To write requires focus. To practice yoga requires practice. Yes, but how do we achieve focus? Many years ago, I started with meditation, using a mantra, gently directing my mind to a quieter state and, while I had occasional moments of deep silence, mostly I experienced the full busyness of my mind, the wanderings, random thoughts, and those nasty repeating stories that are so distracting.
As the rhythm of my exterior life accelerated — along with the disparate voices, demands and desires every adult faces in their own way — I noticed my mind raced more. Yoga asana (postures) helped me settle in my body, but, when I sat to meditate, I felt I had missed an entire chapter. Fidgeting, whirling thoughts still rose up each time. Even after years of meditation, I couldn’t always tame them, until I took up the practice of yogic breathing.
The practice of slow breathing — lying still, counting the length of each inhalation and exhalation — opened the door to a deeper stillness. The immediate physical feedback holds my attention: the sound of the breath, the rising and falling of my chest, the release of tension in my jaw, neck, eyes. My breath becomes slower, deeper. This practice naturally soothes and quiets my mind.
Over time, I sought out Iyengar pranayama teachers to refine my practice. The benefits are many; most obviously it’s a natural de-stressor. It also creates a particular state of mind: less attachment to external events, a more open heart. This practice makes it easier to approach my yoga postures and my writing with clarity and focus.
You writers may want to refer to Dorothea Brande’s book, Becoming A Writer, in which she describes another way to quiet the mind, prefaced by the importance of doing so.