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Why Yoga & Writing? A Conversation with Erin Michie (WGA Workshop Instructor)

1. What inspired you to practice yoga, and how did you decide to become a yoga teacher?

I took a class over 30 years ago and liked it well enough to keep signing up for many years. Nothing dramatic motivated me, it was just something that felt good. But roots were being laid that began to sustain me as the years progressed. In retrospect the practices helped me ground and connect in a much-needed way. I have also been blessed with wonderful teachers that have supported and inspired me.

Then about 20 years ago I edited a small yoga magazine for an organization called Yoga Outreach. At that point I’d never even owned a book on yoga! But as I edited articles from other students and teachers I started to realize the depth and breadth of the teachings and practices and paid more attention in classes and workshops. Sandra Sammartino was the remarkable teacher that founded Yoga Outreach and I decided to enroll in her teacher training for my personal development. I had no desire or intention to teach. During one of the days of the training she whispered something about teaching to me while I was in an asana (pose) and a seed was planted. Later I certified with the Yoga Association of Alberta (YAA) and became part of this amazing, welcoming, diverse organization, which provides high levels of instruction, support and mentorship. I was able to both deepen and branch out as a member of this community. As you can tell from my metaphors it has been a organic process!


2. What are your interests and hobbies outside of yoga, writing, and editing?

I like to cook, garden and walk (preferably in nature). I have a dog who is very social so I often look after some of her pals, and enjoy a lot of canine company! I’m also interested in community, and belong to a few groups including a writing group and small card-playing group we’ve dubbed “Club of Hearts” that plays Contract Whist. I live in a housing co-op in Edmonton. I’ve received many gifts from this community and am also interested in its shadow. Living and working closely with my neighbours challenges me to use all I’ve learned in my yoga and meditation practices. And when I’m too lazy or forgetful I often suffer like any other reactive human being.

3. What benefits do you think our yoga and writing workshop will offer participants?

Yoga and writing are complementary practices that involve a deeper listening. Simple movement and breathing with a closer attention to the sensations in the body flushes out all sorts of rich material for writing, whether you’re looking for inspiration or help with a particular project. Any practice that opens our senses helps us listen with our entire being. If you want to get a little scientific, even an easy, gentle yoga practice (what I offer) can cause a shift from the default network in the brain (which helps with analytical, conditioned, evaluative thinking) to a present-sensing network, which is a more embodied, creative place from which to write.

4. What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your yoga practice, and what comes to mind as the best creative (or life) advice you ever received?

Probably how to work with the breath. Breath work is incredibly complex and powerful. I didn’t learn it in any one class, it’s an ongoing study and practice. Best advice: “Set aside what you know and listen.”

5. What book or books have made a profound impact on you?

There are many but I’ll mention a poetry book, Tim Lilburn’s “To the River.” It’s a mesmerizing expression of a powerful engagement with a landscape. The effect was profound when I read it years ago. It swept me out of a box I was in…something in me was carried down the South Saskatchewan and never seen again.

6. If you could travel anywhere in the world for a month leaving tomorrow, where would you choose, and why?

I’d go on a walking tour in Yorkshire, England. I’ve recently been reading several books set there, and the dales and moors have been calling. I’ve been reading and re-reading The Secret Garden, several James Herriot, and just started Gervaise Phinn. I’ve decided to embrace what began as an unconscious impulse, and plan to re-read the Brontes this summer.

We are so excited for Erin Michie’s yoga and writing workshop scheduled for this Saturday, June 10th at the University of Alberta as part of our annual writer’s conference! Erin will guide us through a slow and mindful yoga practice, complete with writing prompts and opportunities to journal. Mats and blocks will be provided. Please wear comfortable, layered clothes and bring a notebook and pen. Erin is a certified yoga/meditation instructor, a freelance writer and editor, and her poetry and articles have appeared in a variety of publications.

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