Today, day 30 in my year of daily doing something I’ve never done, I attended a yoga workshop for writers, put off by the Quebec Writers’ Federation. There was an altar in the studio, and I loved its beauty and serenity. Jordan, our teacher, designed a sequence of postures to open the front of the body, expand the ribcage, and stop us from hunching and stooping like scriveners in Dickensian hiding-holes.
“It’s amazing,” Jordan said, “how little we have to do to feel a whole lot better,” and by the time we had done half a dozen gentle asanas, I felt a great deal of lengthening and loosening in my shoulders, back, arms and hands.
By now, this newness project has introduced me to yoga, acupuncture, and the weight room at the Y, and as the first month closes I feel unexpected changes.
The most surprising thing to me so far, in these daily new actions, has been how much more attention I now pay to the actions of the body. As a writer, I have always lived in my mind and imagination, and ideas have been more real to me than my own body has been. Yes, I walk everywhere, but aside from that, I realize I have buried the bliss of the body. Part of this came from an adolescence in an inhospitable town where my physical self was ridiculed and bullied, and another part came from being a woman in a society that devalues women’s intelligence. By hiding and diminishing the body, I chose to live the life of ideas, and I expressed this life through my work, my writing. The simple act of daily doing some new thing has, for me, newly highlighted the word “doing”. I guess I didn’t realize how much time I spent thinking, imagining and dreaming, at the expense of stretching my muscles and making my blood and body and bones move and sing. Yes, after this month of doing instead of just dreaming, my body feels like a real body, not just an unfortunate, neglected extension of my imagination. I’m surprised by how good this feels.
It is sad how women in particular can lose touch with their bodies, as you say you did, due to the tyranny of aesthetics that reduces a body to what it looks like rather than what it feels like. No wonder you fled to the freedom of your mind and what it could do. Hooray that you are finding ways to embrace your body and let it coexist, as is only right, with your head and all its awesome powers.
Interesting! See my thoughts on writing and the body, if you like, on the CBC Books site:
Also an interesting reader comment at bottom regarding yoga and writing.