Discovering yoga and developing a regular practice changed my life and my writing so I’m always keen to talk to any writer who’s had a similar experience. I was fortunate enough to interview author and journalist Robin Rinaldi who combines writing with teaching yoga.
Robin is the author of The Wild Oats Project: One Woman’s Midlife Quest for Passion at Any Cost. Her book, which has been translated into several languages, has been described as, among other things, brave, forthright, brutally honest and a ‘true page-turner’. She’s currently the consulting editor for Together.guide, an online magazine about relationships. Robin did her yoga teacher training at the White Lotus Foundation and teaches private classes in Los Angeles, where she lives.
When, how and why did yoga come into your life, Robin?
I started doing yoga way back in the '90s. As a former dance teacher, it was just one more kind of movement I was interested in. I started with Rodney Yee's videos, which, in retrospect, taught me excellent alignment and provided a great foundation for more advanced classes later. I also took a kundalini yoga class back then as I was trying to find a way into meditation, which I've never been good at. It was about 12 of us sitting in a circle on the floor of the teacher's Victorian house in Sacramento doing breathing exercises that made me super-dizzy.
What kind of yoga do you do now?
Mostly a variety of basic vinyasa classes. Some stress the core, some are slower, some are sweaty, but mostly they’re your down-to-earth vinyasa class centred around Surya Namaskar A and B, standing poses, a few balances, twists, hip openers, and an inversion or two.
Do you have a regular practice and, if so, do you also self-practice?
I do a little yoga here and there at home but not what you'd call a true self-practice. I live in LA and have a favorite studio (Yogala) a few miles from home. I work in my house all day long and use my little trip to Yogala to get out of the house and into a studio with other people. Both yoga and meditation are somehow better for me when done in a group, which is a little ironic given that I love to teach privates. I practice about four times a week.
Do you believe there is a connection between yoga and creativity in general?
For me there's a connection between yoga and everything, including creativity. I'm not sure how or why, but yoga tends to both calm and re-align my physical and emotional energy, and that leads to better health, better moods, more inspiration and more creativity. It's an indirect but strong link. So much of our time is spent up in our heads: working, typing, thinking, worrying. Yoga takes all that anxious heady energy and moves it through and out the body in a very gentle, grounded, ritualized way. I love that.
Is yoga connected to your writing and, if so, in what ways?
If I'm stuck on something, or feeling I "should" write but don't have the energy, a yoga class will generally help create a little opening. It's not a surefire thing but it's one thing that helps.
Would you recommend yoga to writers?
Yes, for sure. The trouble I see is that a lot of people who want to try yoga are intimidated by the super-athletic teachers they see in magazines and on websites and by the twisty flying poses they can all do. They don't realize that 95% of yoga isn't like that. They don't realize how gentle and self-accepting yoga was meant to be, what great practice it is for accepting your body and emotions exactly as they are.
Could you recommend a particular pose that works for you as a writer?
Even though I don't have a full-on home practice, I find myself going into a couple of particular poses throughout the day on breaks: downward dog, child's pose, and reclined simple twist. I probably do all of these a couple of times a day, first to wake up in the morning and then to loosen my hips and shoulders and back after sitting. And if I need a shot of energy or focus, I find going into headstand for a few minutes really helps.
Are you working on something now and, if so, could you give me a rough idea of what?
I've been writing essays and working on a second book idea, but it's too new and vague at the moment for me to describe it yet. Hopefully soon!
Good luck, Robin. And thanks for an illuminating interview. I completely agree with you that going into downward dog a few times a day is a great way to stretch and wake up your body.
Find out more about how yoga can benefit your writing practice or even get you started as a writer here.
Read an extract from The Wild Oats Project here.