Yoga, writing and me

Sometimes our lives may change, and it prompts us to explore things we may never have considered before. Faber Academy alumna and Yoga for Writers student Lorraine Blencoe tells us how taking up yoga has given her confidence and helped her cope with MS.

Lorraine Blencoe

I blame Roald Dahl. When I read Danny the Champion of the World as a child, there was no way I could ever be the same again.

I would always have that desire to write — and write well — nagging at me like an itch that I couldn’t quite reach.

But life got in the way and the pursuit of a sensible job, as convention dictates, was a driving force.

A mortgage and bills to pay really didn’t help. Two law degrees later I found myself being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Nothing clears the mind and prompts a change in priorities quite as much as that.

I also made the decision to have a child after I was diagnosed, which led me to receive condemnation from some of the people I knew.

I joined a National Academy of Writing course run under the auspices of Richard Beard at Birmingham City University, but this soon turned into an MA in Writing and Richard left.

I completed the MA but needed something more. I did the Faber Academy Writing a Novel online course and it was a revelation.

For almost a year I not only wrote nothing, but was constantly beating myself up about writing nothing.

– Lorraine Blencoe

My first writing course

I hadn’t experienced an online learning platform before that, and I can safely say that it was more beneficial than the MA because of the constant feedback and the opportunity to read the work of others in a safe environment.

The ability to take part in the course whenever and wherever is refreshing, and this is reflected in the writing that gets produced.

Following the Faber course, I felt like I was floundering. On top of that, my ex-husband died and our fifteen-year-old daughter was left without a father.

My journal writing got me through that — I’ve done that daily for as long as I can remember — but my fiction writing suffered.  For almost a year I not only wrote nothing but was constantly beating myself up about writing nothing.

I’d received occasional emails from Professional Writing Academy regarding new courses, but Yoga for Writers and Introduction to Therapeutic and Reflective Writing were the ones that always jumped out at me. In June, I decided to enrol on Yoga for Writers, which lasted all of July.

To say this has been an epiphany would be an understatement. Firstly, I was physically not very confident, but practising yoga in the sanctity of the spare bedroom made me lose sight of that lack of confidence almost immediately.

I felt like I was doing it correctly, safely and at my own pace. I could redo the parts I felt I wasn’t quite getting the hang of and dwell on the parts I enjoyed.

All the stress I had put on myself disappeared.

– Lorraine Blencoe

Stress, yoga and writing

Not only was the yoga a revelation but my attitude towards my writing completely changed. I relaxed about it.

Initially, I did associate writing with yoga, but suddenly the writing became a compulsion. All the stress I had put on myself disappeared.

Halfway through Yoga for Writers, I googled a yoga class close to where I live and now, every Sunday, I attend yoga with my daughter. She appears to be getting as much from it as I am.

I can tell this from the massive smile she has on her face sometimes when she tries but doesn’t quite manage to bend her body into a pose. I do my yoga practice with my journal next to me and it feels good when I scribble occasionally.

Even when yoga isn’t consciously in my head I find myself counting my breaths. Enjoying the breath going into and leaving my body. I feel like I’m more aware of my body, which can only help my MS.

In the middle of the night when my novel is in my head and just won’t leave me alone, or when my legs are spasming and I can’t keep still, focusing on my breathing keeps me company and undeniably helps.  

At the end of the course, everyone is offered a thirty-minute Skype or telephone tutorial with David Holzer. Because I had been listening to him every day for the previous month I had a James Bond moment.

It was like when Blofeld (in the guise of Telly Savalas) was hypnotising women with his voice and using them to take over the world.

The sound of David’s voice was instantly therapeutic, and he kind of convinced me that there was nothing stopping me from doing things I’ve needed to do since Roald Dahl made me think that to be a writer was just the coolest and most natural thing in the world to do. Namaste.

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