Current projects: Yoga and Reflective Writing

I used to be a writer for hire. I wrote speeches, reports, planning documents for others based on their ideas. This wordsmithing work served me well enough until one day I woke up hell bent on change. I wanted to write my own ideas, unleash my imagination and craft my own stories. Then I froze. Words, ideas, vanished. I felt bound and gagged, all locked up. I was miserable.

About this time a friend persuaded me to come to yoga—not to find words, but because I couldn't relax or focus—at any time or on anything. I had the attention span of a flea. Worse still I was beginning to fit the definition of a couch potato because my forays into exercise classes left me feeling a hopeless stumbler. I couldn't follow the moves, let alone the rhythm.

I went to my first class with Monica Voss believing that yoga was impossible poses for very skinny people. I felt heavy and puffed out of shape as I trudged behind my friend up the stairs to the Studio. My arms and legs seemed like wet noodles and I wished I were invisible. I was in for a surprise.

Monica's yoga was not about perfect poses and it was different from any exercise I'd ever done. At the end of that first class I experienced a sudden flash: I was at home in my own skin. This was brand new. When I returned the next week, the unfamiliar sense of ease came again along with a realization that just as Monica said, I had everything I needed-- breath, bones, muscles for whatever stretches I chose to try. I wasn't deficient in anything. I was hooked.

The classes offered quiet relaxation and a sense of safety to be a beginner so that I couldn't be flummoxed by corkscrew poses. I was learning that yoga is about process, not performance and that I'm a work in process, one breath at a time. I started to make friends with the long sweep of my spine and came to realize that all those bones, along with gravity (over which I had no power) hold me upright and take me into the world, no matter how anxious I am. I discovered I had lungs that brought in fresh air and new energy that made me feel like moving. Between classes I felt a sense of ease growing within and a new capacity (however small) to be still enough. In that stillness, words, images, memories, feelings began to bubble up from inside. As I recorded what arose I discovered new material, like dreams, which invited me into a conversation of sorts. In the conversation I was a curious explorer, scratching around to discern signs and signals. As I reflected, I found the stories I wished to tell.

Now yoga is the ground for my writing life. Its practices connect me to my bodyself through my senses and invite me to feel, ponder, remember and assess. The result is that I'm brought home again and again to the banquet of words, feelings, memories that reside within—the raw material for all my work.

Three years ago, Monica asked me to share some of my yoga-based writing techniques as part of one of her retreats. Here's how it goes: at the end of a full day of yoga, I offer poems, images and single words for play. What you write is spontaneous and private, like journaling. My goal is to lead you into mind/body processes that let you discover and maybe see anew. This approach is for everyone, not just wanna-be writers. Here's what Sandie Collins, a visual artist wrote:

"Monica's teaching and trusting hands helped me realize that I can do the difficult poses and that my breath will guide me through all the events in my life. She teaches me to experience yoga with all my senses and to be present to the path I'm walking on. Some days it's a plush carpet and others a bog; in any case I'm aware and I've got the tools to meet my life with full awareness. As for Sandra's writing session, I wasn't at all sure how I would approach it. I've a visual mind. She made it easy! Once I heard her playful instructions I had no hesitation to put coloured pencil to paper. The four pieces I created invoked more creative play. As I continued to work with the pieces, I opened to other possibilities. My work came alive with colours and forms. Sandra's creative approach is for everyone not just writers and poets."

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