Yoga for art

Connecting painting and yoga may seem like a stretch, but as both a yoga teacher and a painter I’ve learned that the principles of the mat can also be applied to the canvas.
While practicing yoga, I’m aware of what both my mind and my body are doing in each moment. Likewise, the act of painting keeps me rooted in the here and now—my hands, eyes and mind are in a perfect moment-to-moment flow, and hours pass unnoticed in a moving meditation.
All artists strive to reach this “flow” state of vinyasa that we strive for in yoga. How do we get there? By trusting the wisdom of our bodies rather than the tricks of our minds. A painting teacher may ask, “What color is asphalt?” Our habituated brains blurt out “gray,” but our eyes tell us something different. Depending on the light, the pavement may be yellow, pink, blue or any other of the almost limitless combinations of colors. The practice of painting, like yoga, encourages us to slow down, focus and trust what our body tells us rather than what our brains assume. When our minds trust our eyes and our eyes trust our hands, we flow.
Another important yogic principle, namaste, affirms that “When I look at you, I see the divine.” Similarly, when I choose a subject for a painting, the sacred in me recognizes the sacred in an oak tree, a face or a jug of sunflowers. Elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary is the artist’s way. Applying yogic techniques and principles to painting has deepened both my understanding of the process and my appreciation of the result.

Lisa Wurster is associate editor of The Artist’s Magazine.

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