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Yoga & Journaling: A Dynamic Duo

Posted Apr 13 2009 11:00pm

As technology has advanced, some tactile joys have fallen by the wayside. Books have gotten competition from ebooks/wireless reading devices. Writing has given way to typing. Letters have been virtually replaced by emails. Written planners have been abandoned in favor of online calendars. Online contact databases have gained popularity over address books.

I am a technology geek and I enjoy using email, online contact databases, word processing programs, the Internet, and all other sorts of technological advancements. But I still enjoy breaking out my pen and paper and writing. Just recently, I bought a phyiscal planner so that I can write (in fun colored pens!) down my daily agenda and to do lists. I've been using it for a few weeks now and I absolutely love it. I continue to put major appointments in my online calendar (which syncs to my phone), but the physical act of writing out my plans gives me something that typing doesn't.

Benefits of Writing it Down
A few months ago I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way after having the book sit on my bookshelf for years. I loved the book and started doing her prescribed morning pages each day. The morning pages ritual consists of free writing 3 pages each morning. After doing this for a few months, I've fallen in love with the process and I look forward to propping myself up in bed each morning and writing. I've journaled on and off throughout my life, but this is the first time that I've actually scheduled the activity into my day.

It's no wonder that I'm finding this practice so useful. Studies on the power of writing down your feelings have been done and -- surprise, surprise -- it's been found that writing down your feelings increases your physical health, improves your emotional well-being, and boosts your immune system.

Applying Writing to Your Yoga Practice
When we think of journaling, we often apply it to this type of freeform writing in which we do an emotional dump on the page. What if we changed this idea and instead applied the practice of journaling to our yoga practice? All it would take is a simple notebook and a writing implement of your choice (mechanical pencil, colored pen, irridescent pen, Bic pen -- you decide what's the most fun for you), which is a minimal investment (you don't need to spend a lot of money on a bound, hard cover journal). It would also require a minimal time commitment of 5-10 minutes.

I suggest keeping the process simple (you can always add to it later on if you're finding it valuable):

  • Put the date and time of your yoga practice at the top of the page
  • Write down an intention for your yoga practice
  • Write down what poses you're practicing or what areas of the body your practice is focusing on
  • After the practice, write out what came up for your during and after your practice -- these could be physcial, mental, or emotional.
  • Write down any observations about your breath -- did you notice it or did you lose track of your breath? Was your breath forced? Was it relaxed and smooth? Did you find that staying aware of your breathing was difficult?
  • Write down ideas for next time -- what you want to concentrate on more, what was beneficial from your day's yoga practice, what you'd like to do differently in subsequent yoga practices, any a-has that came to you as a result of your practice, etc.

Simple Practice, Big Insights
Rather than establish page writing limits and attaching requirements to journaling about your yoga practice, think of it as a worksheet. That way you don't feel as if you have yet another task to complete. Instead, look at it as a nice pre- and post-yoga practice ritual that nourishes you and can teach you helpful things about yourself and your practice.

Taking this extra time before and after your practice just might lead to a deeper practice. Perhaps you might discover that the practice you're currently doing isn't serving your body and that you may need to switch yoga styles. Or you may learn that your attention is wandering during your practice and you're moving more out of memory than attention and awareness. You'll most likely gain more insigh about the link between your body and breath, which is a key foundation of your practice.

There's power in the physical act of writing things down. We've been told this by motivational speakers and the self-help set for years. Yet, why don't we do this for our yoga practice? I had never thought about doing it myself until about 3 years ago during a yoga therapy training. I had brought a journal with me to capture my thoughts during what I was sure was going to be a powerful personal experience for me (it was). As I received yoga therapy sessions, I would write down my experiences after the fact. The insights that I found in those pages blew me away. I still reread those notes every now and again -- and the wisdom that I find in those scribblings is still helpful.

Helpful Resources
If freeform writing or the questions above doesn't resonate with you and you'd prefer something a bit more formal, the folks over at MyYoga2Go sell a wonderful yoga journal that help you track your progress throughout your yoga practice. Here are a few other books that I adore and can inspire you to capture your experiences on paper:

  • Writing Down Your Soul -- this wonderful book will transform your journaling into a spiritual practice. The practice described in this book goes beyond the simple journaling I wrote about here, but it's well worth exploring. Because of this book, my morning pages have morphed into something much deeper and more profound.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life -- this delighful little book offers funny advice for bringing out the writer in you. This book is great help for anyone suffering from writer's block.
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within -- this classic has been sitting on my shelf for years and I come back to it again and again. This books reads like a Zen text. Wonderful!

If you're wanting to get more out of your yoga practice, I suggest putting your body on the mat and your pen to paper.


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