Writing and Exercise

This morning on CBS I watched a segment highlighting how a school in California has incorporated yoga into its daily curriculum. The result, the school administrator said, was fewer dropouts and higher test scores. The students claimed doing yoga helped them concentrate, think things through, and feel more relaxed.

I’ve been taking yoga classes since 2001. I started after shoulder and neck pain sent me to a chiropractor.  After the chiropractor helped ease the pain, I asked him what I could do on my own to prevent the pain returning. He recommended yoga, and so I signed up for a class.

And it’s helped.

There are different styles of yoga being taught, and over the years I’ve had several different instructors, each approaching the practice in different ways. Some use the proper sanskrit terms (asana, prana, pranayama), others use the common pose descriptions (down dog, child’s position, warrior 2). I’ve never done the style where they kick up the heat, nor the one where you move rapidly through the poses. I don’t think I’d like either of those, and I’m not sure sweating or moving rapidly through a pose is what my body needs.

As a writer, I’m often sitting in front of my computer, concentrating on a story for hours at a time. I forget to sit up straight, shoulders back. No, the more involved I become in my writing, the more I lean toward the computer’s monitor. I also don’t always remember to keep my hands supported (to avoid carpal tunnel), and I definitely forget to stand up and
move around. So, of course, the more I’m into a story, the more trouble I have with my back, my legs, and my neck.

I try to make it to two yoga classes a week. I do a few poses at home in between those classes, but not for any extended time and not on a regular schedule, and I definitely notice more physical discomfort when I miss class for any extended amount of time.

I also walk. Having a dog and living in a condo where I can’t simply let him loose when he needs to go out, forces me to walk. These aren’t the cardio vascular walks exercise gurus recommend. No we walk a ways and then he catches a scent he has to investigate so we pause as he checks out the scent. It may not be helping my heart all that much, but these walks help my legs and give me a chance to think.

Both the yoga and the walking, in my opinion, help with my writing. With yoga we’re told to clear our minds, let go of all thoughts for a while, to simply concentrate on our breathing and our body. With the walking, I can let thoughts wander in and out of my consciousness as Zuri and I head over to look at the lake (It’s wild today). With either activity, I return to my computer refreshed and ready to go to work. As a writer, that’s exactly what I need.

What exercises work for you? Why?

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7 Responses to Writing and Exercise

  1. Liz Crowe says:

    I am a Bikram yoga junkie. That is to say, I go 4-5 times a week, hate every minute of it but love how it makes me feel and look. I also do “Ryding” which is like “spinning” (stationary bikes meant for group classes) only better ’cause they tilt side to side and let you work your core.


    • Maris says:

      Wow, I am impressed, Liz. I have always resisted exercise, so I feel pretty proud of myself for going twice a week to Yoga, but you put me to shame…and I bet your body looks and feels a lot better than mine.

  2. Diane Burton says:

    I applaud you for all the things you do to keep active since our profession is so sedentary. I joined a fitness center after I finished PT following knee replacement surgery. My husband goes, too, which is good. I tend to get so wrapped up in writing that I would put off going, but every morning he “guilts” me into going. I’ve noticed a marked improvement in the strength of my knees. The elliptical machine gives me quite a cardio workout and isn’t as hard on the joints as walking on pavement.

  3. Barbara says:

    Hi: I try to exercise between 4 to 6 times per week. One of the reasons is while my body is moving, my mind is solving problems in my WIP. There are many days when I stop my exercise routine (I exercise at home) to jot down notes about a story. I have taken Yoga classes and incorporated them into my daily routines. Alternating between interval and weight training, (which I call cardiac and weight straining) I often find inspiration during exercise. After all, you have to think of something to try to ignore what you’re doing to your body. And I’ve found that the days I don’t exercise, my body “gets back at me”, buy feeling tense and unfulfilled. (Go figure.) So, while you’re exercising, think about what’s happening in your WIP. You may be surprised at the result.

    • Maris says:

      Barbara, I applaud you for sticking to such a rigorous routine, especially at home. I find I come up with excuses while at home, but if I get myself to the gym, seeing others exercising motivates me to stay longer and do more. Of course, my dog motivates me to walk. It’s that or exercise by cleaning up a mess in the house.

  4. Barbara Dolny Bombar says:

    Great post! It’s important to get up and move every day, especially so when you’re at the desk writing for a good portion of it. I have a treadmill and a recumbent exercise bike in my home office that I get on after a writing roll or when I’m at a point where I need to think something over. I get up, do 10 -15 minutes on one or the other and get back to work at the desk. Breaking it up helps and by the end of the day, I feel good because I have added to my pages (or project) & did my exercise too! I also have three dogs who love walks and supervising my work time. 🙂

    • Maris says:

      I wish the condos where I live had enough room for exercise equipment (though before we moved I did have a HealthRider near my computer and rarely used it). Your idea of taking a break and exercising while mentally working on your writing is a great one.