Here’s How Yoga Can Increase Your Creativity
Yoga, once an esoteric practice looked upon with suspicion by the majority of Westerners, is now as mainstream as Martha Stewart and Little League. Almost anyone can reel off a list of yoga’s benefits, from improved muscle tone and lowered blood pressure to reduced stress and overall sense of well-being.
Healthy mind and healthy body—those are good things, for sure. But for artists, no matter our medium, the practice of yoga offers a far more important advantage: a direct conduit to a bottomless well of creativity.
What is the point of creativity?
According to Webster’s, the word creativity means, simply, “the quality of being creative.” In practical use, it can also mean the ability to see the world in a way others don’t, or to the conception and creation of something that did not exist before, or to the re-imagining of a concept, item, or service. New products, new ways to communicate, new services or ways of providing services—these are all the result of creative thought, and generally intended for the purpose of producing income.
Creating for other reasons—beauty, passion, personal satisfaction—is often relegated to the back of the room, and soundly denied the resources and respect given to “serious” activities, i.e. money makers. But here’s what that limited view misses: creativity is not a luxury to be indulged only in odd moments; it is an instinctive desire for self-expression. Our writing, painting, dancing, weaving, and even daydreaming are all spiritual activities. Art that is birthed by creativity is a measure of the sophistication of a culture. It often exposes injustice, proposes solutions, and inspires improvements. It adds depth to our days and gives meaning to our existence. Art is vital to our well-being, because creativity is the purest expression of our true nature.
Where does creativity come from?
The gift of creativity is with us from the moment we are born, an innate spirit that guides us. It’s the force that drives children to fashion magical tales and engage with friends their parents can’t see, to sculpt trains and houses from sticks and paper cups, to conjure entire worlds using only the substance of their imagination.
Most of us are quickly taught that wild imaginings must be restrained, controlled, domesticated, kept in their proper place. Our creative spirit may be stuffed into a closet, gagged and bound by conventional authority, but it remains with us and we can revive it. One way of restoring our inner artist to a place of honor is through the practice of yoga.
How can yoga affect creative potential?
The noise and clutter of busyness and ambition, of drama and grasping can overwhelm the subtle action of the muse. Like a Zen koan when we try to logic it out, creativity slips through our grasping mental fingers. And like the a-ha! of understanding, solutions, breakthroughs, innovative ideas, and fresh perspective come to us when we stop demanding that they appear. The focused repetitions of sun salutation, the soothing endorphins of yin poses, the energy shifting breathwork, or the liberation of single-stream meditation are all paths that can lead us back to our genius.
How it works
The neurons in your brain communicate with each other by sending bursts of electrical energy. The frequencies and patterns of these bursts–measured in hertz, or cycles per second—are referred to as brain waves. Of the five types of brain waves—gamma, beta, alpha, delta, and theta—alpha and theta states are most closely associated with the creative process.
Theta is the optimal brain wave state for creativity. Theta waves are more active as we are falling asleep or when we are just waking up, as well as when we are engaged in repetitive tasks and movements or deep meditation. It’s during the theta state that inspiration and insight rise up from your subconscious. Alpha brain waves are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation, such as when we are meditating or daydreaming. During these times, we have easier access to our imagination and intuition. Alpha waves are also connected to movement, but think high-intensity, purposeful movement rather than repetitious. Here are some of the ways your regular yoga practice can help you draw on alpha and theta brain waves in order to strengthen your creativity.
When practicing asanas…
Asana teaches us joyful discipline, and allows us to experience our bodies and the world around us in new ways. This, in turn, helps to shift and expand our way of perceiving. Here’s how you can encourage creativity through asana:
Practice repetitive flow, with focus on steady sequences and breath to help induce theta brain waves Practice inversions, with focus on viewing the world from different perspectives in order to evoke creative view
- Practice repetitive flow, with focus on steady sequences and breath to help induce theta brain waves
- Practice inversions, with focus on viewing the world from different perspectives in order to evoke creative view
- Practice high-intensity styles of asana in order to activate alpha brain waves
When practicing Pranayama (breath work)
Yogic breathing increases focus and stimulates the release of endorphins, which induces feelings of well-being and heightens creative thinking and imagination. Here’s how you can encourage creativity through pranayama:
- Close your eyes to help increase alpha brain waves. Begin by noticing your breath, and then gradually make the exhale longer than the inhale. This helps to quiet your inner heckler.
- Practice deep breathing in order to soothe your nervous system. Being relaxed makes it easier for you to entertain unconventional possibilities.
- Experiment with alternate nostril breathing. This balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and improves mindfulness.
When practicing meditation (quiet contemplation)
Perhaps the best way to relax and access your inner artist, meditation is your surest and most dependable source of originality and inspiration. Here’s how you can encourage creativity through meditation:
- Try a guided visualization in order to expand perception, enhance focus, and encourage alpha brain waves.
- Repetition of your mantra can induce theta brain waves and allow the subconscious to speak.
- Yoga nidra helps you to relax, and can carry you to a deeper state of consciousness that connects directly to your creative source.
Through yoga, we seek union with the divine, with that spark of Creation that resides in us. We are striving to enter the flow, where creating, creator, and creation are one. That’s exactly what a regular yoga practice offers, by leading you to a clearer understanding of your own true nature. Whether your practice is built around sweat or bliss, breath or calm abiding, yoga can open the door to an abundant supply of inspiration, conception, and realization. All you have to do is step over the threshold.
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