A Feather Tipped in Glitter: Teaching Yoga as Creative Expression

feathers holiday

I have been saving a particular picture of white feathers with their tips dipped in silver glitter as inspiration for my holiday decorations. I could envision their creation long before I had them dangling from a simple piece of string. I strung them as garland outside the entrance to my yoga studio. I decorate the studio on a regular basis and keep my eye out for creative ideas to set the scene for a beautiful yoga experience. I like to change the scenery to impart a feeling of care in the space. I want a fresh palate of texture to inspire and invite the idea of possibility and permission for something new or different. When I opened the yoga studio, two years ago, I was not expecting ownership or teaching to be so influential and instrumental in developing my creative expression.

My relationship with creative expression and teaching yoga has been a steep learning curve. I consciously create classes and teach them in full fear. The physician in me wants to teach physically sound yoga classes and the creator in me wants to teach classes that are touching and profound. I tell myself to accept that new skills take time. It is not and will not be perfect, ever. Laura Munson, bestselling author and founder of Haven Writing Retreats, once shared that there are two kinds of writers. There are those that plan and those that write by the seat of their pants. I am the latter. Apparently, I decorate, write and teach yoga the same way. I find an idea and I go with it. It is the creative consideration that inspires me. Whether a blank page or an empty yoga studio, I love having the space for an idea to emerge and come into being.

Unlike decorating and writing, teaching yoga has an element of here and now. Teaching requires flexibility of structure and immediate adaptability. It requires that I decide, execute and be in relationship with my work in full view in real time. It provides me with immediate feedback. Teaching feels like there is a lot on the line. It matters to me that people connect to themselves in a deeper way. Creating a special effect with glitter and feathers feels like a small order compared to the tall task of creating sanctuary in the minds and bodies of human beings.

By the nature of teaching weekly classes I am in a constant creative mode. I have developed a healthier level of comfort with trusting creative ideas. I can more easily see the way a concept could be presented in an important way. When I am open to letting something grab my attention, I can potentially bring it to life. When an idea sparks my inner creative imagination I begin to formulate and consider where I can take it. I let myself imagine.

Urdhva Hastasana

Urdhva Hastasana

My creativity is often inspired by what is already close to me. It lies in daily conversations, pictures, activities and single, quiet thoughts. I was recently studying the yoga word, Svadhyaya. It means self-study or self-inquiry. I caught myself thinking, “What do I stand for?” What came to me was mountain pose. It is the yoga pose of standing. I began to consider all of the ways we use the word stand; stand up, stand tall, stand for, stand out, stand back, stand a chance, stand corrected and so on and so forth. All of a sudden, standing had new possibilities. I could imagine my students standing for five minutes with permission to explore their minds and hearts in relationship to these words and concepts as a way of self-inquiry. I created a class around a word, a concept and a pose. I could imagine students standing against a wall, standing alone, standing back to back with someone else, and lying down as if they were standing horizontally. With a familiar word I created a new format to teach a yoga and creative writing class. I had something to offer and a place for it to go.

Perhaps yoga is teaching me to take a stand for my own creative expression. It is teaching me to trust my “fly by the seat of my pants” nature. I am learning to accept my desire to be creative as an honoring of my souls desire to express and create change. Teaching has given me permission to let go of fear and be led by what inspires and matters to me. It has encouraged me to embrace being seen, here and now, like a feather tipped in glitter.

Dr. Erika Putnam

Dr. Erika Putnam

Dr. Erika Putnam is a chiropractic physician by trade, a writer at heart and a yogi by fate. She has practiced chiropractic for almost two decades and owns a yoga studio in Idaho. The two practices connect structural stability with the true core of well-being. As a doctor, she brings a hearty helping of nurturing nerdiness to her classes. Her venue is a colorful mix of teaching. She teaches anatomy to students at yoga teacher trainings, yoga for medical professionals’ classes, and creative writing classes with yoga-inspired exploration. She pines for a view of the Montana skies and the smell of Idaho mint from her road bike. Pedicures in the shade of Rocktoberfest are her favorite self-care indulgence.
Dr. Erika Putnam

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