The Beautiful Parallel between Poetry & Yoga
Here in the States, April is National Poetry Month. I love it for the inspiration to re-visit my favorite poems, the encouragement to discover new ones, and the excuse to share them in my yoga classes.
There’s such a beautiful parallel between poetry and yoga. One of the things that Eoin said during my teacher training that stayed with me is that teaching yoga is like poetry: the idea is to encourage people to slow down and feel.
When I read a poem, I feel a difference in my approach compared to my more typical tendency to skim. My time in law school with its endless required reading of case law made me a champion skimmer. And if I’m not careful, I find that skimming skill transforming into habit. Maybe it’s the same for many of us. How often do we skim the news, our email, our Facebook feeds, just trying to sift through and determine what really requires our attention?
This is where poetry is so good for me. It forces me not to skim. What would be the point of skimming a poem, after all? So much of the pleasure of reading a poem is appreciating each word, noticing how it relates to the next, much like our poses and movements flow together on our mats.
I love the way poet Naomi Shihab Nye explains it, in her lovely 2016 interview on the podcast On Being:
“…when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”
And at its best, isn’t that also what a yoga/meditation practice does? It provides us the same opportunity to get quiet, to savor, to make some space to notice how we feel. And like a poem, our practice is most powerful when we allow it to evoke feeling, emotion.
Shihab Nye, again, says it beautifully:
“…and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.”
More and more I notice our collective need for this space, and I see that the enemy of it is “skimming.” When we rush—whether through texts and images on a screen, or through movements on our mat—we’re not letting ourselves slow down and feel. With poetry as my remedy, I’m committing to skim less, and savor more.
I’d love for you to join me. Let’s make more space for poetry, for practice, for presence.
It seems only appropriate to share a poem to close. It’s so hard to choose just one of my favorites, but this one echoes a lot of Blissology principles for me. It’s from fellow Oregonian William Stafford:
Why I Am Happy
Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.
And I know where it is.
By Victoria Williams, Blissology 200-hr YTT
Check out Victoria’s teacher profile to learn more.