Yoga for strong bones and strong stories

Stories are much like our bodies — they need strong foundations to work properly. Faber Academy and Yoga for Writers student Helen Corlett shares her story of how yoga has helped her combat osteoporosis, and given her the drive to start writing in earnest.

Helen Corlett

Strong bones is where it all began — more specifically, the need for them. I have early signs of osteoporosis and am keen (desperate!) to do what I can to keep it at bay.

Motivation enough, you’d think, and yet I was still struggling to establish an exercise routine.

In other ways, the year had started well. My redundancy at the end of 2016 seemed to provide the spur I needed to focus on my novel. I blew the dust off my first draft and braced myself for revision.

January’s inbox brought a serendipitous email advertising the Faber Academy Work in Progress course, and I seized the opportunity of a framework and supportive community to help me nurture my story towards completion.

By the summer I had begun to feel renewed confidence in my writing and was enjoying the shared journeys of our group, with its diversity of writing voices.

It was through a couple of fellow writers on the WIP course that I became aware of the Professional Writing Academy’s Yoga for Writers course, and I decided to give it a go.

Yoga mat and laptop at the ready, a corner of the bedroom floor cleared – my best attempt at an irresistible invitation to stretch as I made it out of bed each morning!

Has it worked? It’s definitely starting to. I’ve re-engaged with my yoga, and am enjoying the morning routine. The stimulus of a group has undoubtedly helped – the empathy of shared achievements and doubts.

Strong bones — it’s all in the foundations. Obvious really, when you think of it like that.

– Helen Corlett

Pose for prose

I sit and soak up a bright energy from alternate nostril breathing, drawing in the feel of my characters, the steps of the story that lie before me.

I work through the sequence of poses — strong shoulder stretches, dog pose, warriors and trees. “Extend yourself further, push your boundaries”, our tutor David Holzer urges.

I get that — of course, we need to drive and explore our ‘edge’ in order to grow ourselves and our writing — but for a while, there’s something not quite coming together for me.

I try deeper focus on my dog pose (ouch — not my favourite I’m afraid, but all the more need to work on it…).

I try to ground my trees firmly and hold them steady for longer.

After a while, it comes to me. My push and edge are not about more advanced versions of poses. Not just now.

What holds me back is a lack of core strength, and that’s where I need to focus.

I dig out various yoga resources and supplement my routine with simple poses that will help awaken some of the neglected muscles — pelvic tilts, toe taps, bridge.

It reminds me of writing, where revision is so often about simplifying and paring back, the power of basic elegance.

The French have a saying that I have always liked:

Reculer pour mieux sauter — take a step back, the better to jump; the energy-gathering crouch of cats that propels their graceful leap.

I have always seen yoga as representing wholeheartedness – a full focused commitment to the movement and moment.

– Helen Corlett

Finding the foundations

Strong bones – it’s all in the foundations. Obvious really, when you think of it like that.

But, for me, it’s been a valuable insight, and it finds its way back to my desk as I review my draft. I have a story, and I should celebrate that.

I believe in it and have loved every minute of its creation, and someday soon I hope that my slice of historical fiction will see the light of day.

As with any writing, though, it has not all been plain sailing. My challenge has been to bring depth to the story, really get to the heart of the conflict.

It’s all about strong bones again — going back to the novel’s foundations, building credibility and integrity for my characters and their long-lost world.

Now I’m able to draw on my yoga practice to help me with that: through the physical stretching and sustaining, but above all the inward energising of breathing.

I have always seen yoga as representing wholeheartedness – a full focused commitment to the movement and moment.

This is not to say we always get there, of course, but the intent can guide and help us. Wholeheartedness, built from integrity of core and purpose. That is, after all, just what we aspire to as writers.


Osteoporosis & yoga

As with all medical conditions, there are differing views about osteoporosis and “dos and don’ts” on the yoga front. My decision to explore yoga to help me is a personal one, and it may not be right for everybody.

For those who are interested, there is a useful book by Loren Fishman, MD & Ellen Saltonstall, Yoga for Osteoporosis, which gives guidance on different pose variants for bone strength, muscle strength and balance.

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