Creativity: what yoga has to say

Creativity has many definitions, many perspectives- probably as many as practitioners. When discussing creativity I often remember Justice Stewart’s famous definition of pornography: hard to define but you know it when you see it.

Creativity leads to the new 

This can be a thing of beauty or one that challenges us. A performance that vanishes after it’s over. A new tool or instrument. In some arenas, like science, it’s a way of asking old questions in a new way.

Creativity is often uncomfortable, because the outcome always involves uncertainty.

Creativity is an attitude 

Creativity transcends activities traditionally considered creative, like the arts. The corollary is that creativity is inherent to any activity– if one is willing, to be open, to look sideways.

Creativity doesn’t happen once, but rather every day. It doesn’t rely on the arrival of inspiration, but is grounded in repetition.

Like many intangibles, we’d like to capture it, so manifestos and rules abound, even though creativity is about breaking out of molds.

What yoga has to say: sthira and sukha

Patanjali wrote in his Yoga Sutras over 2000 years ago:

Sthira sukha asanam.

  • Sthira translates to effort, steadiness, discipline
  • Sukha is joy, repose, rest
  • Asana is the seat, the yoga posture, the position

In a yoga context this sutra encourages the reader to engage in their practice with both effort and ease, discipline and release, steadiness and joy.

Taking position isn’t just the physical practice of yoga

It also means to take one’s seat to write or draw, to stand in the center of the room before singing or dancing.

It’s puzzling over data in a spreadsheet, examining a chest X-ray, looking back at a class of bored students. It’s tying your shoes for a morning run before the sun rises, looking in the refrigerator for the makings of a meal.

It is, in essence, to be.

Sthira and sukha chase each other, like the exhale and the inhale

Sthira is acquiring and expanding tools and skills, practicing them, exercising them. It is relentless curiosity. It is systematic wonder. It is the discipline of showing up, every day. The 99% perspiration required for anything we do.

Sthira is activity and effort, reaching. It is holding the course.

Sukha is looking away from the canvas or the blank page. It is composting ideas and images, memories and dreams. It is allowing the part of the brain we don’t always use solve the problem. It is seeing further by not looking straight on.

Sukha is releasing and receiving, letting go. It is taking a different path.

Hey, they’re contradictory

Of course. The opposing tendencies of sthira and sukha create a dynamic tension. Like all opposites they revel in balance, and like any balance, it will be different for each person and each day, each moment.

Creativity is new each day, and also the same. (Yeah, that’s a contradiction too.)

How do you define creativity?

6 thoughts on “Creativity: what yoga has to say

    1. Thanks, Gayle! I think we often forget about sukha, which can lead to frustration and burnout. It’s kind of like remembering that play and laughter and naps and daydreaming are just as important as the to-do list.

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