Yoga and creativity, for me, are indisputably linked. To flow from posture to posture, using the breath as a guiding force, and allowing the mind to clear itself from thought, is exactly how the creative process works. I start with the urge to move, to create something, anything. And then once that initial gesture is expressed, I’m able to take a step back, reflect, take a walk, look away, and then in coming back, color it in even more vibrantly. I’m able to see the piece as it really is – whether that’s something to continue pursuing, or to move on from.
In yoga, we’re encouraged to move energetically, to feel the body out, to test the waters and our limits within the postures. And then to reflect, to experience our experience, see things – ourselves – for how they truly are, and then to use that knowledge in an empowering way. Either to resist certain postures, or, for the time being, going into a deeper expression of them – or to continue down the path we’d started, accumulating sensation, walking our edge.
Throughout all of this, both the creative and yogic journeys, the breath is the guiding force. The breath in yoga carries us safely within a physical sequence, it steadies the heart rate, slows the nervous system, it keeps us present. Not only that, but it allows for clarity, for one-pointedness, it takes us towards Dharana – the 6th limb of the Yoga Sutras.
In the creative process, the breath becomes an indicator of whether we’re on to something. Excitement and nervousness may show up through the breath in the same heightened way, but if we can begin to really listen to ourselves, there’s a difference between the forward-propelling breath of excitement, and the knotted-stomach breath of nervousness and hesitation.
In creativity, flow is recognized as being in a place that’s beyond thought. The external world disappears, and all that’s prevalent, all that exists is the work before us – whether that be writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, music, etc. Our body takes over, the mind no longer holds the reign. And throughout the process, the breath holds the rhythm, steady, meditative, repetitive. In my own work, hand lettering and illustration, I use the breath to steady my hand, to prepare my body for the work, to ease into that flow.
Having a yogic background makes this a much easier transition, and one that I’m ultimately aware of. I know that when things in my creative work don’t flow quite as easily, or ideas, inspiration, motivation aren’t as flush, there must be a missing link in my yogic practice. That is often the case. On the flip side, I feel most creative and engaged and able to give in to flow in my yoga practice when I’m feeling more creative in my life outside the studio, or off the mat. The two inform each other, they relate to each other, and they create a beautiful sense of balance between the mental and emotional efforts that both yoga and art aim to overcome.
Jillian Schiavi took her first yoga class seven years ago, and has been continuously inspired ever since. After receiving her BA in English from New York University, she completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training at Yoga to the People (rys) in 2010. After a brief stint in Chicago, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she recently relocated to the Bay Area to further explore her yogic journey as both a teacher and student. Alongside yoga, she runs a calligraphy and illustration design studio, jilly ink, and shares vegan skincare and nutrition as an Independent Consultant with Arbonne International. In her teaching, as in her life, she exudes positive energy with a passion for sharing the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga, art, and personal health.