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How to Keep a Yoga Journal

Weight loss journals are a proven way to drop pounds, but do yoga journals improve your practice?

Author Bruce Black was first encouraged to keep a yoga journal in 2007, by an instructor whose class he had recently started attending. Up to that point in his life, he had kept journals on and off, not very religiously, and not with any type of theme or regularity. Soon, however, he was writing daily in that notebook -- not only about poses he'd tried during class, but also about how yoga was affecting his everyday life and his relationship with himself and others. [Source: Black]

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Black's journaling led to a class, co-taught with his instructor, on how to keep a yoga journal. It also led to a blog and a 2011 book, Writing Yoga, in which Black advises readers how to start their own yoga journals. "The journal and the mat are places where I can think through problems that I'm facing without judging myself and without feeling pressure to solve the problems," writes Black in Writing Yoga. Oftentimes, in the process of simply writing and reviewing, he says, "I'll see something that I hadn't noticed before, the hint of a path, the suggestion of an answer." [Source: Black]

While journaling is not a typical part of every yoga class, many instructors think it's a good idea to keep a written record of your thoughts and emotions surrounding your practice. The mind-body connection in yoga is strong, and journaling may help you tap into those nagging thoughts that disturb your practice "It's not something I'd do after every pose, necessarily, because you don't want to disrupt the flow," says Sophie Herbert, a Brooklyn-based yoga instructor. "But if you can do it after class, or at the end of the day, in a way where you can connect the class with how you processed the rest of your day, I think it can be very powerful."

Annelise Hagan, a yoga instructor in New York City, says that blogging can also be a modern-day form of yoga journaling. "More and more people are writing about their experiences online, and finding a whole community of other yogis to share with, and I think it's a really great way to learn and grow as a student," she adds.

Choosing your medium -- whether it's a notebook or a computer -- and your subject material is a matter of personal preference. If you need some help getting started, though, we've got some advice for you.

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If you're the type of person who likes to write down ideas wherever and whenever they occur to you, a small notebook that you can carry around with you may be your best bet for capturing thoughts on the go. If you're hyper-organized and prefer electronically filing things away, start a virtual journal -- complete with a reminder alert to write something down every morning or night.

In Writing Yoga, Black suggests using whatever type of notebook -- large or small, leather-bound or cardboard, lined or unlined -- you feel comfortable with. He cautions, however, that expensive, elaborate journals may stifle creativity: "They're just too beautiful, and their beauty makes me think that the words that fill their pages need to be as beautiful and perfect as the journals," he writes. Inexpensive notebooks, on the other hand, allow him to make mistakes without worry. [Source: Black]

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As for your writing tool, choose one that is easily accessible and allows your words to flow most freely, writes Black. And if the words don't come right away, try something else -- doodles, stick figures, or random notes that don't make sense just yet. Once you get writing, try using different colors for different moods, he suggests. [Source: Black]

Your yoga journal should be a reflection of every practice, and can include questions such as:

  • Which postures and sequences did you perform, and how did you feel about them? Which ones caused joy and excitement? Which ones frustrated you, and why?
  • Were you able to achieve focus and concentration, or was your mind wandering all over the place?
  • What do you want to work on outside of class, and what do you want to do differently the next time you practice?
  • How is your practice affecting events in your life, and helping you through difficult circumstances? Vice versa, how are events in your life affecting your practice?

On his personal blog, yoga and martial arts instructor Michael Brazell writes that mantras, inspirational quotes, and gratitude lists are also good additions to your yoga journal. "You can also dedicate the energy of your practice to individuals, places, and things in the world that might need a little extra push of energy," he writes. "Writing those down helps us to solidify the dedication of energy, and then as we carry our journals with us we also carry those we care for." [Source: Brazell]

It's also important to remember, says Herbert, that yoga is technically about much more than what happens in the classroom. "It's about breath and body and mind, so really any type of journaling that will deepen your self-understanding is yoga journaling, whether you're writing about specific postures or not."

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Related Articles:

Sources:

  • Black, Bruce. "Writing Yoga." Rodmell Press. April 1, 2011.
  • Brazell, Michael. "Daily Practice: Keep a Yoga Journal." Dance of the Yoga Witch. December 26, 2012. (March 31, 2013) http://yogawitch.com/2012/12/26/daily-practice-keep-a-yoga-journal/
  • Budilovsky, Joan and Adamson, Eve. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Yoga: Illustrated." Penguin, 2003.
  • Koenig, Ronnie. "Yoga Journal." That's Fit. November 4, 2009. (March 31, 2013) http://www.thatsfit.com/2009/11/04/yoga-journal/
  • McCall, Timothy, M.D. "Inspiring Your Students to Practice." Yoga Journal. (March 31, 2013) http://www.yogajournal.com/for_teachers/2336
  • Turley, Morgan. "Should Every Yogi Keep a Journal?" MindBodyGreen. May 16, 2012. (March 31, 2013) http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4814/Should-Every-Yogi-Keep-a-Journal.html

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