Yogis, by nature, look for connections between seemingly unrelated things. I am a yoga teacher and a writer, so I often find myself drawing parallels between the teachings of yoga and the practice of writing. This began when I stumbled upon author Jeannette Winterson’s description of the semi-colon as “an elegant pause between two sentences.” I realized that this is exactly what we try to do as yoga practitioners—create and reside in the space where grace and breath meet. I started to use semi-colons in my writing more and more, hoping to share that spaciousness with others.
I looked for other connections. Much like the asana practice, the comma invites us to continue, to transition, to keep going. The exclamation point—how rare, how stark! It certainly makes a statement. It’s like a handstand—ecstatic, energizing, fleeting. The question mark transforms statements we perceive to be true into declarations of curiosity. I can find my balance? Deep breathing is a doorway into stillness? Dare I make the claim that the question mark—with its innate gestures of wonder and inquiry—symbolizes the entire yoga practice as an investigation into something greater?
The colon, which often appears before an explanation or list of words, is that remembered breath that invites us to move on to the next series of postures with awareness. The full stop, or period, implies resoluteness and certainty. These are qualities that underlie the intentions we set prior to practicing. We may find ourselves weary and shaking in the physical practice, but our wishes and love for others persist, unwavering and firm.
While there’s more to discover with other punctuation marks, I’ll admit that I’m hesitant to approach the apostrophe. It facilitates possessiveness, a quality that doesn’t seem very yogic. I don’t even know where to begin with brackets. For me, brackets are the legs-behind-the-head-type postures; they are unfamiliar and difficult. I rarely practice them. Perhaps that’s the best reason to consider these punctuation marks, though. Based on past experiences, when I pay closer attention to something, I often discover that my negative impressions are judgmental and fear-based. As those fade away and become less relevant, I seem to uncover a bit of truth that’s surprising, delightful and universal.
As for the parenthesis, well, that’s for another post (unless you’d like to continue the discussion in the comments below).