“Find Your Intelligent Edge”: Yoga & Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

I got my latest issue of Yoga Journal in the mail today and I was delighted to find a blurb about how yoga helps unlock creativity on the cover. Ironically, I’ve been exploring creativity all semester–researching how to utilize creativity in teaching, tutoring, and mentoring students. Although I finished my MFA thesis, I decided to stay on for an additional semester to take an education course on tutoring, as I work as an on-campus writing tutor. Of all the books that I’ve been working with, Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit has been the most influential. Tharp is a famed modern dance choreographer but her suggestions for incorporating creativity into your life aren’t limited to the arts–you could use them in a business plan or your yoga practice. I’d suggest finding a copy of her book if you are interested in exploring your own creative ideas. Her ‘creative autobiography’ is fantastic quiz designed to help readers identify their passions and learn to make those activities an important part of daily life. In fact, I imagine that Tharp and K. Pattabhi Jois would be in agreement: “Practice, practice, and all is coming!” She talks about the importance of everyday practice of your creative activity  and how curiosity and emotional flexibility are crucial to the creative process.

In many ways, yoga helps teach us all the principles necessary to be creative. This semester I was able to discuss Shiva Rea in a seminar paper on creativity in tutoring; I talked about how many traditional educational theories place authority for classifying students’ learning styles or developmental levels with the teacher and don’t explicitly teach students to practice self awareness and assessment. Unfortunately, many students emerge from the American education system in a kind of passive mode–after lots of standardized tests, they disengage from learning or they wait for someone else to tell them what the rules are. You can listen to a TED talk from education specialist Ken Robinson on this problem. Being passive saps your passion. There is widespread agreement in education that students need to move in progressive steps while learning, but disagreement on how.

I think we can borrow from yoga when we think about how we’re educated and the attitude we  bring to traditional academic achievements. What resonates with me is one of Shiva Rea’s instructions: “Find your intelligent edge,” she often says in DVDs.   If I’m finding my intelligent edge, I’m actively engaging in my practice, while recognizing that I need to progress in increments and modifications, rather than jumping into crow pose and pulling a muscle.  The fantastic thing about yoga is that it asks students to explore and assess their own progress–their emotional state, the tension in their hamstrings–every time they get on the mat. Yoga recognizes that each day is different, fluid. The same guidance that helps you in your physical practice could help a seventeen year old struggling with English 101. Something worth meditating on.

TED talks are fantastic resources on creativity, too. Explore them!


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