Yoga and Creativity

whenever you do something do it as a piece of art. Otherwise just don't do it. Let everything express the creativity of you'. Yoga Bhajan

Yoga is a creative practice into oneself and the world we live in. Without creativity, the world would not exist. We would not exist. Like other art forms, the practice of yoga draws upon inspiration from the world we live in and uses movement, music, sutras or poetry and other variation of expression to tell its story and teachings.

The practice of yoga has influenced many artists from all different mediums harness and focus on their creative nature and arguably, produces their best work to share with the world. The creative process requires time and patience, just like yoga.  An artist working on a painting for example, must destroy and then re-build again and again before reaching the end result, building on layers of texture and colour before it becomes a beautiful piece of art. A teacher of yoga will need to do a similar process to create a class that inspires.

Many artists who suffer from depression and have an angry temperament find it hard be creative and never reach their highest potential as an artist - their creative spirit is blocked by aspects of their personality and many creative people throughout history have ended up suffering because of this.
The practice of yoga can help an artist in the creative process by destroying certain aspects of their personality in order to create and move forward and gain further insight into the beautiful gifts yoga provides. Avidiya - the root causes of obstacles - Raja (attachment), Dvesa (refusal), Abhinvesa (fear) and Asmita (ego)- Once these obstacles are broken down, the student of yoga has more space within them emotional and physically to progress in their practice and in life - this allowing more room for their creative spirit to be free and reach a higher potential.

Music As Yoga, a book by musician Patrick Bernard explores this subject in more detail, showing extensive research into the healing powers of music and the effect music has on ones personality and lifestyle. A quote taken from the book says: 'All Music, whatever it may be, influences our mood, our feelings, our attitudes and the behavior it causes'. The book suggests that pop/rock music (although not all) can be destructive and harmful to the listener. Although I agree that certain pieces of music have no place in a yoga environment, I personally couldn't imagine my personal choice of music being an element to my practice, as I personally feel a connection to modern music with my own practice and certain genres aid in different types of practice throughout the yoga spectrum.

The Beatles visited Rishikesh, India, in 1968 to attend training sessions on transcendental meditation – lessons given to them by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
During their time spent at the Ashram, the group wrote many songs, later appearing on; The White Album and Abbey Road – several of the songs contain eastern musical styles. The reason for the bands venture into meditation and Indian spirituality was to find a different kind of creative process for their music. The bad had been using pyscadelic drugs to expand their conciseness and their creativity, prior to an introduction by Maharishi into the benefits of meditation. The New York Times reported that the Maharishis influence over the band and their time spent meditating and at the experience of ashram life at Rishikesh, weaned them off LSD and inspired them to write many new songs. The report stated, ‘It was an extraordinary period of creativity for them’.
These influences seemed to stay with most of the members of the band through their lives and musical careers. Paul McCartney is an animal- rights campaigner, George Harrison was a well know Hare-Krishna devotee and Indian musical producer and John Lennon is remembered as a humanitarian and an ambassador of world peace. In John Lennon’s song Instant Karma, he tells us to all be careful about what we put into the world and how we treat others and that we are all one and nobody is exempt from the universal law of Karma

‘Its not the life you live, but the courage you bring to it’. Gurmukh.

Creativity in the yoga classes of today is very evident. Vinyasa flow, a style of yoga developed by a traditional lineage of teachings along with creativity, has set a new standard and attracts many creative followers, due to its fluidity and dynamism. Along with vinyasa flow, many western teachers have developed new styles of yoga and many choosing music as the main creative aspect to the class – the most unlikely of which is Hip-Hop music.
Neil Patel started teaching Hip-hop yoga in 2006; a style which he developed through the love of his two passions: rapping and yoga. This certain approach to teaching yoga has come under scrutiny within the yoga world as many people do not see explicit lyrics and heavy beats very relevant to yoga. On the other hand, his classes have attracted a new community of yoga student, who are young, vibrant, and eager to know more about the teachings of yoga – fusing that with their own passion for music that is relevant to their demographic – can only be a positive tool for teaching and changing people’s views on how yoga should be perceived. In an interview I constructed with Neil, I was curious to find out why he started this type of class and what creative yoga means to him.
He explained his main source of creativity to me, saying ‘Most of my poetry is from meditation – my soul speaks to my conscious mind and deliver ideas and words’. He suggested that ‘we cannot get to God without being creative as creativity is a part of his Prakriti (nature)’. He goes on to explain to me how hip-hop yoga has bought about a change in his students by expressing gods nature and creativity. ‘Creativity is a great tool for expression and because yoga opens up those channels stiffened by years of fear, creative confidence pours out – artistically, emotionally and with just pure sweat. Hip-hop yoga tunes people into rhythm again and any finely tuned instrument will make a better sound’. My personal view (albeit a generalization) on this statement, is that statistically Hip-hop music appeals to young people with possibly troubled lives. How wonderful it is to marry something that is relevant to youth culture with something that will help dispel their troubles. This teaching method seems to be a great case of how yoga and creativity comes together to form mental and social process, full of new inspiration and conceptual ideas. Hip-Hop music, has historically bought about change in society, which has shown social commentary in music at its best. Yoga has done the same in its own unique way, by bringing about social change too, about how we think and treat one another. Fusing the two together shows how much yoga is about change and how it will continue to evolve to inspire them most unlikely students to reveal in the wonderful practice of yoga.

"When i demonstrate, im an artist". B.K.S Iyengar

The postures expressed in a surya namaskar sequence are not just movements, the man sitting with his legs crossed with eyes closed is not just chilling out – yoga remains a poetic language that comes from 1,000’s of year’s worth of knowledge on the self and the universe. That knowledge brings us to know the self and the knowledge we are all connected by the same creative source; the divinity within us all. In order to have a creative space within, we must be freed from the things that bind us. The ego needs to be depleted, negative comparisons must become positive inspiration from others, limiting belief must now be courage and confidence – all these things allows our creative spirit to run free. The practice of yoga slowly breaks down those limiting beliefs in us that hinder our creativity and shines the light we need to get out of the dark.

The arts have always drawn inspiration from spiritual teachings and ideas-Angles have always been depicted in cinema and paintings – but now we are seeing yoga influences in films, artwork and music in the western world. Art reflects on the world we live in, and the creative work expressed by the artist who practices yoga is always some of their best. Ray of light by Madonna scooped 4 Grammys out of 6 nominations – the first grammy wins of her career- and has been hailed as one of pop music’s greatest masterpieces and has introduced many to the practice of yoga. The album was released in 1998, the same year as Alanis Morrisettes' epic, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie – a time when yoga was just about to hit big globally and the two inspired albums were released at a time when the world was waking up to the economic greed of the 90’s and looking for a change in direction, reflection and spiritual values that were being lost in western civilization. Since the 1970’s when his meditation practice began, David Lynches' work have won some of the highest honors throughout his career and his movies are taught in universities all over the world – his films continue to be more imaginative and thought provoking. When there is space within us to learn, to grow and to share, our best work within the world will always be done – yoga is the tool to unlock this truth and our creative interests can become the medium in which we express this. 

I have personally written my best poems inspired by yoga and what yoga has taught me. It has taught me more about compassion for others. It has taught me how to me more playful and light. It has taught me to laugh and cry more. It has taught me to explore my body and my interests and shows me the way to my highest potential.

Art does exactly the same.


Meditation, Consciousness and film.
David Lynch is a Hollywood film director, painter, writer and a practitioner of transcendental mediation. His film work include some of the most ground-breaking, bold and distinctive displays of modern cinema and he remains one of the most respected and critically acclaimed film makers of today. Without David's daily practice of meditation, audiences would have missed out on his immense creative genius and his ability to show complex layers of story-telling on screen. The film director remains somewhat secretive when explaining his work and most of his films have left movie-goers puzzled and much remains open to interpretation - his self-penned book, catching the big fish is a rare insight into his meditation practice and how this is central to his film-making. In the book, he describes how meditation allows him to 'catch ideas' by 'diving in' and if you want to catch the big ideas, you have to swim in the deep ocean - the state of higher consciousness - and then how he prepares these 'caught' ideas for his work. These ideas do not come to him in voices or are even as clear as crystal (this has only ever happened once he claims), but the practice itself allows his consciousness to expand and has removed dark parts of his personality to be removed which then frees his creativity to flourish and expand to a higher level.

David Lynches films are often described as weird or dark, which seems completely removed from the man himself, who is an ambassador of world peace and has contributed millions of dollars to his own foundation which supports consciousness based education- which has proved students attention and academic results are improved by the way of practicing meditation.

Yoga teaches us that duality in the universe is an illusion and light cannot exists without darkness and we must all embrace both oppositions to grasp the true knowledge of oneself and the creation of the universe. Lynch describes in his book when discussing The light and the self, that 'negativity is like darkness. Don't worry about the darkness, turn on the light and the darkness goes. Turn up the light of pure consciousness and negativity goes'.  This statement reflects so much on his films in where he has taken his characters through dark worlds comprising of violence and drugs (both of which Lynch does not condone), but still remain beautiful pieces of work showing the human spirit at both their most lowest point and most endearing. Many of his his characters have experienced this darkness because of an absence of light which they so disparately need and crave but are somewhat starved of; a true reflection of many people within society. In the practice of yoga one is taught the practices in which they can take to begin moving toward a life where their darkness is removed and the inner light becomes brighter. Lynch describes something similar in his film, Blue Velvet when the character of Sandy, is describing a dream she had: 'I had a dream. In the dream, there was a world, and the world was dark because there weren't any robins and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flow flew down and bought this blinding light of love. And it seemed that love would make a difference, and it did. So, i guess it means there is no trouble until the robins come'. I cant help but think that David Lynch wrote this passage as a metaphor for his meditation practice - a man that has candidly talked about how his anger broke up his first marriage- and how meditation helped him overcome his inner demons- It also  is a true statement of how we must all love one another in order to shed the darkness within each of us and with the absence of love for oneself and others the light burns out - a true teaching of yoga. A Guru to a student of yoga, is the remover of darkness, weather it be an actual person or a student’s inner guru - their own guiding light. I see the robins represented in this passage as the guru - our inner light, our love, joy and light we show to the world and share with each other. The yoga sutras say 'In the vicinity of yoga -unity-hostile tendencies are eliminated.

Before lynch began meditating and living a life of enlivening unity, he was filled with anxieties and fear which he often took out on other people. After two weeks of mediating, the process of change began to lift the anger and fear he felt and he become more free in his creative process: 'Anger and depression are a beautiful things in a story, but they are like poison to the filmmaker or artist, you must have clarity to create'. This is also a true statement for yoga practitioners. These emotions in my own personal life were the result of holding back my potential.  A lack of clarity would make me angry and depressed and yoga has been the foundation that has helped in letting those fears and anxieties go and take those steps, one- by- one, to freedom. This allows greater connection with others and aligns us to our highest potential, thus expressing the divinity within, coming from a higher place, a higher being, a higher state of consciousness. We can then go out in the world with a deeper understanding brought to us by this knowledge of the self and share the experience that make up human nature; good and bad. With this understanding, we can help ourselves and others shed their darkness and create a better world in which we live. When watching David Lynch being interviewed about his films, you will notice he answers with such poise, care and grace. You will also notice a fluttering he does with his hand. To some, this maybe just another one of those idiosyncratic gestures the so called ‘mad genius’ has, but I see this as something what shines through him to express his answers - a sort of communication with a higher energy he has when talking about his passion. The same can be said when watching yogi's practice asana - there is a deeper connection with something else that’s leading them in their practice - a higher energy that is radiating, guiding them and expressed through their vessel.

Cinema is its own unique language, just like yoga is. Both say big many abstract things that can be interpreted in different ways. Both the work of David Lynch and meditation can take you into a different world; one created by the inner self and the divine and one created by someone who has experienced that. In these worlds, possibilities are endless, deeper understanding arises, knowledge of oneself manifests and compassion is shared. I see from my own practice of yoga how much David Lynches work is yogic and comes from a place of not gifted genius, but a place of expanded consciousness - a practice of oneself from a deeper ocean -where the bigger fish are always caught.

By Stefan Warth, 2011.