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Maisie Chan

Yoga for Writers

Yoga can be used to alleviate tight muscles, sore backs and as a preventative practice for writers. It can also be used to foster creativity and allow space for our writing and inherent creativity to unfold.

Maisie Chan is a children’s writer, mentor and trained yoga teacher for adults and children. She has run ‘Yoga for Writers’ workshops and 1-2-1s for writers. As a plus-sized yogini, Maisie knows the very real benefits of yoga for everyone and how it can be especially useful for writers who may suffer from physical ailments but also mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Maisie is from Birmingham, but is now based in Glasgow where she facilitates the Glasgow Children’s Writers Group. Also also hosts Bubble Tea Writers for British East Asian and Southeast Asian writers.

Many writers are focussed on getting an agent or publishing their book. However, we need to also care for our bodies and minds. Even ten minutes a day tuning in to how we’re feeling can benefit us in the long term.  If we have jobs or caring responsibilities, then finding time to write can be tricky. I’ve often found that if I’m feeling healthy, if I’m focusing on my mental wellbeing – then the writing flows much better too.

There are many misconceptions about yoga – especially the idea that you have to be flexible. Wrong. You will become more flexible if you do yoga.  Like becoming a better writer, it takes practice and patience.

Set a ‘Sankalpa’ (an intention)

Think about what you want from the writing session. I find it does help having an intention rather than just sitting down in front of a blank screen. What about a 25-minute writing SPRINT? Or plot out a scene?

Set those intentions!

Positive affirmations and visions of achieving your dream

Thoughts are very important. If we are thinking to ourselves…”I’ll never get a book deal…”… “my writing is rubbish”…”I can’t do this”… “I’m not good enough” – then you are telling your subconscious that you believe those things. One thing yoga practice does is to focus our awareness and slows down the mental chatter. We can replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

I began many years ago with “I’m a writer, I’m a writer, I’m a writer” – this was before I had written a word. I wanted to write but was too scared. I had a head full of negative self chatter. I now try my best to replace those with positive affirmations. Even if you don’t believe it at the time, keep filling your head with positive CAN-DO statements rather than pulling yourself down; which may lead to depression and anxiety. Be realistic.

Breathing exercises

Lie down if possible (with your legs bent and feet on the floor if you have lower back problems) – but sitting is also fine. Full yogic breathing helps calm the nervous system, fill the lungs (they often aren’t being used to full capacity, we ‘shallow’ breathe). Visualise an elevator just below your navel. Now inhale (through the nose) and imagine the elevator rising through the centre line of your body. Belly expands, don’t hold it. When the breath reaches the middle of the throat, the elevator goes back down – breath out (through the nostrils), the belly gently goes in. Do this four more times.

These are small movements that can be done in your chair during writing breaks.

Easy joint exercises:

  • Hands and arms outstretched. Place your thumbs into your palms, close other fingers around to form a fist. Rotate inwards in circles, rotate outwards – five times each way. Works the wrists.
  • Spread fingers wide and then scrunch into fists – three times. Works the fingers for typing.
  • Hands on the front of shoulders, raise arms in circle motion in time with your breath. Inhale up, exhale down – three times forward and three times back. Works the shoulders and upper back muscles.
  • Drop left ear towards left shoulder. If you want to, you can straighten out right arm and point fingers away. Repeat on right side and straighten out left arm. This stretches the side of the neck.

Eye exercises:

Eyes look forward to begin. Chin parallel to the floor. Imagine your face is a clock face. Keep head still, just move the eyes. Look up to 12 o’clock, slide to 3 o’clock, down to 6 o’clock, slide to 9 o’clock, then back to 12 o’clock. Reverse to 9 o’clock, down to 6 o’clock, slide to 3 o’clock and back to 12 o’clock. Blink the eyes a few times.

Seated Back Stretches

Seated cat/cow – place feet flat on the floor (shift forward to middle or edge of chair, don’t fall off!). Hands on hips, spine erect. Allow the lower back to gently curl to the back of the chair, belly is slightly concave. Then do the opposite movement – lift out so back is straightened, chest lifted. Repeat five times and return to a neutral spine.

Lastly, lying down is your friend. If you’ve been typing away for hours, your back is aching. One of the best things you can do is to take pressure off your back for a while. Lying down with your feet propped up the wall (you can find YouTube videos of this) will help send blood from your feet back up to your vital organs. If putting your feet on the wall is not an option, you can just lie down with legs bent, feet flat on the floor. And breathe. Ahhhhh! 

Disclaimer:

This post has been written by a trained yoga teacher with FRYOG INTERNATIONAL (200 hrs) and Rainbow Kids Yoga. Should you partake in any of the yoga exercises listed you do so at your own risk.