Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Two Ways Storytelling and Yoga are Alike

Blogger Tresca Weinstein wonders why she can’t do her yoga practice at home. In a thoughtful gem of an article, she examines this question. Her intriguing insights about yoga are also super relevant to the power of storytelling.

With over 20 years of yoga classes under her agile belt, Tresca finds that the group class experience is starkly different from solo practice. Whenever she tries to practice at home, she feels empty and unengaged. But in group classes, Tresca feels the buzz – she bends and twists into vibrant shapes with more power and ease than she can at home. One might say that when she is in yoga class, her stretching is, well, stretched.

She explains it this way:

…yogis have known forever that something magical happens when people move, breathe, or meditate in sync. It’s an effect sometimes called entraining—when a group’s energy aligns, heightening the focus and awareness in the room. (A yoga teacher might call it “raising the vibration.”)

I love her explanation. It parallels how storytelling works. Magic really does happen when stories are told live in groups. The community of listeners is aligned in their emotional response to the story being told. Heightened awareness of other listeners and the emotional resonance impacts the way the story is told and heard. Listening to a story together raises the vibration of the storytelling experience.

It is not the same experience to listen to stories alone on headphones or to watch stories online. Even if the experience of online or digital storytelling is creative, interactive, and gorgeously artistic, it is different from listening live with others.

Imagine sitting by yourself at a table in a cafe watching a video on your phone or taking in a multimedia narrative on your computer. Imagine sucking in your breath at a tense or surprising moment in that digital story. Remember, you are the only one in that cafe experiencing that story – although there are other people in real space all around you, you are alone in that story world. Because of your solitary experience of the story, you are not as likely to suck in that breath as you might be if everyone else in the cafe were involved along with you.

So what happens if you bravely suck in your breath anyway? The resonance of that “sucking in moment” will be diminished because you are the only one doing it.

In an audience of one there is no one else to raise the vibration.

Tresca interviews a yoga teacher, and together, they share this meaty tidbit:

Among the “three jewels” of Buddhist mindfulness teachings—buddha (awakening), dharma (the path, or teachings), and sangha (a community of like-minded practitioners)—“the Buddha taught that the most important was sangha,” she said. “We’re part of a 2,500-year-old tradition of gathering together to practice.”

Storytelling, like yoga, is an old tradition built on gathering together. The “sangha” of storytelling – experiencing a story in the same time and space as others – is an experience that elevates narrative and community. I mean if the Buddha thinks this is important…

So does this mean that solitary consumption of online storytelling is no good? No way! Human beings want and need stories in all forms and forums. The creative doorways that technology have opened for us are groundbreaking and brilliant. We can and should embrace narrative online, onscreen, on paper, and wherever else we find it – including onstage or in the living room, with a storyteller and other listeners.

If you haven’t done it lately, jump into an audience and listen to stories told live. Remind yourself how it feels to raise the vibration and revel in the sangha of storytelling.

Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Photo Attribution: By Jessmcintyre (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

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6 thoughts on “Two Ways Storytelling and Yoga are Alike

  1. Ed Hotaling on said:

    ABSOLUTELY!!! There is a connection that forms during a shared experience that cannot be duplicated. Whatever the experience is, those who share it are bound together by it in some way. While I get e bit nervous in front of a large group, once the story starts, we are all in it together and we are at ease with each others’ presence. (Very helpful for a novice storyteller) May we all share many wonderful experiences together!

  2. Jeri: Sometimes I find a bonus in solo practice of yoga because I can slow down and pay attention to what’s happening in my body in ways that aren’t so easy to do in a group practice. And I’ve gotten some nice insights that way. But they wouldn’t have happened without the foundation of teaching I’d received in classes. I can’t think of a way that listening to stories solo would provide the same benefit, though, except perhaps for aspiring storytellers who might catch a nuance of telling while listening solo that might be missed when listening in a group.
    Thanks for making the connection between the experience of participating in yoga and in story listening though–two of my favorite things to do!

    • Yes, I can see that point. Here is a stab at a blooming idea that may parallel, for storytelling, what you say for yoga — people like to listen and re-listen to the same stories – I mean how many of us look forward to the same holiday shows year after year – when we listen to it yet again, alone after we listened to it with family say — so there is a slowing down. We can re-live the lushness of emotion or savor imagery from the narrative while also remembering other nostalgic stuff. Does that parallel what you said at all?

  3. storycrossings on said:

    This is a really nice addition to the conversation around the uniqueness of the act of storytelling, the live storytelling event. Thanks!

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