The practices of art and yoga have a strong synergy. Stretching a canvas parallels reaching toward the sky in warrior pose. For some Beaufort artists, the connection is more direct and beneficial than that.
Sharon DeAlexandris, who displays her work at the Charles Street Gallery and practices at One Yoga Sanctuary, explained the art-yoga connection this way: "An artist has to do art. The ideas are there for me if I just look and listen. Yoga brings an awareness of your body, breathing with consciousness into places that need support and strength. I always exit the class feeling renewed and refreshed."
It's important to note that "strength" is literal here; yoga takes muscles and so does painting day after day.
One Yoga Sanctuary is on the top floor of the Lady's Island Marina. It's a studio, a wide open room for creative movement. I took a class there one cold night this past January. A musician from Greece was playing handmade, ancient instruments to accompany a class with proprietor and teacher Dragana Pavic-Zappia. When a studio is full of people exercising while experiencing such music, it's essentially performance art. Pavic-Zappia guided the crowded room into the poses, and the creative renewal feeling was apparent.
DeAlexandris explained that yoga directly relates to her creativity because "yoga is an innerwork practice that brings clarity and purpose to being. It has increased my ability to concentrate and put other things into perspective." In art-vocabulary, "perspective" translates into composition and narrative and also intention, a concept used in yoga too: What is it that you really mean? You yourself have to know first. DeAlexandris said her yoga teachers facilitate this through knowledge and dedication to continual study. That's a level of collaboration many artists seek.
Cindy Male teaches yoga aboard the Marine Corps Air Station and has a studio at ARTworks. "Why do I do art and yoga? Because I know where I want my mental state to be, and practicing them are constant reminders when I get off course that I need to regroup. I want to be one more person making a difference in the quantum leap of human consciousness."
If we can learn to create on paper, Male said, "we can learn to create in life, and have the ability to change thought, attitude and behavior patterns. Understanding that we ourselves are the source and creator of the experiences of our life can help to set fire to our motivation as well as eliminate stress."
Pavic-Zappia explains it from the yoga perspective. "My art tool is my body. Yoga in essence is art, it is infinite exploration of the body, mind and spirit. One does not need to know how to draw or how to move, it is all within already."
She explained that the practice of yoga reconnects us with our inner child and evokes playfulness. I've interviewed quite a few artists in the Lowcountry who've commented on the role of playfulness in their process; Pablo Picasso himself put it this way: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
This elusive playfulness is apparent in Pavic-Zappia. I had heard about her from friends, and then one day at an event in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park I recognized her immediately. She was sprinting easily to keep up with her daughter and the other kids running around in the breeze, as if her ankles were springs. She was gazelle-like.
"Yoga teaches us to listen our inner artist and express that voice," she said. "We learn to focus our minds, we reboot our nervous system, our inner computer. We open up the space in the system for creativity. New ideas and creative expression flourish."
This level of self-control is another crossover concept, manifesting in artistic control of a project, free speech and also simply physical control. Not to mention the strength needed to live the way you want.
"It all comes down to authenticity," Pavic-Zappia concluded, which jibes with this community's sense of place? "What is more authentic than each and every one of us?"
Lisa Annelouise Rentz lives and stretches her creative muscles in Beaufort.