Tag Archives: Alexander Technique

Writing the therapeutic journey #8: the yoga of writing

The Nab from the veranda at Barmoor

I have just returned from facilitating some writing sessions during a yoga retreat. I have been very fortunate to be a part of three of these retreats run by the Little Yoga Company (http://www.littleyogacompany.co.uk/) and held at the wonderful Barmoor centre on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors (http://www.barmoor.org.uk/).

During my sessions, I invite participants to explore: free writing and whole body writing. I have written a lot about free writing (most recently: https://goo.gl/5exuRx) so I thought I would focus on my ideas around whole body writing.

We often think about writing as a very cerebral activity, but I think if we ignore the part our body has in the process, then we miss out on a lot. The word yoga comes from the Sanscrit word for ‘union’. And what I want to encourage is a union of mind and body in writing, along with a union of self with the universe through the natural world.

I wrote this following the retreat in the Spring: ‘The body has knowledge which the mind has not accepted or is unaware of, bringing that knowledge to the writing hand and onto the paper allows the mind to consider it. This knowledge stored in our body can bring us closer to a more authentic and enriched sense of self.’

The idea that the body stores information is not new, look, for instance, at the work of Babette Rothschild and Kim Etherington. There is some research evidence which suggests emotional response begins in the body and then is given a name by the brain. Whether we are writing for our own well-being or for an audience, tapping into the font of knowing which resides in our body can be useful.

Participants on a yoga retreat are already primed to being aware of what is going on in their bodies. To enhance this, I often start my writing session with a simple body scan. It’s easier to do this standing up with eyes closed, so the focus goes inwards. Take some breaths, then draw your attention to your feet and make sure you are safely rooted to the ground and balanced, perhaps imagining yourself as a tree, your toes delving into soil. Begin to bring your focus up your body, slowly, while still maintaining a steady breath, letting your mind’s eye explore your body internally, perhaps particularly areas where there is tension or pain. Once you have reached the crown of your head, rest for a moment before descending your attention gently and slowly back down to your rooted feet again. Open your eyes. Focus on the first thing you see (if you can do this outside or in front of a window looking out onto some nature, all the better). Sit down and free write for five minutes.

Tree in Autumn colours at Barmoor

It is also interesting to write noticing what is happening in your body. Again do some free writing, perhaps using the prompt of, for example, a pebble or the view of a tree (something in nature). As you write, have a part of your attention on how your body is. Do you grip the pen? Do you draw tension in at certain times? What’s going on in your shoulders? In your back? Are parts of your body askew or wound round each other as you sit?

You might like to reflect back on the results of this focus while writing. See post: https://goo.gl/sucyDu 

I do not know where this exploration of whole body writing will take you. However, it may open up some memories or give some meaning or understanding to a particular health issue. It may help you to define some needs or desires which are not currently being attended to. If you are writing for an audience, it may make your descriptions of emotions and your characterisation more rounded. It may encourage something else entirely to surface. The main thing is to remain open and curious, noticing and kind. See https://goo.gl/a6Wp7e

This is what I wrote following the retreat in May:
the potentials and ‘also’s
in every season of life.

I would like to thank and acknowledge my friend Lesley Glover for the discussions we have had which have helped me formulate these ideas. See her website at: https://lesley-glover.co.uk/

Have you experience of yoga and writing you would like to share?


On being a writer (part two)

I love the writing process (whether it be non-fiction, fiction or poetry): the unfolding story; the bits which take me by surprise; the characters which suddenly become very real indeed; the playing with words; and the crafting. And yet, as I and some writer friends discussed on Monday, the process is not complete without finding an audience. Is it even complete then, I wonder?

So I continue my tasks of formatting and readying ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ (the first of my crime series set in Scarborough) for release. Slowly, slowly, with an aching shoulder (with apologies to my friend who is an Alexander Technique teacher who told me how to avoid that: http://www.lesley-glover.co.uk/ ).

Meanwhile, ‘A Pocket Full of Windows’, the anthology with two of my poems in it has been published by The Valley Press (http://www.valleypressuk.com/books/pocketfulofwindows/). It will have two launches, both of which I hope to attend. The first is at 7.30pm on the 27th of November 2014, at North Bridlington Library (YO16 6YD). Readings from the anthology will be followed by a performance of the ‘The Remarkable Mr Rutherford’ (Brid’s own unofficial poet laureate) by the duo ‘The Hull to Scarborough Line’.

On Friday, the 5th of December 2014, at 7.30pm, the launch will be at http://www.woodendcreative.co.uk/ and will be accompanied by an Open Mic (entry to the event, £2). So if you’ve got the urge to perform a song, a short piece of prose or a poem, book your space and come along.

I am finding publishing – putting my work before an audience – is a compulsion even though it evokes feelings of vulnerability and crises of confidence. What I know I have to do is listen for the positives, so that it can be nourishing as well as revealing of the soul. Then maybe I will find it is a satisfying conclusion to the creative process.



Writing and the Body

A few weekends ago, along with  a friend/colleague, I facilitated a workshop called ‘Writing & the Body, Alexander Technique and creative writing’. It was for our local Lapidus group (www.lapidus.org.uk) and so the participants were people interested in writing for health and well-being. We wanted to explore with them: how to write paying attention to our whole selves; what our bodies might be saying to us; and how being connected to our who self might effect our creativity.

We’ve had some good feedback from the day and we certainly enjoyed ourselves. It is part of our own continuing exploration of creativity and ’embodiment’. After maybe 250 years of segmenting  the human (especially in health care terms) it seems like there is a movement now to try and fit the parts back together; recognising we are a whole (if very complex) organism and each piece is intrinsically linked to every other.

In parallel with this, however, the ‘re-connecting’ of the mind (perhaps even spirit) with the body is throwing up its own conundrums. With scans and the like we can begin to ‘watch’ the brain at work, we can see it as just another muscle or network of neurones and blood vessels. In doing so we risk missing the complexities of the individual. Our mind/spirit becomes a akin to a rose bush, which, if we prune judiciously and feed the right chemicals, will begin to behave ‘correctly’, ‘acceptably’.

I was reminded of this again when I watched an episode of Channel Four’s Bedlam. One person followed had received a diagnosis of ‘bi-polar’ and had been medicated accordingly over a number of years. Following several attempts at suicide, the psychiatrist changed his diagnosis to a ‘personality disorder’, stopped the meds and prescribed therapy instead. Low and behold, the suicide ideation and attempts disappeared.

I am not against medication per se – I take my fair share of pain killers when the need arises, and I know these pain killers are only getting me through, they are no cure for the cause of the pain. Nor am I against diagnosis, if it is helpful to the person and has room for the subtlety and nuances of human individuality. What I hope for the tide towards the recognition of the intertwining of mind and body is that it will help us hold onto complexity rather than be used as an excuse for reductionism. I strongly believe that what most humans crave most is healthy relationships – with themselves and with others – and we could go a long way by focusing on that.