The Inspiration of Yoga

Illustrations – “Scorpion”, “Flexor”, “Boat” and ”Determination” ©Heather Hunt 2015 All Rights Reserved

If you haven’t caught up with New Zealand’s latest Yoga magazine yet, you are missing a great wealth of information. You can browse a copy at my studio or subscribe to New Zealand Yoga Scene Magazine for yourself to an E-zine or print copy. The following article about inspiration and interview with Heather Hunt appears in Issue 4 page 59. You may have noticed the ‘Yoga Moves’ series hanging in the WHY studio, just above the box with your concession card in it. These prints can be purchased on Heather’s web page.

Finding Inspiration

Is inspiration purely external, something that resonates and provides us with motivation? Or can we cultivate ourselves to be more receptive to these sparks of creativity? Like a garden, the seeds of inspiration must fall on fertile ground. We know that regular yoga practice and meditation can help us to find clarity of mind and become more heart centred. Perhaps it can also weave a dream catcher for our spirit.
I vividly remember my first yoga class. A plain, neatly painted door was wedged between the shops on a busy section of Yonge Street in Toronto. Beyond this, a narrow staircase with threadbare but meticulously clean red carpet led to a dimly lit room. At the top, I pushed aside a heavy bohemian curtain, suddenly feeling peaceful and calm. It was as though I had come through an air lock. The commotion at street level was left behind, and the smells of traffic were replaced with a pleasant infusion of ancient incense. Mats were laid out on the floor amongst shafts of sunlight from the long narrow windows. Everything here seemed timeworn and elongated, even the lithe woman in a leotard who sat cross-legged at one end. “Elongate your spine” was a phrase I would hear many times from her silky polish accent. Her gravelly voice gently encouraged my limbs into positions that eventually straightened the congenital hip dysplasia that had prevented me from any sports activity during my childhood. That was more than 40 years ago, and I am grateful to Maria for her inspiration during the painful journey to normal posture.
Some of what Maria taught me about alignment must have stuck. I had a student in one of my classes in the McLeod Bay hall in Northland in the early 90s. I like to say she was my best student, because at the age of 67 she fell down a set of stairs in an unfamiliar house, alone, at night, resulting in a painful wrist that seemed to be at an odd angle. Rather than seeking help, she went back to bed and proceeded to move her damaged wrist back into alignment. In the morning she drove to town for an x-ray, even though she was feeling much better. The doctors asked who had set the wrist so perfectly, as it had been a compound fracture. Her comment was that she had remembered what I had taught her about alignment. Her story inspires me to keep teaching yoga!
The practice of Yoga also teaches us to clear the mind, go within and listen to our heart. The ocean is a great place to clear the mind and open the heart, although a bit challenging for practicing the asanas of Yoga. I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, sailing my ‘home’ back to New Zealand, when I was inspired to build a Yoga retreat. A tragedy had occurred. Cancer had struck the love of my life, my soulmate, and all our dreams had been dashed. At the time of Rob’s diagnosis, our boat was in El Salvador and we were visiting family in NZ. Before we had sailed from NZ sixteen years earlier, we had purchased a block of land in McLeod Bay, which we thought of as our bolt hole in case we sank the boat. Now, to provide a place for Rob to recover from treatment for 5 months, we decided to live on the property in a caravan. What we discovered was a special energy, – the magic of Mt Mania at our back, the spectacular views of the bay and all its moods, a musical little stream beside us. We both felt that being here had contributed to Rob’s unexpected return to wellness. It seemed logical for us to share this with others. We still had an insatiable appetite for travel but knew this chapter of our lives was about to come to an end. We decided to let the travellers come to us so we could still enjoy one of the best things about travel – meeting people from other cultures. Recklessly, we trusted our inspiration and let the details follow.
I love teaching yoga! I am inspired every day by the amazing things that my students can achieve. Some are quite unexpected. Recently, one of my yoga students came to me with a set of drawings she had produced. She is well known for her Backyard Kiwi series, and her latest work is called ‘Yoga Moves’. I was stoked that she had been inspired to this work by my classes.

Interview with Heather Hunt:

Q. Heather, what is the inspiration for your current work?
Heather: I’ve recently been enticed into yoga by an exercising friend and have re-acquainted myself with corporal aspects that, over time I had lost touch with.
Flexing, bending twisting and breathing my uncooperative limbs and core into postures that bear little resemblance to the masterly poses of my teacher, has resulted in a surprising degree of pleasure and improvement in physical agility. The ‘Yoga Moves Collection’ illustrates my interpretation of postures I attempt on a regular basis.
Q. What is the significance of the names of the drawings?
Heather: Some are made up names. They are meant to be playful and fun. I know Yoga is not a joke. You are not meant to giggle and talk in class, but there is a balance between discipline and fun too. It’s not all serious.
Q. These drawings are a departure from your usual style. Tell us about your use vivid colour, even in the frames.
Heather: I have used a different technique for this series. I start with a wash of colour with a gesture. Then I go back in and think about the pose. I apply the details and more information around the form of the pose with lines. Then I cut away what’s not needed. Eventually details of the characters start to come out.
Q. You have just described Yoga, and working into the postures! Has your experience with yoga influenced your work?
Heather: Yes, at the beginning I found it incredibly difficult just to get my body to a shape that resembled what we were being taught. The adjustments we get in class have helped me to open or refine the postures. One of my drawings I call Flexor is just that – the strength of that posture was beyond my ability at the start. But with practice and guidance the poses become ‘possible’ and feel natural.
Q. What about “Determination” – surely that posture requires strength.
Heather: ‘Determination’ was my first drawing in the series an ‘aspirational’ pose. It took a lot of determination to stay on one leg then align the spine, and breathe!
Q. What message do you have about ‘Boat’?
Heather: I try to capture the essence of the posture in my drawings and I am always conscious of gravity. It’s all about balance.
Q. I notice you have a balance theme running through the series. ‘Scorpion’ is also a balance.
Heather: Anatomically the Scorpion drawing is not quite right, you must suspend belief to accept the illustration (and the pose). It’s fun to try and work out how the drawing (doesn’t) works and downright exhilarating to make the posture work!
Q. And what about the characters themselves?
Heather: These drawing reflect my attempts to do the Yoga postures I have learnt in class. I hope when people look at these they might sense what fun it is to have a go, and perhaps give it a shot too.
Q. Any final comments?
Heather: These drawings for me are pure joy. I love to watch people’s response to them.

Heather captures the essence of Yoga in her drawings. Start with the basics, work into the posture to refine it until you can let go and let the posture become light. Less is more. Once we learn that, we can be open to those sparks of inspiration.

Take away message

Unclutter, unlock, reset, retreat. Immerse yourself in nature, eat clean food, exercise, and meditate. Open the mind. Open the heart. Clear away all that is not needed to find the gems of wisdom and contentment. Travellers don’t need to be going anywhere or running from anything. Seekers do not need to be looking for anything. Just look. And Dream.

Jo Woollacott