Yoga for creativity : Meditation and Pranayama (Part 1)

  1.  Are you stuck in a creative rut?

I am a victim of this. I always feel that I have lost my creativity or I get stuck after some time of working long hours, trying to meet deadlines, following schedules and fixing problems in projects and design. It happens to a lot of us, we lose our creativity as time goes. I’ve read some studies online that explains, the reason we lose creativity is because of working too much, stress (because of that first reason), following routine and habits, worrying about the future, fear of failure, having self-doubt, too tired and not having enough time for ourselves, especially in this chaotic world (insert Covid-19 into the mix as well), yikes. Ahhh.. yes, that is called adulting. So I guess this means we may be burning our brain way too much and in the wrong way.

 

What does yoga have to do with creativity?

While yoga is often a way to find peace and clarity in our minds, it also helps reduce stress, anxiety, and clear away the clutter in our brain, balancing our emotions and bringing out the creativity within us. Aside from getting in touch with ourselves, it can also be a way of helping us tap into our creative process, bringing inspiration deep within us. Doing regular yoga practice also supports and further increases your creative expression. As part of your yoga exercise, including meditation and pranayama before your asanas are important as an overall guide to your boosting creativity. Doing only asanas or yoga poses may not totally clear your minds. While meditation is a practice of cultivating awareness, Pranyanama is the practice of refining the ability and awareness of your breathing or flow of your life energy. Meditation can calm our thoughts and make you focused, while Pranayama connects your body and mind, helps you decrease stress balance and through the right breathing techniques.

 

1 – Meditation

Are you still in a confused and lost state, or perhaps not in the right mood?

Try meditation + mindfulness

Meditation or Dhyāna (Sanskrit) is the training of the mind. It is a practice of cultivating awareness of our habitual thought patterns. This has been the core practice of Buddhism in combination with other related practices which together can lead to a perfected mindfulness and detachment.

With meditation, we should also be mindful. Mindfulness meditation is not about wandering thoughts or emptying your mind, instead, it is about paying attention to the present moment, and to rest in the here and now, fully engaged with what we are doing in the present and in that moment of time.

The practice of meditation can be achieved by every individual and when we meditate, we are dedicating a certain amount of time and effort to being as mindful as we can. Practicing meditation regularly can also help reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity within us. It also helps you learn new skills and train your thoughts, allowing your creativity to flow out.  

Benefits of meditation:

  • Reduce stress
  • Enhances self-awareness
  • Lengthens attention span
  • Reduce memory loss
  • Improves emotional intelligence
  • Controls anxiety

The first step is committing some time for this practice. Taking at 10 minutes out of each day shouldn’t be hard, but it is quite easy to get distracted with all the things around us. Commitment and discipline is the key. Including this practice as part of your morning wake up ritual or before going to sleep or starting work also helps.

It is important to create an uninterrupted space where you can sit comfortably, whether it is sitting on a chair or on the floor, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are giving your body is in an easy position and relaxed state.

Aside from staying in one place in mindfulness meditation, there are also other types of meditation that famous companies such as Google and Walt Disney use to boost their employee’s creativity, one of them is walking/ movement meditations, and another is focused meditation. Each person is different, so maybe you want to move after sitting for a long time or staying in one place. Trying out different types of meditation such as movement meditation by walking, dancing, stretching and doing slow movements mindfully can also help release some physical tension and relax, also helping your blood circulate.

I, for one enjoy walking meditation around reservoirs and nature parks. I find that listening and being surrounded by nature makes me calm and more relaxed, and at times when I’m not able to go out, I would try doing mindful meditation. I am still learning mindful meditation as I have a fidgety mind and can last only 5 minutes. Trying to discipline my mind slowly takes time and I’m hoping to get better at this.  

 

To find out more on how to meditate and other types of meditation, here are some links showing easy meditation steps:

https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/

http://www.oprah.com/health_wellness/4-easy-meditation-steps

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation

 

2 – Pranayama

Following meditation with a pranayama

Prāṇāyāma is the ancient practice of controlling and regulating your breathe in yoga. In Sanskrit, “prana” means life energy and “yama” means control. In Pranayama, you are controlling the timing, duration and frequency of every breath and hold, making a pattern in your breathing exercise.

The goal of pranayama is to strengthen the connection between your body and mind. Aside from meditation, pranayama can also promote relaxation and mindfulness. Other benefits of pranayama is to improve brain function, better digestion, improve hypertension, boost immune system, strengthen your respiratory system, control or balance mood swings and so much more depending on the type of pranayama you practice.

 

Pranayamas that stimulate creativity:

Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath)

In Sanskrit, “Kapal” means skull and “Bhati” means shining or illuminating.

The practice of Kapalabhati or Skull Shining Breath consists of repeated rounds of forceful exhalations, followed by smooth inhalations. The exhalation is generated by forceful contractions of the lower abdominal area. It is an energizing breathing practice that brings clarity and lightness in the frontal region of the brain.

This breathing technique can improve your immune system, help to sharpen your senses and perception, balances and strengthen your nervous system, improving your concentration and memory, aids digestion, asthma and sinusitis, and most importantly for creativity, it de-stresses and brightens your mind.

The best time to practice this breathing technique is on an empty stomach early in the morning, or wait for 3 hours after meals or food consumption. This technique can be followed by a more subtle pranayama such as Nadi Shodana or Anulom Viloma.

For precautions, please avoid this breathing technique if you have high blood pressure, having your menstrual period, pregnant or suffer from any heart diseases. It is advised to consult your doctor or a health care professional before trying this out.

With that said, here are some links and videos that I found on how to practice Kapalabhati:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA2qAyuaPz0

https://chopra.com/articles/release-toxins-with-kapalabhati-breath

 

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

In Sanskrit, “Nadi” means channel or flow and “Shodhana” means purification.

With the alternate nostril breathing technique, this helps to equalize your brain hemispheres, leading to deep calmness. Breathing on one side of the nostril at a time stimulates the opposite side of your brain. Example: inhales starting from your left nostrils and ending your last exhale at the same side, stimulates your right brain hemisphere and the other way around.

This breathing technique calms and centres your mind, helps harmonize your left and right brain hemispheres, and also purify and balances the flow of energy or life force through your body. By holding your right fingers in Vishnu Mudra, you will use your fingers by alternately using the right thumb to close the right nostril and the right ring finger to close the left nostril through the breathing exercise. By starting and ending with your left nostrils, this helps to activate the creativity side in your right brain hemisphere.  This can be repeated in 5-10 cycles. For precautions, it is not advised for people suffering from hypertension to do this technique.

Here are some links I found on how to practice Nadi Shodhana:

https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing

https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/channel-cleaning-breath

 

Stay Healthy Yogis!