Yoga for writers and the one and only yoga pose
Talking to David Holzer, founder of Yogawriters
My friend David Holzer helped me make sure the English language version of my website is not too Agnesized. David is a professional writer and yogi. He created Yogawriters to share his insights into the amazing ways yoga can help writers and yogis who love to write.
Hello David. Can you tell me what Yogawriters is exactly?
Sure. It’s a method of teaching writers about the benefits of yoga for their writing and helping yogis who write, or would love to do so, use their yoga in a different way. I’ve developed a yoga sequence especially designed to prepare you for sitting down to write that enables you to tap into inspiration, stay focused and disciplined and be healthier in your writing practices.
You mention on your website that yoga made you a healthier writer. Would you say creative jobs are fundamentally unhealthy?
They shouldn’t be! But there’s a combination of factors that can make them that way. For a start, sitting for hours living entirely inside your own head is not healthy. That’s why people are calling sitting the new smoking. There’s also a lot of anxiety wrapped up in creative work, I’ve found, especially for writers. We have to find inspiration every day, keep up certain standards, meet deadlines and at the back of our minds there’s always the fear that we might not be able to do the same thing tomorrow. This can lead us to try and escape into drink and drugs but, believe me, that doesn’t work.
How does yoga change writing and other kinds of creative work?
The thing that blew me away when I first started practicing yoga – it was Kundalini, which I still absolutely love – was the way ideas and ways of fixing problems in what I was writing started to flow thick and fast when I practiced. This is because when we’re practicing we’re in the moment, breathing correctly and free from the anxiety that can block our creative spirit.
Getting the most out of a yoga practice also means learning to focus, concentrate and discipline yourself to keep going even if an asana is so challenging you want to give up. These are all qualities writers and any kind of creative worker needs. Determination is far more important than talent – whatever that really is.
Apart from the obvious health benefits, yoga also helped me to connect with my emotions more effectively and visualize powerfully. These are both essential for creative workers.
Is it possible to be a highly creative person and be healthy?
Absolutely. The idea that you have to be emotionally tortured and hellbent on destroying your body to connect with the essence of your creativity is rubbish. It’s also profoundly old-fashioned and dates back to a time when to be a creative worker meant one had to be bohemian and supposedly outside of society.
The truth is, all creative people who succeed work very, very hard. They might have flashes of pure inspiration but it’s the fact that they use these in their art form, which they’ve spent years perfecting, that’s the point.
In my experience, being physically and mentally healthy only improves the art you make. But you should never allow yourself to become too contented or too sane. As we know, yoga is great for keeping us constantly questioning and surprising ourselves in different ways. This itself is food for creativity.
You recently interviewed legendary rock and roll photographer Mick Rock, called “the man who shot the 70s”. Is Rock his real name?
It really is. Mick believes his name determined his destiny. He photographed Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie, The Ramones, Sex Pistols and just about every rock and roller you can think of.
Mick said “I don’t think I’ve done a photographic session without standing on my head for 10 minutes beforehand”. Do you have such a pose, David? If you were stuck on a desert island and could take one pose with you to help you write every day, which one would it be?
That’s a great question, Agnes. I would take Downward Dog. It’s an active pose that works on the entire body and also a gentle inversion. So, you stretch your hamstrings, wake up your upper body and the head is below the heart at the same time. Anyone who writes for long periods of time should stop and do Downward Dog every hour for a few minutes.
You mention writing fearlessly and overcoming writer’s block as two of the issues yoga helps with. Why?
Yoga gave me a safe space in which to try poses like headstands that made me nervous. Discovering that I could overcome my fear of going upside down helped me realize that I could also face up to emotional issues and write about them truthfully. And, as all true writers know, when it becomes uncomfortable – even painful – to write something it’s probably valuable.
Why? Because readers respond to honesty. It helps them feel less alone. For some writers, it can also be cathartic.
As far as writer’s block is concerned, yoga helps me see writing as a practice, a flow without end. I have deadlines and plans to follow but I don’t see what I’m writing as a mountain I must climb in one day. All I have to do is get through that day’s writing as best as I can. Some days the writing really flows. Others it’s a struggle. I approach my yoga practice in the same way.
You say ‘By the time I got to the relaxation at the end of the class, the ideas were coming thick and fast. It was worse than having itching feet.’ Would you recommend that, instead of relaxing in Savasana or meditating at the end of practice, people go straight into creative work?
I would suggest people see what works best for them. My sequence begins with setting a writing intention and some people just want to dive into their writing immediately and honor this while they feel completely energized. Others find that relaxing after the sequence enables them to connect to the source of their creativity more effectively. I prefer to relax before I write.
What’s next for Yogawriters?
It’s all about growing awareness of yoga for writers and what I offer.
I’m mentoring a yoga teacher who’s writing what promises to be a fascinating book at the moment. I’m very excited about the online course I’ll be offering later on in the year, which I’m offering through a highly regarded global platform. I’m working on my next book which I aim to finish by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, I contribute to the UK’s OM Magazine , writing about what I call yoga mavericks. My interview with the incredible Saskia Thode , pioneer of heavy metal yoga, comes out at the end of March. I’m researching a series of articles exploring the history of yoga in the West which will be published later in the year.
Will you offer something in Mallorca?
I’m talking to someone on the island about offering a workshop in early summer.
And when will I have the pleasure of offering something with you?
Whenever it’s good for both of us, Agnes. I know from personal experience you’re a great teacher and I’d love for us to do something together. Let’s do it.
Muchas thank you for the interview, David!
Namaste very much to you too. It was great fun.