Guest Post, Chris Schmidt: What Yoga Has Taught Me About Writing

YogaFor almost a year now, I’ve been an avid student of Bikram Yoga—a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury developed from traditional hatha yoga techniques, including 26 postures and two breathing exercises in a room preset to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity.  Four walls, a mat, a towel and my flawed reflection for 90 minutes of moving meditation.

Although Bikram’s studios are often referred to as torture chambers, the hot room has become my own restorative chamber of sorts.  Physically and mentally, it’s done more for me than any doctor I’ve seen or medication I’ve been prescribed to date. Both spiritually and emotionally, I’ve found a deeper level of peace.  And, practically, it’s taught me a few things about writing.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Show up.  This is the hardest part about writing.  If I do that, the rest is easy.
  • Stay present in the room.  This is the second hardest part, in my opinion.  Every time I remain in the room when I’m uncomfortable—my humanness exposed—I’m training my mind to adapt to situations beyond my control.
  • Focus on the breath.  When, not if, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, I try to remember to breathe in and breathe out.  Additionally, meditation—repeating a mantra or imagining my Someday beach home—helps me to avoid potentially missing out on that epiphany I’ve been waiting for.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Although it’s nothing new, the grass is greener where I water it.  It’s called research.  As the famous doctor (Seuss) once said: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —even if it’s simply on paper.
  • No one can steal your peace.  Make your writing space conducive—to writing.
  • Mind over the matter.  There’s no such thing as a true writer’s block.  Just saying.
  • Remove expectations.  Each time I show up at my pad and paper or laptop, I’m a different person.  I may be surviving on little sleep, worried about a situation outside of my power or I’m in total rock-star, can’t-do-anything-wrong mode.  No matter who I am in the moment, I receive 100 percent benefit as long as I expend 100 percent effort.
  • Eliminate excuses.  I’m responsible for my own writing.  I can’t blame other people or external circumstances for something completely within my control.
  • Every day is a practice, not a perfect.  Realizing this simple truth eliminates the pressure to perform and allows me to push the edge, risk failing and try again.  And again.
  • Eventually—Someday—I’ll achieve final expression.  For me, this means seeing my first novel in print.  And living the [writer’s] life I dream of.

The practice of Bikram Yoga is the only [physical] activity that can be improved upon as we age.  According to Bikram, “You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again.”  In my book, this goes for writing, too.

Bikram also says that in life you only have to travel six inches—the distance [or journey] from your mind to your heart.  My definition of writing is a marriage between the heart and mind.  And despite where I am in my writing journey, it is a lifelong commitment that continues to grow stronger every time I show up, stay in the room and give it my all.