t judge or attach to what you discover, just notice.)
- Shoulder rolls: Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, then slowly pull your shoulder blades back and together and down, continue repeating this circle. Be conscious of your movements and tell yourself it is “okay” to let go and relax, while massaging out any tension in this region.
- Neck stretch: Begin with your eyes closed. And breathe in through your nose and out your mouth for 5 breaths with your head upright. Then, gently let your head ease over to the right, stretching out the left side of your neck. Count 15 breaths, then using your right hand, help your head back up to an upright position. Pause for 5 breaths, eyes still closed, and repeat on the left side, remembering to help your head up with your left hand. Returned to center, keep your eyes closed, breathing in through your nose and out your mouth for more 10 breaths or however long you like, absorbing and basking in the relief of this stretch. ** I suggest getting out of your regular writing chair and onto a blanket or yoga mat in a seated position or on a cushion, or sit in another chair, or on the edge of a bed to do the shoulder rolls and neck stretches.
- Hip circles: This pose is done standing up. Place your hands on your hips and slowly begin moving your hips in a circular motion, while breathing in through your nose and out your mouth for 10-15 breaths, then change circling direction for another 10-15 breaths. At the end release your hands from your hips, letting your arms hang down by your sides. Then shake out your arms turning your waist side to side like a windmill, while flexing your knees shaking out any tension in the body.
- Lower back stretch: Standing with your legs the same distance apart as your hips, knees slightly bent, inhale through your nose and then out your mouth and slowly bend forward at the waist, letting the weight of your head and shoulders draw you down to the floor, surrendering your weight forward for 10-15 breaths, stretching out the lumbar and legs. If you are unable to touch the floor, I suggest you use a chair or blocks to rest your hands and weight into, in order to get the most benefit out of this stretch and to not aggravate the lumbar region. Inhale through your nose while coming up, vertebrate by vertebrate.
- Standing Side Stretch: Stand with both feet waist distance apart, breathe in through your nose and out your mouth and reach up your arms into the sky, then with the right hand grasp your left wrist and stretch to the right side, opening up the left side of your torso, shoulder, and arm, taking 3-5 breaths. Then repeat this on the left side for 3-5 breaths. You can do this stretch, moving side to side 5-10 times or as many as you like.
I strongly encourage writers to begin a regular yoga practice at home and with a qualified teacher in your area, it will help you and your writing in profound ways: patience development, concentration, fluidity of creativity.
Stephanie Renée dos Santos is a fiction and freelance writer and yoga instructor. She is currently working on a historical novel set in 18th century Portugal and colonial Brazil. Stephanie leads Writing & Yoga Retreats/Workshops in Brazil and the United States. For more information please visit: www.stephaniereneedossantos.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook: Stephanie Renee dos Santos.
Upcoming Workshops in USA: July 13-14, 2013 half-day & full-day, Writing & Yoga Workshop, Bellingham, WA; July 2013 (exact dates to be announced) 3 nights, 2 full-day Writing & Yoga Workshop, Oregon Coast, OR. Visit Stephanie’s blog for workshop details: http://www.stephaniereneedossantos.com/yoga-writing-workshop/
Great exercises to loosen up the mind and body. Thanks Carol for bringing us tips from Stephanie!
I’ve been doing them this morning, Pat. I like the way I feel.
Yes, these yoga poses/stretches are excellent for loosening up the mind and body and I hope they benefit your writing and process.
Great to hear you are trying the poses and feeling their results!
Thanks again for sharing with us, Stephanie.
Thank you Carol and Stephanie for these great instructions and reminders to get our butts out of that chair once in a while and move around. Being sedentary Is an occupational hazard that can impact negatively on our health as writers and these exercises can easily be incorporated into our routines. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be trying them!
You’ve hit the point. Getting out of our chairs is critical, Kathy. The fact that these exercises are so easy and don’t require any equipment appealed to me, too.
Yes! Out of these writing chairs and allowing our bodies some movement. Our writing minds appreciate the break and change! And yes, all one needs to do is stand up or sit on the floor or on a cushion. The poses are accessible and transportable to practically any location you feel comfortable stretching in.
I need these! What I really need is an instructor to come tap me on the shoulder and gently walk me through each of these. I have really suffered from time to time from getting too attached to my seat! Thanks, Carol.
I know what you mean, Shirley. I’ve always thought I could do anything if I had a personal trainer showing up every morning and cracking the whip!
Shirley & Carol- We all could use to do a little stretching for our good and getting older bodies! If I lived in your area I would walk you both through the poses. You could also try a yoga DVD. I don’t have one out, but Yoga Instructor Anna Forest has a good beginner Yoga DVD that is gentle and good to start with, if you don’t have a yoga studio near by.
Hope that helps!
Wonderful exercises .. very similar to what we did for training to trek in the Himalayas … and continue to do regularly now that we are back.
Excellent– if these poses worked to trek in Himalayas then surely they will benefit one trekking through the wilderness of language!
I have a 3-day split routine at my gym, then one day off, then 3 days again. I love weight training and started gentle yoga on my day off. The only problem is my yoga class takes 2 hours by the time I drive there and back, and costs quite a bit. I just tried your stretches and like the standing side-stretch. I also like the idea of taking a 15 minute break every hour. Thanks Stephanie and Carol. P.S. Like the yoga in front of the Eiffel Tower. Was standing there myself not so long ago.
Sonia- Good for you, I really find regular exercise helps my creativity to keep flowing. You could try a gentle stretching yoga DVD to cut down on drive time and cost. I recommend Anna Forest’s Beginner DVD as a good start point. The 15 minute break makes a huge difference especially when working on a large manuscript. And wonderful you were just in Paris! Thank you for commenting.
My daily routine involves walking. I’m enthusiastic about adding the yoga stretching. Both that I can do on my own time. Thanks for the tip on Forest’s beginner DVD, Stephanie.
What a practical way to break my writing sessions up a bit and get my blood flowing. I’ve been looking to add an exercise regime to my life and I particularly like that I don’t have to drive somewhere. Thanks so much.
Janet- Yes, these stretches are very practical and can be done at home, in a hotel room, I even do them at the airport while waiting for a flight! Happy and comfortable writing!
Being able to do the exercises in my own home, on my own time, is what I like too, Janet. Thanks for commenting.
Great advice! Thank you for taking the time to share the stretches with us. I can see this as being very helpful.
It is my pleasure to share the stretches and I do hope they are helpful!
Stephanie and Carol, thanks for an important reminder! I know these stretches and they feel awesome. Having just undergone spinal fusion a year ago, I should be more mindful of how long I sit and write. I’ll be checking out your post on the “unit method,” Stephanie. Sounds interesting.
Sherry- Yes, now is the time to be mindful, don’t wait until there is a problem or pain…And please do read about the “unit method” it helps me immensely and I learned about it from an article in Poets & Writers magazine.
Best to you!
Sherrey- I see that I misspelled your name, apologies!
Stephanie, I love this idea of 45 minutes for writing and 15 minutes for housework and exercise. I definitely need to incorporate the stretches into my writing schedule. Thanks so much for sharing them.
It’s a break for body and mind that refreshes! Thanks for commenting, Laura.
Stephanie, great advice–tx! The other thing I love about this is it helps break the writing challenge down into 45-minute chunks. I have 10 months until I need to hand my 1st book into my editor at my publisher’s, and I’m overwhelmed by the idea of writing my whole 1st book. But what helps me is to break it into chunks (e.g., work on the 1st half of chapter 8 today, then the 2nd half tomorrow, etc., etc.) and this will give me one more way to chunk it up!
You make a good point about the value of breaking any big (and seemingly overwhelming) task into smaller manageable bits. Like the Chinese proverb that says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Getting our heads around the whole journey of writing a novel could easily stop us in our tracks. But we can do one thing today. And another tomorrow. Good luck with your book! One chunk at a time.