‘Yoga is not really about getting your body healthy, though it does that too. Yoga is about gaining the knowledge that can free you.’
Michael A. Singer – The Untethered Soul
This beautiful quote by Michael A. Singer encapsulates for me how yoga can tap into our creative genius. To connect us into a creative state where the world appears to us as a set of infinite possibilities, where anything is doable and we can create our life (and the world) in ever new and exciting terms. Now who better to be a living example of this sweet yet all-powerful surrender of tapping into our creative genius than Michael A. Singer. If you Google his name you’ll discover that he is the creator of a life-saving, billion-dollar software company that specialises in medical management with achievements archived by the Smithsonian Institute. And whilst we are ingrained with this image of the socially awkward, tech-savvy, Harvard grad whose Zuckerberging it away in some basement rent-a-workstation at Silicon Valley hoping to create the next big tech gizmo; Singer created his legacy by filling his day with yoga and meditation at his cabin in the woods outside of Gainesville, Florida, USA.
But it wasn’t always going in this direction of yoga and meditation for Singer. Whilst working on his doctorate in economics in 1971 he had a deep awakening and went into seclusion to focus on yoga and meditation. In the 1970’s he founded the ‘Temple of the Universe’, a now long established yoga and meditation centre where people of any religion or beliefs can come together to experiment with inner peace. Years later he authored the #1 New York Bestseller ‘The Untethered Soul’ and the New York Bestseller‘ The Surrender Experience’. What Singer explores in both ‘The Untethered Soul’ and his autobiography is that through the practice of yoga and meditation you will eventually catch on to the epiphany that you must distance yourself from your own psyche (your mind) to reach clarity. That you are not your own thoughts and that you must take the age old philosophical maxim “I think therefore I am” and apply a little Dadaist reinterpretation to say “I think where I am not; I am where I think not”. Afterall, what is our mind if not the pollutant superhighway overflowing with the streams of thought that are not our own but a series of social scripts accumulated and reedited, cut and pasted from years of overexpose to living outside of ourselves. It is through yoga and meditation that we can de-clutter, where we quiet the mind and are able to hear the voice of clarity that speaks to us.
To get really creative you have to get really comfortable with trying many things and failing at most whilst having a clear end goal in mind. Failing as part of the creative process should be celebrated not blocked. To be really creative we need to be accustomed with making mistakes and so many of us are fearful of mistakes. This is why we become so determined to do things the way we have always done things. Furthermore, even when we are able to gain the inner confidence to create something new our compulsion to conform and fit-in leads us into self-destruction and sabotage. It is again yoga and meditation that brings us back and enables us to create new ideas from a ‘place of knowing’ or rather from a position of reminding. Yoga reminds us once again what we already know deeply to be true about what we must do – what we must create. And like Michael A. Singer who forged his own creative line that connected his lodge in the woods to the skyscrapers of Silicon Valley without moving a inch; we must all understand that the greatest changes done to ourselves and to the world around us don’t have to come by following others and the way they have always done things.
Now let’s get creative!!
My three favourite types of yoga to help tap into my creative juices:
Bikram Yoga- A system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques. It became popular in the early 1970s and Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is a hot yoga style, and is practiced in a (95–108 °F) with a humidity of 40%.
Aroma Yin Yoga- Yin Yoga is a deeply healing and meditative form of yoga that targets the connective tissues and energy meridians of the body. A yin yoga pose is typically held for five minutes; enough time to release stagnation within the fascia, refine subtleties of our breathing and quiets the mind. In an Aroma Yin class, the teacher applies essential oils to specific acupressure points on the body while in complementary yin postures. Each pose and oil is selected according to the five element theory of Chinese Medicine to facilitate emotional, physical and energetic transformation.
Kundalini Yoga- An uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices, Kundalini Yoga incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras, such as Sat Nam, meaning “truth is my identity.” The goal is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness.
Techniques to tap into creative thinking and problem solving:
1). The Empty Room Simulation – Imagine you are an empty room with the door and windows wide open. Thoughts, energies and memories come and go but they don’t stay for long. This allows you to clear away all the thoughts about what is possible and what is not. Keep this thought whilst you are doing yoga, that you are an empty room and after the class brainstorm all the new solutions you can come up with in relation to challenges you are facing. I learnt about the empty room visualisation whilst at the Mandali Experience workshop, at Mandali, Northern Italy. I now try this towards the end of an Aroma Yin Class and my favourite class is held at Inspire Yoga, Dubai, UAE.
2). The ‘I am filled with creative energy’ meditation – I love doing this whilst I am doing Bikram as it keeps me very focused and the 90 minutes flies by. My friends have tried this whilst doing power yoga to the same effect. Here is the technique to try:
1. Imagine a golden red light glowing inside your root chakra (groin) and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with creative energy’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room.
2. Imagine a golden orange light glowing inside your sacral chakra (belly button) and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with blissful energy’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room.
3. Imagine a golden yellow light glowing inside your sacral chakra (belly button) and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with blissful energy’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room..
4. Imagine a golden green light glowing inside your heart chakra and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with loving energy’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room.
5. Imagine a golden blue light glowing inside your throat chakra and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with pure energy’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room.
6. Imagine a golden navy blue light glowing inside third eye chakra and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with powerful energy’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room.
7. Imagine a golden purple light glowing on the top of your crown and silently yet firmly chant ‘I am filled with intellect’whilst keeping the poise and positioning your gaze directly towards the centre of the room.
The ‘I am filled with creative energy’ meditation whilst doing the long cardio postures helps me keep focused during the session and also makes me walk out feeling I am all these things and more! During the session I pay more attention to the areas which I feel I need the most help in my life that day. So if you feel you are lacking creative energy then focus on the chant ‘I am filled with creative energy’more than the others. In this space of feeling that you are all knowing you feel unstoppable and your ideas/decisions become so much more clear. End the session with expressing gratitude to all the areas in your life where you have shown all these attributes (creativity, bliss, love, purity, power, intellect) paying close attention to where these attributes have positively impacted others. Finish the practise by imagining all your lights are shinning bright and filling the room. You’ll leave the yoga studio feeling euphoric and that’s the moment to do some creative brainstorming/ideation. I like to try this whilst doing Bikram Yoga and my favourite classes are held at Bikram Yoga Studio, Canary Wharf, London, UK
3). The Forgiveness Technique – When we feel ourselves being creative, there is a sense of flow; like the tides moving in and out of an estuary. When we hold onto resentment or withhold trust from a person based on past hurt, we stunt our natural creative capacities. Since the feeling of flow is an expression of creativity, resentment, withholding, and mistrust block such flow and we need to let go of this blocked energy to be creative. Forgiveness is the process of letting go of past hurt so that our creativity can flow unobstructed. The forgiveness technique is a great one during Kundalini yoga. Try the forgiveness (Kundalini style) technique lying down with a towel under your hands, imagine someone that you have had difficulties with and imagine hitting them with your fists and simultaneously pounce the floor with your fists clinched on the towel and then opened for 6 minutes. When I first tried this I felt uncomfortable and thought I have no anger but so much pent up anger and frustration came up and then we did a forgiveness meditation to the person and chanting ‘I am sorry you are not as I wanted you to be, I forgive you, I release you’. Surprisingly after this exercise most of my negativity towards the person I had imagined faded away and I was able to think more clearly and creatively without them at the forefront of my mind. I like to try this with kundalini and my favourite classes are held at Eco Sanctuary, Dubai and about Balance, Brighton, UK.
In a nutshell creativity and the creative process depends on our ability to reframe difficult situations so that we can learn, grow, and benefit from them. Yoga gives us the space to improve our inner mastery; learning to live with common disappointments and failures of the human experience. Inner mastery does not mean things dont go wrong; things still go wrong but we get to the point where we can endure them, seeing them as a lesson and opportunities to transform them. Yoga practiced with the above meditation techniques (among many others) allows us to see that things evolve as they are meant to and we can rise up more than we sunk in life. This allows us to get creative, to get messy, to put ourselves in uncomfortable places and use our imagination, to make mistakes whilst also knowing that we’ve developed our attitudinal as well as physical muscles. What this all accumulates to is the belief that what will happen will work out not because underneath us there is no undertow but because we’ve learnt to swim well. We are strong and adaptable. We are anti-fragile.