Welcome to yoga for writers. This set of poses works the fifth chakra, which is what you want to be strong not only if you’re a writer, but especially if you’re a writer. Don’t try these turns of phrase at home, folks. I am a professional.
The fifth chakra corresponds with sound and communication; it’s located physically in the throat. It’s not the same as the throat through which your food travels, and it’s not the same as your larynx, or voicebox, either. If you don’t know how to think of a chakra, you should think of a chakra as an energy center: a place where a person’s intangible, or ethereal, qualities reside.
Here’s a look at where the chakras are located in the body, in case you don’t know.
Why (Plead) the Fifth?
It is said that an unbalanced or blocked fifth chakra can produce (these are negative):
- frustration with inadequate communication
- withdrawal from the emotions into the mind
- too blunt speech
On the other hand (these are positive), a balanced or unblocked fifth chakra can yield:
- voicing the truth
- being listened to, carrying authority as a speaker
- inspired communication
…and my favorite:
- hearing what has not been said.
What writer wouldn’t want that ability? It’s like a super-power.
So! About the set. This set is meant to be practiced in a sequence, and in total. For those who have done yoga before, the short instruction is: do whatever warm-up you usually do (I do a tune-in and cat/cow.) Yours might be a sitting meditation, a breath or a chant. Then follow the series, doing each posture for the length of time described. See the image gallery below. Close with a short closing chant.
A Little More Inspiration
I guarantee that after doing this set once, literary agents will begin throwing physical packages of money onto your doorstep. See the fine print for the part where I revoke this guarantee in a passage too complex to decipher. But seriously, I do find it beneficial when I reach the page. If you incorporate this one regularly, you might see crooked plots straighten out, you might be met by new characters or revisited by old characters bearing new information. You might find yourself zipping off a line of dialogue with especial force.
I consider this practice a writer’s secret weapon. As writer’s tools go, you’ve got your thesaurus, you’ve got your pour-over Guatemalan dark roast, and you’ve got your Pilot Precise V7 Fine in Royal Blue with ink level viewing window. All well and good. But turning to the body, the source of every word you compose… well, it gets overlooked.
I’ve been telling students in workshops for a long time: creative work is no different than any other physical or mental task. You strengthen muscles in the gym; you can target craft features like dialogue discreetly in writing exercises. And now, with yoga for writers, you can tap the spiritual source of your output. If you’re really interested in developing your prose in any genre or form, that notion should be irresistible.
Pose 1: Each of these movements involves parts of the body other than the chakra. But notice how the throat is always in the pathway or connected to the moving part. In the case of the first pose, the fifth chakra is like the axis of a geometrical figure, an anchor point. Think of this movement like stretching a band too loosen it, or shaking a towel in the breeze. The kinks will be worked, the grit released.
Pose 2: Let’s be real: the challenge of this one is keeping those arms up. For one thing, you should meet your body where it’s at, and rest if you need to rest. But push on for better results. If you need to open your eyes, that can help. Check your posture. Take a deep recovery breath if needed. All the usual yoga instructions apply: focus on the breath, let go of thoughts, and try your best to perfect the posture with grace. Pro Tip: Envision your highest self above you, holding strings to keep your arms up. Some yogis have been known to call on departed spirits for support — everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Mother Theresa to Charles Bukowski to Miles Davis. It’s all fair game. (Bukowski, by the way, was a no-show, but Gandhi stepped in.)
Pose 3: This one’s pretty gentle. Really let the shoulders drop, like dead weight. Think of it as shaking out a dirty rag or tamping a sawn board on the garage floor to startle the sawdust off.
Pose 4: Find instruction on Breath of Fire here. It’s an even and forceful inhale and exhale through the nose, at an accelerated pace. New to it? Then just take is slow at first and do your best. Better to pick a pace you can maintain than to race off the starting line only to gas yourself.
Breath of Fire got its name because it will create a “fiery” or cramping feeling in the gut when done vigorously. Slow your pace if need, but keep the head back. If you feel fire, think of this pose as wringing out the throat like rag over that sizzling fire. You’re burning off the mucky stuff you don’t need as a writer, such as ego and the scummy build-up from disuse and ill-treatment. The anger of yelling. Uncertainty, hesitancy, doubt. Whatever it might be.
Pose 5: “Venus lock” is the fingers intertwined, one thumb over the other. Now your neck is garlic press, and you’re putting the chakra through its paces. That’s called mixing a metaphor, and I learned how to do it today by reading a magazine.
Pose 6: The mantra mentioned in the instruction, “Sat nam,” is a phrase from the Sanskrit meaning “truth is my name” or “truth is my identity.” Wait, but if you’re a fiction writer, whose job it is to tell lies… is that a good idea? That’s a topic for another day.
In this one, I think of the breath as shovel work: you’re picking the air from one side of you and depositing it on the other. Pro tip: To count to 26, you can think the number (“three”) or, to keep the language part of the brain free to focus on the mantra, just visualize the digit after each exhale.
Pose 7: Wow. You are almost done! Faulkner, look out! Long, deep breathing is very different than Breath of Fire. Use this one to relax, while staying present.
Pose 8: This is a challenging posture. I am not stringent in my personal practice about modifications to postures, and this is one where shifting my weight back causes pain on my ankles. Instead of tipping back and forth with the spine straight, sometimes I do a see-saw motion instead, making my spine bend like a bow. When the pointed fingers are forward, the back is arched, belly out as the hands go back. You might try it if the movement here causes discomfort.
That’s it! Great job! After any full yoga set like this, it’s recommended that you relax on your back in corpse pose. Pro Tip: Download these great audio files of recordings of gong playing by my guru and personal yoga instructor (and mother of my children). Play them loudly through the biggest speakers you have. Relax.