Life gets crazy sometimes. All around are the pressures to do and do and do some more. In the New Year, there’s the resolutions to be better at doing. Get more exercise. Eat healthier. Drink more water. Again, it’s all about doing.
But what if doing could be easy? What if being and doing became one? Ok, I realize this sounds crazy. And I am not saying I want to stop, sit and stare into the nothingness 24/7. But maybe there’s a way to feel that way, be that way in everyday life? How can I live and work with less stress? How can I take what I do in yoga class and bring it into my every day?
Yoga and throwing have a lot in common.
Throwing requires me to be centered. Physically, my hands, feet, legs, and butt, need to be in alignment, in order to pull the clay into any kind of form. Too much pressure from one hand and the clay goes off to one side. Uneven feet or legs easily pull a bowl off center or create a wobbly edge.
When I trim, I didn’t think I needed to be as centered. But, I was wrong. At this stage of the process, I’m taking my thrown bowl, turning it upside down and working to carve away all the excess clay from the bottom of the pot. It’s important to be centered here too. It helps to the bottom even, add a nice level foot.
In yoga, I need to be centered, so my body can use my muscles for balance and strength. Yoga breathing is designed to help concentration, to quiet distracting thoughts so I can be present.
When I throw, I can easily be thrown off by my critical voices or monkey mind. Using my breath and yoga alignment helps me throw and trim more easily. And I thank my wonderful yoga teachers reminding me to use my abs, that training helps me throw without throwing out my back.
Making as meditation.
I’m not good at meditating. I’ve tried it, really I have. I know it reduces stress but I just can’t seem to sit still and relax for longer than 10 minutes. It kind of stresses me out. But, maybe I don’t have to.
There’s another big benefit my work gives me - less stress. Yes, studies show that no matter whether you are a studio artist or not, making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormone, cortisol, in your body. Reducing stress helps you live longer (and enjoy it more, I think).
“A research study at Drexel University found that 75% of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experience and lower levels.”
That means anyone can reduce stress through art. Anytime.
So get out that coloring book. Cross stitch. Paint. Cut up some cloth or paper. Or hoorah, put your hands in clay.