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April 19, 2014

Yoga For Artists—Quieting Our Inner Critics. ~ Jay Alders

photo-yoga. Jay alders

Using Yoga poses for re-centering and balance.

My wife Chelsea was almost six months pregnant with our first child when we moved back home from Florida to the New Jersey shore. Soon after, I started a painting inspired by the jetties and hollow waves of the New Jersey beaches where I grew up and where we would soon raise our baby girl. I decided to paint this piece using only my mind’s eye as a reference.

I knew the scene well, but every time I picked up my paintbrush, my mind was filled with doubt. Is that the way the sunlight looks on the ocean’s surface? Could I really capture the water’s texture and energy without using a photo to validate my memory? These thoughts echoed and echoed, until they began drowning out my inspiration.

If you’re an artist, or anyone who engages in creativity, I’m sure you can relate. We all have an inner critic who fills our minds with doubt, criticism and, sometimes, downright self-deprecation. This negative talk is a barrier that keeps us from presence, and the louder it gets, the more difficult it is for us to find a place of gratitude and inspiration.

You can’t receive creativity unless you quiet that inner critic and let your mind just be.

Every time I hear my inner critic getting louder, I’m so grateful that I have yoga in my life. The yoga poses and techniques I practice in class have become a huge part of my life as a painter. When I start to fixate on negative mind chatter, I begin by performing a few inverted poses I love.

These poses help me focus on my breathing and let go of that mind chatter. The inverted movements also help get the blood flowing, which increases my energy and re-centers my physical and mental balance.

The next time your inner critic is questioning your creativity, try these yoga poses to re-center your mind and body:

1. Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

This is a great basic inversion that allows for many variations. I love elongating while in this pose. I used to think that standing on my head would compact my spine, but I actually find that the forearms and core take a lot of pressure off of it, allowing the neck and spine to strengthen. It’s a great way to re-energize and re-balance so that you can receive your creativity.

2. Scorpion/Forearm pose variation (Vrschikasana)

I absolutely love this pose. Physically, it takes a lot of balance and concentration. Mentally, it requires a level of surrender to loosen the muscles enough to allow for the stretch. As I make progress with my feet coming closer to my head, it reminds me how anything is possible with incremental steps. This is true for art, yoga and any other goal.

3. Full Lotus Pose (Padmasana)

It may seem cliché, but the Full Lotus is a great pose for beginning and ending your yoga practice. It’s also one that I use for meditation. To quiet my inner critic, I often sit in full lotus and become present while looking at a piece of art I’m working on. I hold this pose until I feel connected with my art and my creativity. This allows for spiritual centering and posture focus. I concentrate on elongating the spine and letting source energy flow through the third eye.

By just taking one breath and being aware of the sensations in our body as we practice these poses, we are awakened to consciousness. Yoga teaches us to “breathe” loving and connected energy into our body during challenging movements. While I’m painting, yoga principles remind me to take conscious, periodic breathes that help me become present, adjust my posture and quiet my mind. We are all receptors of creativity, and yoga helps us make the signal more clear and magical.

Using inverted yoga poses and conscious breathing, I was able to quiet my mind chatter as I painted that ocean scene from my mind’s eye. This balance helped me connect with the love I feel for my baby daughter, and I meditated on that feeling of abundance as I completed the painting.

Just like yoga, creativity is about the journey, and it doesn’t end once we finish our daily practice or our latest piece of art.

I hope you’ll use yoga to help you connect with the beauty of creativity as you continue this journey.

Namaste.

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Photo: Courtesy of Author

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Jay Alders