What Yoga Can Teach Us About Creativity
I have to admit.
I have been living a pseudo-spiritual/wannabe-yogi/never-leaves-the-house-without-yoga-pants/talks-about-chakras-and-stuff/casual-namaste-emoji lifestyle since I moved to my current flat. Shamelessly.
I now live in the neighbourhood of hipsters, juicers, avo-on-toast consumers and overachieving yogis. And I have to keep up.
When I moved to this new flat, the first thing I did was to sign up for the local yoga studio, which also happened to be the coolest, trendiest, most hype yoga studio in town.
Blissfully ignorant I was, I thought this was going to be an easy thing. I’d been doing yoga for years and thought I was pretty good at it. I wouldn’t sweat much, but still be pretty awesome and secretly compete with the other hot chicks in the class, leaving the yoga room shamefully proud of myself. So I thought I got this too.
I even thought I’d probably be over this in a month or so.
Needless to say that I was terribly wrong.
It turned out that this coolest, trendiest, super hype yoga studio wasn’t for nothing.
The best teachers, best students, lots of six packs, perfectly styled yoga outfits, flawless headstands, sweat-free side crows, didn’t-even-know-existed semi-flying yoga poses and super fit yummy mummies were everywhere. And I was no longer the best in class without even trying.
I was disappointed in these perfect people.
This was indeed a challenge I wasn’t expecting to take on. And soon enough, I was hooked at it. The whole package: dim lights, calming scents, very cool playlists and fit fellow yogis. Finally, I started to really really pushed myself. And when I started to actually really really push myself to my limits, everything started to shift.
I promised myself that I’d become one of those perfect people.
The truth is, when it comes to yoga, I’m not great. I’m getting better. Like every wannabe yogi, I have some strengths that I can rely on to cover up for my weaknesses. I’m, for example, pretty flexible. This helps me with the fact that I’m not that strong. These two balance each other. And I do OK. I hang in there, keep going to classes, keep walking around in my yoga pants and keep pushing and holding and sweating and adjusting and raising higher and bending lower and I keep going. I hang in there. I keep showing up. And no matter what you do, don’t quit.
And slowly slowly slowly I get a little bit better.
And actually, the other day I had a quick peek in the mirror while I was bent over, upside down, with one leg up while my own sweat dripping on my face, and saw my six packs staring back at me. I can’t even tell you how much of a huge moment this was. All because I kept showing up again and again.
And I’m only just starting.
Going to the coolest, trendiest, most hype yoga studio in town is my secret to this mini triumph.
Because I know that when I go to a class, everyone will be in their best shape, show their best effort and be as present and motivated as they can be. So I owe my perseverance to this tough crowd of fellow yogis. Likewise, my presence in the class creates the encouragement for my fellow yogis to not give up. This friendly competition keeps all of us going. It’s like the respect, a bunch of overachiever ambitious tigers showing each other to stay on their games. We keep showing up to classes, keep working hard and keep raising our legs higher, which makes all of us better in the end.
And yes, I know that I’m not supposed to compare myself to others, but we all know that everyone does the same.
My teacher always says that we’re all our own best teacher, and should go at our own pace. I agree with this intellectually. and I like to think that competition doesn’t motivate me at all. However, the pretty fucking ambitious tiger in me disagrees. And recently I’ve been starting to admit that perhaps having tough competition does help me more than I think. All these wannabe yogis make me so jealous that I go back to the same torture-some class week after week and eventually be as great as them.
Even though, I know that yoga is about kindness and whatever.
So what does all of this have to do with creativity?
Because our tribes matter so so so much when it comes to everything, including creativity. Especially creativity.
They give us the type of push that nothing else, no willpower, no deadline, no resolution can compare. I’m saying this confidently because this has lacked in me so long until I started joined overachieving clubs instead of the mediocracy societies. Even though I knew that this meant bearing the discomfort and embarrassment of not being as good as everyone else.
So our job as creatives is to dare to join the best clubs. Our job is to dare to play with the best people. Our job is to compare ourselves to the best of the best creatives. Not the ones that are as good as us. Because this doesn’t inspire us for growth. This only encourages us to inertia. And aiming for the highest is especially important for creativity — even more so than in yoga I must say.
Creativity is the opposite of inertia.
Our job is to let the discomfort of knowing that you’re not the best/smartest/most successful in the room to fuel you. Because this will give you the right kind of long-lasting momentum like no other motivation trick. And this is the best trick I know, because we all need reminders of how much better we can be.
And our job is SO NOT to get comfortable with being the best in the room. Because this only keeps you in inertia. Because this will only establish your status quo, that will encourage you to take less and less risks and become less and less creative.
So in other words, being part of a top-notch wannabe-creative/talks-about-design-all-the-time/casual-sketches-in-the-notebook community does help you to prime yourself properly.
And I’ve always known this, but it took me a few months of intense yoga practice and sick six packs to phrase it this way. And I hope it will also help inspire yogis and non-yogi creatives to do so.
Join the tribe.
Finally, I have to credit Haruki Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running for the title and inspiration for the whole article. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend. I’m fascinated by how generous great writers like Murakami are in sharing insights into their processes. It’s a very very inspiring, easy-to-read book about self-discipline, the power of consistent practice, writers blocks and other tools for creatives. And if you’re not a yogi, (but maybe a runner instead) you might particularly appreciate it.