As someone who aspires to be successful in the competitive literary world, I have to find ways to minimize my stress. Self-doubt can be so crippling, especially when rejection letters from literary journals or writing competitions pile up. To remain steadfast in my goals and aspirations of being a professional writer and aspiring novelist, I have to kick doubt to the curb, constantly. One method that helps me maintain a sound mental outlook is through yoga. 

It has become common knowledge that stress is linked to causing disease and other health conditions. Harvard Health Publishing has even linked stress to autoimmune diseases. To be proactive, it is necessary to prioritize how I feel inside and out. I’m learning to know myself and live authentically and during this cultivation process, I know that I am a sensitive and introverted person. Instead of changing these aspects of myself, I’m looking to fortify my inner world to be unshakable when rejection or “failure” happens.

Why Yoga?

Yoga is a practice that teaches us to connect breath and body movements. To have intentions and to activate patience with ourselves. Gaining a sense of patience is something I find vital for living in a fast-paced society, especially in a city setting. Yoga also teaches us that we have a deep well of personal power within us that we can draw from to constantly overcome any obstacle. I feel this in my own body. I feel it when my yoga teachers, in real life and through online yoga platforms like Gaia, encourage me to take it slow when trying a pose, also known as an asana. This is why I am drawn to yoga and these teachings help me feel like a fountain of creativity.

With yoga, you can push yourself to deepen the stretch of an asana, but it’s truly up to you. What I’ve learned through the practice is that you must listen to your body first. It’ll tell you “girl, you doin’ too much!” which is beautiful in itself. When you listen to your body, you can do the modified version of side plank or boat pose or the full pose. Most importantly, when you listen to yourself you are able to discern between which inner voice is talking to you. Is it the voice of fear and doubt telling you that you can’t do something? Or is it the voice of strength, which has your best interest, encouraging you to go for it? 

Yoga Is For Everyone

No one starts out perfect in yoga, therefore you don’t have to be a size 2 to do it. Take the plus-sized yogi Jessamyn Stanley who’s shaking up the idea that only “trim” bodies can do yoga or even teach it. I am a Black woman myself who has had a pouch since elementary school. I still do yoga because the practice is as much about fitness as it is about finding that place of serenity within. If your muscles are shaking and your body is aching after doing all the downward facing dogs, you are still doing it right! Much like writing, yoga can be graceful and fun to partake in. Although there are yogis that make it look effortless, yoga isn’t easy. Which is also like writing, or singing, or painting. Nevertheless, it is a challenge where if you take it one day at a time, you are bound to thrive. I find this to be abundantly true for any creative endeavor. 

As Jessamyn Stanley is pushing the boundaries of what it looks like to do yoga, there are places like HealHaus in Brooklyn and Radha Yoga in Los Angeles that are making yoga and wellness available to the community. These community-based yoga houses are doing the essential work of creating safe spaces where yoga is not a trend or a luxury but rather a way for people of color to spend time aligning their body and mind. 

Persistence Is A Superpower

When I’m struggling to hold an asana, I just breathe out and remind myself that next time I’ll be able to do it even better. This is the same mentality that’s necessary for writing and creating. When I allow myself to “fail” in yoga, I give myself the room to grow and achieve my goals of mastering it. One day I will master the split and floating pigeon pose, I know it! Until then, I expect to stumble out of position and fall down. With the expectation comes patience and persistence.

If I fall or have trouble holding a pose, I won’t berate myself. Rather, I’ll laugh and probably be a little goofy. Simultaneously, I’ll be taking note of what to do next time. This mindset is steadily transforming my writing practice. It’s enabling me to see writing differently. The first draft of any project be it a blog post, a poem, a few pages of prose doesn’t have to be perfect it just has to be written with the editorial filter turned off. When it is time to make edits, then it is easier for me to turn the inner editor back on. Without self-judgment, I’m able to create. 

Yoga is helping me open my eyes to the idea of “perfection” actually being an immature thought. We all have a bit of perfectionism in us. Yet, when perfection pops up and it is keeping you from being creative, it’s really fear and anxiety in disguise. The mindful exercises of yoga can do more than make your body flexible, it can make your mind flexible and open to realizing your creative potential and inner power.

Kai Adia is an avid writer of lifestyle and culture in Los Angeles. Follow her blog for more wellness and writing tips. 

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