Art and yoga are my defense against the daily grind
The practice of art and yoga arms me in my daily battles with schedules, task lists and a constant feeling of being spread thin. Whether I’m on the yoga mat or have my sketchbook in hand, I enjoy the refreshing feeling of my intact, whole self. Not that I’m totally un-intact the rest of the time but I must confess that, more often than not, my fragmented self is the one person who completes most of my high school student tasks.
According to a report in Scientific American, yoga engages and expands the brain. A study found that practicing yoga changes parts of the brain, enlarging those parts that are in charge of making mental maps of our bodies, directing our attention, receiving visual data and regulating stress.
Art also helps improve focus and attention, among other things. That’s why UT Southwestern Medical Center requires medical students to take a course called The Art of Examination, held at the Dallas Museum of Art. The Dallas Morning News reported earlier this year: “The class challenges students to slow down and think about each patient they care for in the same way an artist pays attention to each piece of a painting or sculpture.”
Slowing down seems like a great goal for a lot of people — especially high school students (speaking from personal experience).
Learning how to slow down, how to concentrate, and how to engage mind and body together — these are critically important habits for young people to form. Over the last two summers, I have led an art and yoga camp for young girls. We paint, meditate, and do yoga sun salutations. We have learned the techniques of Piet Mondrian, read a book about and painted like Georgia O’Keeffe, and made malas (meditation necklaces, each comprising 108 beads). Over the short three-day period, I saw how the girls’ focus increased.
For my young students at summer camp, I had a mantra for each day, like, I am fearless, or I am loving and kind. Yoga is more than physical exercises. Asanas (poses) are important, but so are other aspects of yoga practice.
The students kept yoga journals where they were free to draw and write. One of the prompts was: What is yoga to me? Some responses were:
Yoga is calming.
Yoga is helping.
Yoga is peaceful.
I know myself better because of yoga. I know that I can’t be my best self every day and that’s okay. In yoga and in art, you are constantly struggling and striving to improve. It is not always possible to make an amazing masterpiece, nor is it always possible to achieve a perfect downward dog.
The point is to slow down, to give it your best effort, and to enjoy the process along the way.
—Sonia Dhingra at dallasnews.com