Architecture and Yoga

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Architecture and Yoga may seem like they have nothing in common, but really, they have everything in common. They are the only 2 things in the world that have shaken my existence at the core, forced me to grow, and helped me understand my role in the world. I was lost until I found architecture, and then yoga taught me to reconnect with who I really am.

Architecture has helped me understand Yoga.
Yoga has helped me understand Architecture.    

Other than Architecture, Yoga has been the thing that I have been most passionate about in my life. Solving design problems and practicing yoga postures support each other—at least in my world.

Yoga and You

I don’t care if you like yoga or not. I don’t think yoga (or even architecture) will solve all the world’s problems.

I have no interest in trying to recruit or sell yoga to anyone. If you think yoga is hippie bullshit (and I’ll admit, it sometimes is), then don’t do it!

The goal of this article is merely just to share how architecture and yoga have soo much in common, and they have played such key roles in my life for so long.

First let’s talk about what architecture and yoga are separately first.

What Is Architecture?

The word “architecture” gets bastardized just as much as the word “yoga” does. It really means something different to everyone. I can’t answer this question for everyone.  I can only answer it for myself.

To me, Architecture is…

…In the simplest sense: Problem-Solving.

…Finding a deeper understanding of the energy, function, form, and spirit of a problem.

…Synthesizing tons of unrelated data to best inform the decision-making process.

…All about the dialogue or story between (or behind) the problem.

…A process of solving problems. It is learned by designing buildings, but can also be applied to any other discipline.

…Not everyone who designs or builds a building is making architecture. Not everyone who picks up a guitar and plucks the strings is making music.

What Is Yoga?

There are many interpretations of what yoga really is. I can only speak about what Yoga is for me.

To me, Yoga is….

…First and foremost, slowing the fuck down and being present at this very moment (i.e., learning to be here now, and being ok with that).


…Letting go of judgements about yourself (and then everything else) and just accepting the way things are.

…Movement, stretching, and breathing to release tension from the body

…Strengthening the relationship between the mind and body.

…Only a vehicle to quiet everything else, so you can reconnect to the person you already are.

Stretching on a yoga mat for an hour is only meant to help you explore what yoga really is.  By stretching the body, Yogis learn to be present. They practice difficult postures or stressful situations on the mat, in order to better inform how to deal with them in real life.

Yoga is a practice or a lifestyle. Spending time on a yoga mat is only one element of the practice.

The Practice

Both Yogis and Architects treat their crafts as practices, which is beautiful. I never understood what a practice was until I discovered yoga. Not every person who has an architecture career or does yoga has a practice. Practices always involve love. They are cultivated over time. To me, a practice in every sense of the word means…

…Showing up to practice day in and day out, rain or shine, sick or well.

…Becoming deeply committed to whatever the practice is.

…Being open to let it change who you are—because it will.

…Being detached from a specific result of practicing.

…Cultivating a love for the basics or fundamentals.

…Always looking to improve.

…Making bold sacrifices for the practice.

There is a never-ending body of knowledge with studying yoga or architecture. They each have a very rich and beautiful history, but once you open Pandora’s box, there is no end in sight. This is why both are viewed as practices.

The biggest challenge of Architects has always been juggling their practice of architecture in reality with the concept of business.

The Fundamentals

Learning how to design buildings is one of the hardest things to learn. It is highly subjective, but it always involves going back to the fundamentals. Architects spend their whole lives obsessing over the basic principles of design. How an architect understands the fundamentals of design grows, changes, and evolves throughout their career.

In yoga, we reconnect with ourselves through movement, stretching, and postures—to get deeper into the practice.  The same fundamental postures are practiced over and over and over again. As we grow and change, our understanding of the fundamental postures start to evolve over time.

These fundamental concepts mean the same thing in architecture and yoga, and to me, they make up everything that is beautiful about yoga and architecture:

Process, sequence, organization, axis, love, relationships of parts, alignments, honoring the past, discipline, strength, datum, sacrificing, rhythm, form, connection, growth, repetition, and momentum. And there’re more, but I’ll stop there.

The Spiritual

For me, Yoga and Architecture are extremely abstract concepts.

Not everyone experiences, sees, feels, understands, or connects with the spiritual side of architecture and yoga in the same way. Some have no regard for it at all. Rather, they only care about numbers or results.

I understood the spiritual side of architecture long before getting close to the pragmatic, logical side of it. I can feel, understand, hear, taste, and see the energy that architecture embodies. This is why architecture is an obcession and not just a job or a career.

Growing and Changing

The older I get, the less I care about glossy skyscrapers, architecture magazines, and what the Star Architects are doing. The older I get the more I care about projects that put doing good in the world before turning a profit, whom I work with and helping others succeed through architecture.

My role as an Architect isn’t to be the center of attention. It’s to be of service and make sure that energy is moving in the right direction.

Yoga has taught how to accept the hand I have been dealt in life, and to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. By doing this, I’m convinced that I turned all of my disadvantages into advantages.

Architecture for the Sake of Architecture

Architecture is all about service. Architecture isn’t supposed to serve itself. It’s supposed to solve problems in other areas of life. Architecture for Architects gets boring really fast.

There is more to life than architecture.

Architecture and…..

Architecture is a powerful force when its knowledge, training, and experience is used to explore another realm that is completely unrelated to architecture.

How can architecture relate to…


(Fill in the blank.)

How can architecture relate to whatever you’re passionate about?


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About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.

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Michael LaValley - March 7, 2016

Mike, great post! I personally don’t have much interest in yoga at this point in my life, but I’m glad it’s working for you. I really like the way you used the post to explore the connections and similarities between two passions that most would never realize for themselves. I think that’s one of the best ways to look at it.

Alice - March 16, 2016

Michael thank you so much for writing this! I’m an architecture student from Brazil and I can say that architecture and yoga are also my two great passions in life, and with your post now I can understand why. It’s awesome to see that someone put in words everything I feel about it! Thank you so much!!

Amy - March 19, 2016

I am an ashtangi and an architect. I love the concept of practice, the discipline of showing up and trying no matter what. This is the intersection for me, some days it is hard, other days it’s joyous, most days it’s salvation.

I found you because I am about to embark on taking the ARE 4.0 and think your other advice is great too :) thx!

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