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Yoga & Poetry: Two Complementary Medicines | E.D. Watson, PPM

In my mental-health tool belt are a number of tools, but the two I rely on most are my yoga practice and my poetry practice. For maximum efficacy, I use them together. What with ongoing wars, climate crisis, social unrest, diminished human rights, and all the other challenges that come with being an Earthling in the 21st century, more than one tool is needed.

My poetry practice brings awareness and expression to the feelings and emotions within me. I tell my students that I often won’t know I feel about something until I’ve written a poem (or twenty). Or I’ll know exactly how I feel, but the feelings are too big for my body. At these times, the page becomes a spillway channeling floodwaters and protecting me from overwhelm. But then there are times when my emotions feel like a big gray cube in my chest, impenetrable and mute. When this happens, I go to my mat—with my notebook. I find that the simple act of moving—opening the heart space, opening the throat, loosening hands and hips—helps to release stuck words. Alternately, I’ll close a writing practice with asana, to soothe and ground.

In my youth, I had a very antagonistic relationship with my body. I suffered from anorexia and engaged in other forms of self-harm. Though I’d stopped such dangerous behaviors decades ago, true healing didn’t really occur until I began writing poetry “from” my body. I found that as I practiced asana, consciously sending gratitude and apologies to my body, it began to talk to me, and I wrote it all down. My body had a lot to say—she still does. She’s got a lot of interesting ideas, too. She’s the one who told me to become a yoga teacher, so I could bring this tandem practice to others.

I noticed a difference in my students’ poetry right away. Their poems went deeper. They approached the page with less trepidation and uncertainty. Our bodies hold memories and have their own intelligence. When we tap into the body’s “mind” through yogic practices, we access a storehouse of intuition, revelation, and sub-lingual information. Incorporating breath and movement also helps regulate the nervous systems, so no one leaves a writing session feeling too raw or unsettled. Since some form of movement and language are available to almost everyone, and because these powerful practices are versatile and adaptable, they are highly accessible. This is good news we all can use. 


E.D. Watson is a certified Practitioner of Poetic Medicine and a registered yoga teacher, as well as the author of three poetry collections. She holds an MFA in creative writing, leads poetry and yoga workshops, helps run a community art and poetry zine, and emcees open mics. One of her favorite things in the world is hearing people read their own poetry out loud for the first time. 

Learn more about E.D. Watson

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