Today, I’m incredibly pleased to welcome Eloise Greene to the Writing and Moonlighting couch as part of my ‘Wellbeing for Writers’ series. Eloise is a practicing Mornington Peninsula-based yoga teacher and student who believes in “celebrating the body through movement”. As the daughter of contemporary and historical fiction author, Lou Greene, Eloise understands the unique physical and physiological benefits yoga can deliver to writers of every discipline, developing routines tailored towards writers’ wellbeing as popular additions to her YouTube channel.
Eloise, welcome! It’s so great to have you on the blog as this week’s special guest. Let’s start off with the fundamentals. The benefits of yoga have been known and studied for centuries, and the correlation between yoga and the arts is widely celebrated. What are some of the benefits yoga can deliver to writers when it comes to their creative practice or productivity?
Hi Rebecca, and thanks for having me. It’s widely known that the ancient art of yoga promotes health and wellbeing, but a great side benefit of practising yoga is its ability to expand and support creativity. Yoga is instrumental for those in any creative field as it allows us to bring about stillness in the mind and focus on the present moment, our breath and our body. It quietens distractions, and from this place of clarity and peace, deeper thinking and inspiration can arise.
To be creative it is beneficial to have free-flowing energy through our bodies and minds. Yoga works to move the prana (the life force energy that pulses through the body along a network of subtle body channels) through our bodies and direct it to specific areas. Writers’ block could potentially be a build-up of this stagnant energy which needs to be released elsewhere and yoga helps us to do this, potentially facilitating creativity and inspiration to flow.
Thanks for those insights, Eloise. I know for myself whenever I have scattered thoughts or a distracted mind, my creativity is hampered. Moments of stillness are vital for unlocking my creative focus and flow. So, what about the benefits of yoga in relation to the physical act of writing itself? I imagine yoga would be wonderful for relieving some of a writer’s biggest physical complaints: back and shoulder pain and soothing tense muscles?
Yes, absolutely! Yoga and its asanas (poses) help to loosen up all the areas of tension and tightness that are especially prevalent in writers who spend much of their time sitting bent over a desk. When the body is unrestricted by pain, it becomes free to create. As we open ourselves up physically, we become receptive to creative inspiration.
Unfortunately, modern life promotes bad posture as the general population spend the majority of their time in chairs (looking at you writers!). Posture is super important if we want to maintain the health and mobility (which supports you for your whole life) of our bodies. It’s amazing how every part of our body is interconnected with connective tissue much like a spider’s web. When one thing is out of balance it can easily affect another part of our body due to the connective tissue which exists between and around almost everything in the body. Yoga can improve your posture as we build strength and flexibility from the asanas.
Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand tall. Yoga also helps you to gain body awareness, so you become more conscious of how you are standing and sitting, and which muscles you are using throughout the day. When you stop slouching and stand up straight, you’ll look better and feel more confident and most importantly you’ll feel more positive too! A positive and focused mind is important for creativity.
Yoga can also help deliver more energy to your day. Yoga has eight limbs and the poses (what most of us think of as yoga) is only one of those eight elements. Pranayama (breathing techniques) is an amazing way to re-energise the body and mind. Kapalbhati Breathing, also known as ’Shining Skull’ breath, is one of my favourite yogic breathing techniques that cleanses, charges, and invigorates the frontal region of the brain.
Practice: (rapid breathing with passive inhalations and active exhalations) do 2 or 3 rounds of 20 breaths.
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Inhale through both nostrils, expanding the abdomen.
- Exhale with a forceful contraction of the abdomen.
Thanks for sharing this fabulous breathing technique, Eloise. Your observations about posture certainly resonate with me. I really need to be more mindful of my posture. I often find myself hunched in my chair, or suffering from a painful build-up of tension in my shoulders and neck. It looks like the benefits of yoga are multifaceted indeed. So, if you were a writer looking for a way to ease into yoga as a complete beginner (or perhaps seeking a path back to practicing yoga), what would you recommend?
First of all, don’t be put off by all the crazy poses you may see on Instagram, or classes that seem unachievable. Something I feel so strongly about and want to promote is that yoga is for everybody and every body (no matter your age, size, colour, flexibility, strength etc.) You should never compare yourself to others in yoga classes because not every body looks, flows or bends in the same way. An excuse I often hear is, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough.” But that is the same as saying “I can’t have a shower because I’m too dirty.” We come to yoga to get more flexible, more in tune with our bodies and to celebrate what our bodies can do for us!
Ideally, the best way to start your yoga journey is to go to a real class not a virtual one, but that is quite challenging at present! If you are able to, find a local yoga teacher and see if you like the way they teach and the vibe of the class. Hopefully I will be teaching some in-person classes in and around Mount Martha as soon as lockdown is over, so please keep an eye out on my social media if you would like to come and join in (I hope to create a super supportive and safe environment to practise and grow)! If attending in-person classes isn’t for you another great way to ease into yoga is from the confines of your own home. I have some super quick and easy videos on my own YouTube (Eloise Greene Yoga) that you could try out if you click on this link
There’s even a writer’s yoga video up if you are in need of a little break from your creative endeavours. There are heaps of other videos you can follow on YouTube too.
That’s great to know! I’m a local girl myself, so I’ll certainly be looking forward to your classes! In the meantime, it’s terrific to have your online resources available while we’re all experiencing the impact of COVID-19’s restrictions.
Eloise, I understand there are many different types of yoga. Is there one (or more) that would particularly suit writers and creatives? Or is it more about finding the right fit for your lifestyle/personal preference?
Yes, there are so many different types of yoga to explore. Personally, I practise Vinyasa which is flowy and includes poses synchronised with the breath, and Yin which is floor-based poses that are held for minutes to work into the deep connective tissues, like your fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. It’s slower and more meditative, giving you space to turn inward and tune into both your mind and the physical sensations of your body.
I think it’s definitely best to find the style which best suits your own needs and personal preferences. Some people may prefer more sweaty, physical practices such as power yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Bikram. Some people might like a more balanced practice such as Hatha or Iyengar. And some people might enjoy a slower-paced and de-stressing practice like Yin or Restorative yoga.
I think for writers it’s important to focus on poses that work your back, shoulders, and neck as most likely that is where pain can arise from sitting for prolonged periods. A few poses I recommend are:
Seated neck rolls: Inhale gently bring your R ear to R shoulder. Exhale come down through centre. Inhale gently roll your L ear to L shoulder. Then reverse and repeat.
Cat cows: Come to an all fours position with your wrists under your shoulderns and knees under hips. Spread wide through the fingers. As you inhale, lower your belly, lift the chest, look up. As you exhale round your back, chin to chest and push the ground away from you.
Child’s pose: From all fours position sit back on your heels with your knees together. Extend your arms forward with palms down and then melt your body into the ground. You can do this pose with your arms down beside your body. You can also do this pose with your knees separated and your toes touching and breath into the space you create.
Sphinx pose: Lie on your belly and bring your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor and your palms facing down. Press your forearms into the floor and lift your chest up and forwards, drawing your shoulder blades together and down your spine. Push the tops of your feet, your thighs, pelvis and forearms into the ground whilst lengthening through the spine.
Ah, yes—back, shoulders, and neck! Every writer’s pain points…these poses will be very beneficial! But what about meditation? Is this a natural extension of yoga practice, or would you recommend meditation as a separate ritual…maybe part of a daily writing routine? Can you suggest an easy meditation that can be performed at any time?
Yes, meditation is another of the eight limbs of yoga. In fact, the yoga poses the majority of us know as yoga are practised so people can maintain sitting in meditation for long periods of time. I love adding a short meditation at the end of my yoga asana practice to set my intentions for the day and connect inwards. This is great if you are a writer as it gives you a clear focus. I also like to set aside about 20-30 minutes in the morning to simply sit with myself and be in the present moment.
Here is a super easy meditation technique that can be performed at any time: Come to a comfortable seated position. Maybe place a pillow or folded blanket under your sit bones to help keep you upright. Place your hands on your knees, palms open and receiving. Close down your eyes. Tune into your body, noticing how it feels today. Notice if there’s anything your body is trying to tell you. Notice any places of tension or tightness and give those areas permission to relax. And just observe the breath here. Feeling your chest expand as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Allow your mind to become one with your breath. If your mind wanders, just notice it and bring your attention back to your body, using your breath as an anchor. And continue for as long as you want.
I guess it just goes to show how the simplest changes, habits, and practices can lead to the most profound changes. Eloise, I want to thank you again for your time and expertise. You’re inspired and inspiring! I know many writers will gain much value from your comprehensive answers—I know you’ve certainly sparked my interest in learning more about (and practising) the benefits of yoga.
Just one last question before you leave to spread your beautiful energy elsewhere: What has been your favourite read (so far) for 2020, or what is your next book on your “to be read” pile?
I finished high school last year and never found much motivation or time to read on top of schoolbooks. This year I have found my love for reading again! It’s super hard to just pick one, but I think probably All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I’m a bit late to the party to read it but I absolutely loved it and it was so beautifully written. It is one of those books that really touch your heart and one I think I will be thinking about for years to come.
About Eloise Greene
Eloise Greene is a practicing Mornington Peninsula-based yoga teacher and student (Vinyasa/Yin) who believes in celebrating the body through movement, and that yoga is for everybody and every body.
You can follow Eloise’s yoga journey and join her classes on YouTube and Instagram @eloisegreeneyoga or email her at eloisegreeneyoga (at) gmail dot com
Eloise welcomes your message and questions, even if it’s just for a chat!