Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Deep Breaths and Downward Dog: What Yoga Has Taught Me About Writing

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I've been going to yoga classes 3 times a week at the amazing studio The Yoga Sanctuary ( since May, and I've learned that yoga is definitely a mind and body activity. During this morning's class, it occurred to me that yoga is part therapy and part exercise. I always leave class feeling much better than when I came in. Today's class left me feeling inspired with these poetic words from my teacher:

"We are human beings, we falter, we get distracted but we always have the option of coming back."

Sounds like writing, doesn't it? It's easy to step away from the draft you're working on, to procrastinate, to say you'll come back to it later and then lose all confidence. But the only way you benefit from a workout regime is if you keep doing it, and the only way you end up with a finished draft or a published book is if you keep going.

A lot of yoga teachers say we usually approach life the same way we approach our yoga practice -- we can stop before it gets too hard, or we can push through, believing that through hard work we will reap the benefits and rewards. Same with writing!

Today's teacher told us that while life always changes and we experience joy, bliss, suffering, pain and challenges, we can always remember how calm we felt on our mats, simply breathing through every pose, and we can bring that simplicity to our lives. I've started applying that calmness to my writing. Because a lot of your writing career is totally out of your hands. All you can do is your best and know that is enough. I believe that if we work hard, success will definitely come, and if it doesn't this time then we can always try again.

Another part of yoga that is applicable to writing is that the longer you do it, it doesn't get any less challenging, but you become better at dealing with the challenges. In my first few classes, I found Downward Dog (a pose where your body forms a V shape, your butt in the air, and your hands and feet on the ground) really painful, but after a while it got easier. It's the same way when I'm working on a draft of a story -- at first it seems like all the challenges of working out plot and character will take a while to come together, but somehow it always does.

Probably the best lesson you can take from yoga is to keep breathing. When life gets stressful, when you're waiting in a long line or stuck in a crowded subway car en route to school or work, just breathe.

It's simple. But it works.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Aya Tsintziras

Aya Tsintziras is the author of the YA novel Pretty Bones, which was selected for the Canadian Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens in Spring 2012. She has a BA in Political Science from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing a Masters of Journalism at Ryerson University.

Go to Aya Tsintziras’s Author Page