Writers have a reputation for being depressed alcoholics.
Ernest Hemingway. Edgar Allen Poe. Jack Kerouac.
Today there are even cocktails to go along with our favorite authors. Make me a Faulkner mint julep please.
Hopeful writers looking for a path to a Great American Novel often look to the lives of famous authors for life tips and writing strategies, but the track record of happy, healthy writers with fulfilling relationships is not good.
Are unhappiness and drinking prerequisites for creative success?
To answer this question, we have to look into why writers drink in the first place.
This is your brain on alcohol: GABA inhibits neurotransmitters, making you more sluggish. Glutamate is suppressed, slowing down brain function. Dopamine increases. In one simple sentence: everything in your brain slows down and your inhibitions drop.
So, writers get a slower mind, less fear of standing out and extra dopamine in the brain’s reward center. It looks like a recipe for literary genius.
However, yoga produces many of the same effects on the brain, but without liquor’s damage to the rest of the body and heavy toxin build-up. In addition, new research shows that postures and yogic breathing might be the real source of lasting inspiration.
Artists have used yoga as part of their creative lifestyles before. One of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, Yehudi Menuhin, relied on asanas from B.K.S. Iyengar to relax and stay centered during his hectic touring schedule. 19th century transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “At rare intervals, even I am a yogi.”
Can practicing regular yoga really make you a better writer, though? It may not be an express line to the New York Times Bestseller list (unless you’re Elizabeth Gilbert, whose yoga and life memoir stayed on the list for a whooping 222 weeks), but it can help you deal with doubts, anxieties and writer’s block.
Here are four persuasive reasons to try a class next time you’re facing a blank white page:
1. Need a creative boost?
The right hemisphere of the brain is the predominate seat of creativity and emotion, and in 2009 scientists found that the yoga sessions activated this side of your mind.
Yoga increases GABA levels in the brain by an average of 27 percent, binding neurotransmitters, which is exactly what your shot of vodka or Valium does.
Use yoga to make stress-hormone cortisol levels drop.
The key to letting go and just making art may be quieting the whole mind and stilling the body. Regular yoga and pranayama practice has been shown to cut the basal heart rate and reduce blood pressure.
With benefits like these, put down the bottle and unroll your mat. Looking back on the long list of creative geniuses whose lives were cut short or destroyed by alcoholism, you have to wonder how many more classics writers like O. Henry, Truman Capote and F. Scott Fitzgerald might have produced had they found quiet and comfort away from bars.
If only they’d known about Yoga.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Emily Bartran