When we get off the mat, most of us tend to focus on how our bodies feel. We may observe that our hamstrings have released and or our shoulders have relaxed, but what about the changes beyond our physical bodies?
Perhaps you have noticed, for example, how your perspective can evolve after just a short time on your mat. After a yoga class, the outside world can seem so different from how it appeared before you entered the studio. We know that yoga opens up the body, but it can do the same for the mind, creating space for ideas to emerge.
For writers, artists and musicians, yoga can be an invaluable influence in the creative process. For Amanda Giacomini, a much-loved Wanderlust yoga teacher and talented painter, this intersection of creativity and yoga opened the channels of her creativity and beckoned her into the world of art.
When Amanda’s practice led her east, she realized the potency in the overlap between asana and art. When studying in India, Amanda visited the famous Ajanta Caves, located in Maharashtra. This sacred site – dating back to 2nd century BCE –was inhabited by Buddhist monks who covered the rock-cut walls with paintings that have been called the “finest surviving examples of Indian art.”
The paintings depicted the past lives of Buddha as boddhisatva, offering Amanda not only an aesthetic vision, but spiritual inspiration, too. This synthesis of yoga and art inspired her artistic style. When she returned home, she found herself tuned to a new-found potency in her practice, and she realized how yoga can open the mind while honing the senses. Through yoga, Amanda explained, she gained a heightened awareness of both body and mind. For example, in a balancing pose, the eye sharpens through a drishti. In savasana, mental chatter calms to engender an environment for creative thought.
But, Amanda explained, there are benefits to be found beneath the surface level, too. Amanda discovered a wealth of inspiration by delving deep into her practice, beyond asana. She began by opening herself up to traditional texts, like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Reading sacred texts like these, she said, can be an antidote to the influx of mind-numbing media that pervades our modern world, and through the Sutras, Amanda learned much about channeling her creativity.
Of course, we live in a time where most modern yogis probably won’t be shunning all their screen time in favor of the Yoga Sutras. However, this is where Amanda discovered the value of brahmacarya, or moderation, a principle based on the idea that oversaturating the senses through too much of anything—a binge on sex, drugs, alcohol, food, or even Netflix—can dull the natural ebb and flow of creativity.
Envisioning this creative energy as shakti, or life force, helped Amanda focus the benefits of her practice towards art. For example, Amanda honed in on the concept of iccha shakti, or intention and will-power. Iccha shakti is the starting point in any creative project, fueling its conception and its birth. With a heighted awareness of iccha shakti, Amanda dialed into the process of conceiving artistic ideas and maintaining the will-power to follow through with them.
This is where kriya shakti comes into play, Amanda said. Kriya shakti has to do with action; in this case, the manifestation of her creative ideation into physical art. Exploring kriya shakti can be greatly beneficial to artists, who often cycle through various ideas with ease but struggle in seeing them through.
Although an exploration of these philosophies an be deeply effective in inspiring and motivating the artistic muse, Amanda noted that the internal workings of the creative process are entwined with the external. In other words, you could swear off Netflix and spend all your free time immersed in yogic philosophy, but the momentum you build can be quickly stifled if your outer world isn’t in line.
Herein likes the significance sangha, or the Buddhist concept of community, Amanda said, explaining that your external environment, from the places you go to the people you hang out with, can impact your art as much as your internal environment can.
Surrounding yourself with people who are eager to explore, activate and manifest the gradations of their own creativity can help you get in touch with your own, Amanda said. The support of a community dovetails with your individual work, creating the ideal conditions to incubate and hatch the creative ideas waiting in the back of your mind for release.
Explore Amanda’s Yoga & Art project for more insight on inspiring your creativity through yoga.