Confessions of a Yoga Teacher – Why yoga is boring for creative people (and what to do about it)

movie Mother!

movie Mother!

Last week, from what will possibly go down as the most disagreed on film of 2017 (Mother! by Daron Aronofski) I was able to derive a crucial piece of information for anyone who has ever made a brave attempt to get into yoga and failed. Anyone who has ever wondered why that whole self-practice just ain’t happening or why you couldn’t make yourself do something for as little as an hour a week that gave you a good night sleep, and immediately made you feel better.
Why was merely the memory of that never enough to make you commit, sign up, or just go back to try it a second time?
I am currently on my zillionth cycle of having a troubled menstruation which I know will completely clear up if I do as little as twenty minutes of yoga a day. Twenty minutes of yoga a day! Doesn’t even matter which type of yoga. Any yoga will do the trick of putting my menstruation back in line. Then why can’t I make myself do that?
After seeing Mother! I know why.

Creator versus Preserver {contains spoilers Mother!}

Mother! introduces two dominant characters.
The first is a charismatic poet; a fifty-something dominant male, in who we will later recognize both the destroyer of all things, as well as the creator. When the whole place is destroyed, by his crazy as fuck poetry admirers, he rebuilds it with his mind. The Poet is God.
The second character is his young wife, who is meticulously improving their house. The whole mansion has this brocante early 20th century look, with fluttering curtains and boxes filled with starched linen.
The young woman has a symbiotic tie to the house. Not only does she refurbish, nurture and embellish,  her heart is the heart of the house. Whenever people enter the house who will do it harm, she suffers from heart pains and becomes ill. Where her husband unapologetically licks up all the adoration and thrives on the interaction with Mankind, the young woman who symbolizes Mother Earth, wants them nowhere near the house and feels protective of it.
The woman is Mother.
And it is the two opposing agendas of Mother and God, that explain why yoga (to some) is so boring. Or a lost battle.

Creativity is free

Ever since the beginning of my practice I ve been using yoga schedules, dvd’s, and ideas from teachers and yoga schools from all over the world. It didn’t matter how quaint the yoga book, or how obscure the magazine, I could always get something out of it, and weave it into my practice or my classes. I had an incredibly eclectic taste.
I realized there was something not quite right with our take on yoga, when my teacher said to me;
“You can’t keep expanding (your range) forever. One day you’ll have to go deeper into your practice.”
She was wrong, because creativity is both infinite, as well as a powerful way to develop your craft.
The second time I realized yoga was being heavily underused was when I got into the videos from Meghan Currie on YouTube. My favorite was “Creativity is Free”; a nine minute time-laps from a two hour practice which Meghan Currie created intuitively as she went along. Here was a form of yoga everybody immediately recognized for what it was;
Yoga as a work of art.

Yoga for Artists

Suddenly, putting two and two, and the movie Mother! together, we have a complete picture of what is missing from yoga. And why modern day yoga covers the needs of about 95% of all practitioners.
But not the last five.
First let’s take a look at the main stream yoga that is doing so well; Yoga as the preserving Mother energy. A nurturing, non-competitive, non-ambitious practice that nicely balances the high energy, demanding lifestyle most of us have. This is the type of yoga that was taught (tremendously well!) at the yoga training where the teacher told me to go deeper into my practice. It’s the type of yoga where you will feel relaxed just entering the room, and that will appeal to many people, and it has even appealed to me at times!
It’s the yoga that grounds you, keeps you alive, and makes sure you don’t die of a heart attack age forty five. It’s also the type of yoga that is low in excitement, low in being challenging and therefor to some incredibly boring.
These people are not into the Mothering side of yoga. Instead, they long to be more active, to be challenged and are motivated by a little competition.
Enter the domain of the more physical yoga lineages.
Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga but also all forms of power yoga and intermediate hatha yoga, require stamina, flexibility, and mastery of your body. And of your mind as well. I would also see long silent meditation to be among these types of challenging yoga practices. Challenging yoga will appeal to ambitious people, but it may also fuel a (secret?) need to be admired. A longing to be “good” at yoga. Just like the Poet wanted to be admired.
But even without that “dark side” of looking for validation, it is clear that this type of yoga is totally different from the more preservative kind.
My estimate is that the Mother type of yoga, plus the challenging type of yoga, cover about 95% of the needs of yoga practitioners. Leaving one aspect out. The aspect of creation. Of creativity.
Because Meghan Currie does yoga for the same reason Sergei Polunin dances;
For the same reason Darren Aronofski made Mother!;
The reason Marina Abramovic stared people in the eyes for three months straight;
because it is their art.
Yoga is Meghan Currie’s creative expression.

Built from the Ashes

I once saw a video on the unwanted side effects vacation. It was not for artists, it was for entrepreneurs. It explained that entrepreneurs needed to understand that if they were truly driven, they would not need vacation the way normal people needed a vacation. In fact, taking time off would be one of the most stressful things they could possibly do for themselves. The video pointed out that entrepreneurs should accommodate their family by taking downtime and doing fun stuff with their loved ones. But that it would be in everybody’s best interest if they would also take their laptop to Corfu, because they would become absolutely unbearable if they had to take a break from working.
And it is the same with artists, with people who create.
Taking a break is not fatal to the people who create to get admired, like the Poet, when he writes a new book and becomes a star.
Going on vacation is not a disaster if you create as in refurbishing, like Mother. Although it is a fine line to argue when a project (like building a house or planting a garden) stems from an organic energy and when it is a creative expression.
But taking time off will go against everything you stand for, if you create like God in Mother!
After the masses, the admirers, the humans, have destroyed God’s and Mother’s world with everything in it, God recreates it. With a similar woman, waking up in the same linen sheets, looking for the identical estranged husband.
He creates because he has to, it’s just who he is.
He can’t take a break from work any more than an entrepreneur can.

Yoga for Artists

I’m close to my twentieth yoga anniversary. And although the reasons I ve dropped out (doing a self-practice) have been many – and the reasons I don’t mind have been diverse –  there is one aspect of yoga that I know I haven’t fully explored. And it’s what 5% of people have to explore if they want to “get” yoga;
To use yoga as a creative expression.
And although this is largely unknown territory, these pointers may help you to find your way;
1. keep an open mind, but most of all your own mind
Let go of any preconceived, general, learned ideas of what yoga is. If you ve been doing yoga, you may need to be at peace with not doing yoga for a while. Until new ideas have hatched. Remember you’re not interested in other people’s view on yoga; this is all about creating your own experiences, and thoughts.
2. feel where the Life is
Maybe it’s curiosity, or maybe it’s an overwhelming urge. But whether you get into yoga reading books about Tantra, or following a 30 day Yoga with Adrience challenge on YouTube (or decipher antiquarian yoga books) you must start with where you feel the life.
I remember being inspired by a business card a Pilates instructor gave me. And by a flyer with yoga exercises that came with a Nike yoga mat. But I ve also been inspired by Madonna music, performances of Marina Abramovic and the discipline of Sergei Polunin.
3. Combine yoga with your art
If you have a background in dancing, you will be able to make a seamless transition to expressing yourself through yoga. If you’re a writer you ll enjoy blogging about your practice. If you are more of a visionary you will love designing yoga series or developing a yoga system. Reinvent yoga by combining it with science, art, or any hobby or habit you already have.

Forget what normal people do

Like I said, yoga as an creative expression is more or less unknown territory. No one has really approached it that way, and if they had- it would be of no use, because you would still have to find your own way, and make it your own.
No true artist would ever copy someone else’s expression, so there really is no way someone could lead us/ you, and help you.
But I do think that being so extremely high up in your creative energy comes with limitations.
We will not be “helped” by relaxing yoga, any more than an entrepreneur is helped by a vacation.
And we will not be inspired by challenging yoga, any more than by doing cardio five times a week.
We simply need to build our own yoga from the ground up.
And we may need to first burn it down, before our own unique expression of yoga, can rise from the ashes.

An Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

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