YOGA AND ME :)

Happy Yogi
Happy Yogi

I love September, not only does it herald spring here in Australia, it’s also my yoga birthday. YAY! Yes, I’ve just had my 28th yoga birthday and am entering my 29th year of daily self-practice. I’ve learnt that the motto of Astanga, my first yoga school, “Do your practice and all is coming” is true. For everything.

Dream yoga spot on Magnetic Island 🙂

            I was first introduced to yoga in the 1980s and had already been doing a few postures and practicing mindfulness when I met an Astanga practitioner who gave me a print out of the primary series of postures when I was travelling in Cambodia in 1993. Brian led me through a few sessions of the dynamic and powerful practice and I was instantly hooked. Through yoga I was able to replace negative habits with this good one. Every morning I got up and did the practice, even after Brian travelled on. I didn’t have a mat or a teacher, only that piece of paper with stick figure drawings showing me the way forward.

This is a slightly fancier version

            It wasn’t until after some five years of daily practice, and the birth of my daughter, that I attended a yoga class. My first proper yoga teacher, Ian, was a strict Astangi and we were not allowed to progress beyond the primary series of postures until we had mastered all of them. As a short round woman, I knew this may never happen, so after the birth of my son, I found another teacher Peter, who, although based in the Astanga practice I loved, also included postures from other series and schools of yoga. He also introduced me to pranayama which now, after many years of daily practice, gives me great delight.

            Yoga is not for everyone, I know that. But it has been my life’s greatest teacher, my healer, my best friend, my comfort, my challenge and my joy. My yoga mats have caught more than their fair share of tears as the practice unearthed each and every grief and pain I had suppressed and brought to the surface in bouts of unrestrained weeping. My mats have seen me dancing with joy and taught me how to laugh even in the middle of a difficult challenge. In combination with writing, which helped me to express and process the emotions yoga brought to the surface, yoga has healed my life.

Kerry and I showing off 🙂

            Every day I come home to myself on my mat or out in nature. I am not a strict Astangi any more, but I still like a vigorous practice. I’ve learned that yoga is never wrong. You can always practice, though perhaps not doing demanding poses when you are injured or upset. Sometimes all we need to do is breathe, release slowly in gentle seated poses, or lying on our backs. Sometimes all we need to do is to rest in the peace and joy of our own hearts. No religion necessary. Find your own way to the Divine, back home to yourself. 

For me, the mat and movement combined with breath has brought me everything. So thank you yoga, for being my path. Thank you to all my teachers, from the very first to the last. I am so grateful for all this practice has brought me and for all it has yet to bring.

Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of abundance, love and success
Lakshmi – who knows maybe one day I’ll float up to heaven between two elephants 🙂

I hope you have a way to come home to yourself every day too. It doesn’t have to be yoga, anything that takes you out of your head and into your body will do, gardening, walking, swimming, cycling, just please UNPLUG when you do so. Let your thoughts roam free and if this idea scares you it means you really need to let them go. Learn to turn your thoughts into your best friend not your critic, enjoy moving your body and finding the joy in your heart.

Wishing you all the greatest of joys and the happiest of hearts.

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

As writers, our primary aim is to keep readers turning the page, glued to our story, compelled to read on way past bedtime. To keep readers up at night, they need to be invested in our story, connected to our characters and their goals. 

Jayne Mansfield had to keep reading even in the bath!

If a character has no opposition to those goals, then the story is over very quickly. 

EG. Maya wants to become a singer, wins a talent competition and is signed to a major label. That may be how the dream goes, but without opposition your story is over in a page.

We need to make that goal hard to attain. Anything we work hard for we value more than something given to us too easily. I think that’s why childbirth is often such an arduous process. After a woman has been battling contractions for hours, her baby is extra precious to her. She’ll kill to protect the tiny being she’s worked so hard for.

So when we create our stories we need to make sure our characters have something to fight against or overcome. 

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com Maya and her best friend?

EG: Maya wants to become a singer. She enters a competition, but her parents refuse to let her attend and lock her in her room. 

Even more than this, something needs to be at risk, to hang in the balance. 

EG: Maya wants to become a singer and she enters a competition, but her parents refuse to let her attend and lock her in her room. But if Maya doesn’t go then she won’t be able to win the prize money to pay for her best friend’s operation.

What’s at stake? Her best friend’s life! As well as Maya’s chance at stardom. That’s going to keep us up at night.

Photo by Mike B on Pexels.com

If we look at the primary building block of story – the one sentence “logline” or story idea – it goes something like this. 

Our Adjective but contrasting Adjective Protagonist must DO SOMETHING or else RISK SOMETHING IMPORTANT to them. 

For example:

Helen, a fearless but hot-tempered astronaut must intercept and destroy the meteor before it collides with the earth and destroys the planet.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of course, what’s at stake doesn’t have to be something huge like the end of the world – you can after all drown in a puddle – but it has to at least FEEL like the end of the world to your character.

As an editor I often see stories without enough at stake. 

A traveller wants to see the world. This is not a story but a travel journal or an article in a travel magazine.

A young man is conscripted to a war that’s almost over and never sees a day of fighting. The natural risk of warfare is missing. In this case nothing is at stake, except maybe he’ll die of boredom.

This makes it very difficult to sustain a full-length manuscript.  

However, in most cases there is usually something at stake if you dig deep enough. Or you can use the power of your imagination. 

If the traveller is escaping a dark past, trying to outrun a dangerous ex-lover, then you have a story. What’s at stake? It could well be the traveller’s life. Now we have a story.

If the young man’s girlfriend is back at home alone and pregnant, then he is risking a lot. Would he attempt to go AWOL to get back to her? 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

We need to keep the reader in fear of that risk becoming a reality. That balance between HOPE AND FEAR.

If we try to keep to the facts of a story too closely, as we must when writing memoir, there may not naturally be enough at stake. That’s where the freeing power of fiction comes in. 

Your essential human truth will still shine through a story that has been fiddled with to create a more compelling narrative. Storytellers have been doing this since we spun our first yarn around the first campfires.

Without an element of risk, something at stake, any conflict is diminished, and we all know that conflict drives stories forward.

Photo by Matthew Montrone on Pexels.com

Is there a crocodile hidden under this peaceful stream, or maybe rapids just around the corner?

What’s at stake in your story? Is something hanging in the balance? If not, what could be? Have fun figuring out what’s at risk.

Hope this was useful.

Lots of love

Edwina xx