I’ve entered a new phase where I’m doing a lot more yoga, and a lot more writing. These two passions of mine are both largely solitary pursuits. Sure, in yoga there are classes, which provide an opportunity to be with others who share that interest. For writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, there are the conventions, critique groups, professional organizations, and fans. Still, if one is to seriously pursue yoga, time must be spent outside of class, on a mat, by oneself. The act of writing is accomplished alone as well—even when that bubble of isolation is in the middle of a bustling coffee shop.
Yoga and writing are both difficult, and neither will ever result in perfection. Writers and yoga practitioners, let that one sink in for a minute. It’s the main insight I have to offer. When I started doing yoga, I couldn’t even touch the floor when I bent over. When I started writing, I knew it wasn’t meant for anyone else to read. Beginners can get discouraged. To continue yoga or writing involves acceptance of yourself, of where you’re at.
My yoga instructor, Mary, noted recently that a person she was talking with kept saying she couldn’t do yoga because she couldn’t do the poses (or asanas). Mary kept trying to tell her that everyone has their own way to do any given asana, and it’s still practicing yoga. Similarly, people who say they can’t write can still practice writing. Keep up the practice in either discipline, and you will improve.
For those of us who are no longer beginners, acknowledging that our yoga or our writing will never be perfect is important. Find the joy in this. When I at last gave up the need to be perfect, my whole being improved: physically, emotionally and at that deeper dimension we can call spiritual. This goes way beyond yoga and writing, so indulge me for a minute. In my career in research, not needing to be perfect meant I was no longer reluctant to admit when I didn’t know. I would do a presentation containing all sorts of statistics and research findings, and at the end, during question and answer time, I would respond to at least one question with “I don’t know.” Instead of showing weakness, it demonstrated strength. I didn’t have to try to cover up, or gloss over, or minimize. I could remain interested in the question, and be honest.
In yoga, acknowledging I’d never be perfect led to me hanging in there in Ashtanga class—one of the most demanding yogas there is—and loving it. What it means in my writing is I can write, revise and then call it good and send it out. If someone buys it, that’s great. If someone rejects it, I try somewhere else. I have some unsold stories, sure. Everyone does. But I keep writing.
Honestly, after all these years, I am still uncomfortable in lotus position, and can’t hold it for long. But I keep practicing yoga.
I persevere because yoga and writing feed a nonphysical aspect of myself. Yoga is more than physical exercise, and more than even the emotional benefits of de-stressing. I’m not religious, but there is something deeper that is being touched by my yoga practice. It feeds my spirit. Similarly, while my writing has increasingly resulted in payment, monetary reward is not why I write. Not even close. Simply put, I write what moves my spirit. The depths of satisfaction I receive from both yoga and writing are worth all this alone-time.