I have been an artist for a long time. And after decades of sitting and standing in front of my canvas with my right arm extended, holding a paint brush hour after hour, day after day, my posture has suffered tremendously. Not only is my round-shouldered, hunched over, and quite lopsided posture unattractive (ugh), but studies show it is unhealthy as well. Poor posture detrimentally affects our breathing, blood flow, digestion and mood. Some common results include headaches, shoulder, neck and back pain.
I do not have a job that puts my life in peril, and I do not risk physical harm through extreme athletic endeavors. And even though there are those who think painting all day is like a day off, most artists know that the creative process can indeed be hard on the body. The paradox is that when our physical body deteriorates, the creative process we rely on, as artists, deteriorates as well. We must take care of our bodies; working to achieve better posture will not only make us look better, but also feel better, both physically and mentally.
A very effective method to improve our posture is by practicing yoga. Yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline that focuses on creating a balance between body, mind and spirit through breath control, deep meditation and various body postures.
There are eight “limbs,” or levels of yoga:
1. Yama — moral imperatives, social behaviors
2. Niyama — inner discipline and integrity
3. Asana — physical postures
4. Prāṇāyāma — controlling breath, using patterns of deep breathing
5. Pratyāhāra — withdrawal of the senses, focusing inward
6. Dhāraṇā — concentration, focusing the mind
7. Dhyāna — meditation, heightened awareness
8. Samādhi — deep meditation, super-consciousness
The eight limbs of yoga work together, but asana is the limb of physical yoga poses, and it’s through asana that we can rebuild our posture. The asanas are also designed to clear our minds and relieve our bodies from stress. These yoga poses can open our chest and shoulders, elongate the spine, loosen hips and strengthen our core and bodies. The awareness we achieve through asana helps us improve physical impediments, and helps us to focus on existing areas of poor alignment. By practicing asana yoga three to five times a week, we can quickly be on our way to a better posture as well as a better mental state.
Yoga is about creating balance in life and harmony with the universe. The foundations of yoga were written in “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali” in India, approximately 200 A.D. Patanjali, known as the Father of Modern Yoga, said, “Posture is mastered by freeing the body and mind from tension and restlessness and meditating on the infinite.”
To help your posture with yoga poses, check out this website.
Artist Ora Sorensen (orasorensenart.com) was born in New York but grew up overseas. She has owned a gallery in Delray Beach, Florida, for 20 years, and has also been represented by other galleries across the country. Sorensen now lives and paints in North Carolina, and her paintings are collected worldwide and have been shown in numerous exhibitions.