Surya Namaskar for writers with Elissa Joi Lewis of The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat in Verderonne, France

Surya Namaskar, The Sun Salutation, is a series or flow of asana (yoga poses) that energizes, builds strength, and increases flexibility. This flow is particularly good for the legs, back, and wrists–areas of the body that suffer from staying hunched over in the writing cave and feverishly typing. I also find that just five rounds or so of Surya Namaskar makes me feel like I’ve actually done something– I feel stretched and worked, and there’s a eat or energy that rises in my body from my feet to the crown of my head. The symbolic and literal salute to the sun feels like an ode to and a channel for solar energy, representing action, manifestation, and direction. That’s a nice way to shake off writer’s fatigue  and shake-up your writerly, academic (sedentary) lifestyle.

Yoga teacher Elissa Joi Lewis practices a variation of Surya Namaskar in the video above, at The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop Yoga and Writing Retreat in Verderonne, France. Practicing yoga twice a day with Elissa blossomed my writing practice and my yoga practice– by using the ritual of meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), and asana, artists can approach their art with the same yogic reverence and mindfulness. And Elissa knows so much about meditation, breathwork, Sanskrit, and the physiological, energetic, and emotional benefits from the postures that we all ended up asking her for personal yoga-advice which she very generously gave. This year I’ll be teaching a Fiction workshop at the retreat (here’s the back-story plus pictures of last year’s retreat!). If you find that your yoga and writing practices support each other and you want to go deeper in the gorgeous French countryside, apply here. The deadline is May 15th.

Quail Bell Magazine’s Good Advertising for The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat

Clearly, I’m getting really excited. Make sure to check out Elissa’s page for more Yoga! http://elissajoilewis.com

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If I’m going to write about “Minor Swing,” I should probably listen to it on repeat for hours until I reach a state of transcendent jazz-bliss

I first heard Django Reinhardt’s “Minor Swing” when I saw the film Chocolat as a kid, and though I haven’t seen it in years (so I won’t vouch for it one way or another), I remember at the time I loved it and it made very proud to be Romani, what with Johnny Depp being so outspoken and handsome on that steel-string guitar and drinking his hot chocolate. It also kicked off a deep love of Reinhardt, Lagrene, and other Manouche Jazz stars.

“Minor Swing,” one of Reinhardt’s most popular compositions and a Manouche jazz standard, just came up in the novel. It’s one of my favorite songs ever so I’m happy to “work” for my art (if work can be listening to a song on repeat for hours). Writing requires that I experience everything fully and presently in order to even come close to evoking a true essence. It’s like practicing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. Ideally, I’d like to be in that state of compassionate awareness all the time, but for now, I will listen the hell out of this 3 minute song, only think a little bit about Johnny Depp, and then I’ll write a thing, and that’s wonderful.

Journaling: I understand nothing and I still hate Guy Smiley

Before I write, I have to journal for a few pages. It’s just what I have to do so I don’t write total crazy-in-a-bad-way bollocks for my work-writing. Usually journaling, combined with yoga and much tea, clears my head enough so that I start to figure things out.

Today I wrote in my journal, “I can’t control anything in the universe except myself, and even that is debatable.” I laughed and then I stared at it for a while. Upon literally minutes of examination, the extent to which I control myself is a complete and utter mystery. But I think self-control or self-awareness is the heart of Svadhyaya, or self study, from the Yamas and Niyamas, the 10 ethical principles or guidelines of Yoga. Compassionate study and practice lead to knowledge… and maybe self-control.

Our roommate said something like, “My mother tells me that good manners are meant to make the other person feel as comfortable as possible.” I absolutely love this idea, and I think the yogic practice of self-study probably has that in mind too. If we can accept and understand ourselves lovingly, we can act with love and love unconditionally. Right? (Right?)

I’m still not sure what it means to control one’s self, but it’s worth investigating in writing, and in all the other things, really. I’m thinking that it might even be a fun writing prompt when I’m stuck with a character, like, “What aspect of himself or his behavior can’t he control? Why? Who/what else is controlling him?”  Or it could be real-talk like, “Why do I still find Guy Smiley from Sesame Street terrifying now that I’m a grown-up? Why can’t I control my reaction?”

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Image source: muppet.wikia.com

    I just hate his stupid face! He’s looking right at me. Put that away, Guy Smiley. You have no power here.