I was never very into sports at school.
That’s an understatement – I actually hated PE and probably spent most of secondary school trying to avoid it, which I fortunately managed with some degree of success…I had a bit of a dodgy knee due to my lanky frame growing quite fast (think baby giraffe with all those knobbly joints), which meant I had that holy-grail of PE haters across the land: The Doctor’s Note.
You see I don’t really like competitive sports – I’m just not really very good at them (terrible hand-eye co ordination) and I never really cared enough to try…nor did I like PE Teachers… A tennis teacher once told me to stop messing around on court and concentrate as I’d never get a boyfriend if I couldn’t play tennis….SERIOUSLY?! Ok, so I didn’t actually have a boyfriend at the time but I’m pretty certain it had nothing to do with the fact I was no Steffi Graf (1990s tennis reference for you!).
However, once I’d escaped the hideousness of organised team sport at school and went off to university, I realised that whilst I still didn’t like ‘sport’ as such, I did enjoy being active, fit and healthy (when I wasn’t drinking snakebite and black to vulgar excess). I became part of the rowing club (ok, this was more for the social events than the rowing and I think I only made it into a boat about twice!), I joined the gym, cycled A LOT and even managed to drag myself round the London Marathon when I was 21. It was around this age that I also found YOGA. My lifestyle at the time didn’t sit that well with the whole ethos of yoga so I wouldn’t say I was a regular practitioner in my early 20s and my dedication to it was sporadic. That was until I became pregnant with my son. It was then that I really started to embrace it and appreciate how it would help me, both mentally & physically, through the frankly downright scary prospect of giving birth. Since then it has become part of my life and I TRY to practice every day – sometimes for only 10 minutes, sometimes for over an hour but it’s something I want to do, rather than feel I should and you know you’ve found your ‘sport’ when this is how you feel about it.
(I can’t do this by the way…no sir-ee…not even close…probably not EVER..in fact I’m not actually sure this is even physically possible…maybe it’s been photoshopped!)
What’s all this got to do with creativity and making things though?…..WELL…the one element of yoga I have always struggled with,is meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness is THE big thing at the moment. There’s books and apps and websites all about it – Headspace
and the lovely, straight talking, down-to-earth, Andy Puddicombe
is my favourite. We’re encouraged to be mindful in every thing we do and it’s often hailed as the saviour to our busy, modern lives. Being a fan of yoga, I’ve been practicing mindfulness as part of the sessions for years but still find it difficult to really disconnect with the jumble of thoughts going through my head. I appreciate the benefits and when I manage to really switch off, it’s a wonderful wonderful thing. Just recently, however, it occurred to me that I can actually reach this mindful state, not by sitting quietly and doing nothing, but by doing something that is so completely absorbing, that my mind is totally and utterly empty of any other thoughts, worries or stress.
…and this is where sitting at a pottery wheel, throwing clay comes in. I recently returned to my Friday morning pottery workshop. I was straight back at the wheel and for those 3 and a bit hours that I sit there trying (and sometimes failing) to produce a not-too-wonky bowl or vase or jug or mug, I am completely and entirely focused on that wheel and that clay and I think of nothing else. It is a chance to totally switch off. So whilst it’s impractical for me to continue with pottery for long , it has made me appreciate that by being fully absorbed in a creative process, I can find my own version of ‘Om’*.
(‘Om’ is a mantra, often chanted at the start or end of a yoga class…there’s some deep hippy s**t that’s associated with it, in relation to a connection between your being and the universe…but on a more basic – let’s talk sense- level it’s just like a big old sigh, releasing stress, clearing the mind and helping to achieve a more inward, meditative state)
Sound interesting? Check out this article, which explains far better than I ever could, the science behind how concentrating on something creative can be great for combating stress.
..and with that, I’m off to Downward Dog.