A yoga journal can be wonderful tool to detail your development and help you get more out of your practice. Here is a conversation between author Bruce Black and yoga teacher Lynn Burgess to help you get started.
Bruce: I’m wondering how often you write in your journal?
Lynn: When I first began journaling, I wrote in it after each yoga class I took. Over the years, my writing frequency is more PRN (that’s an acronym for a Latin phrase, pro re nata, which means “as the situation demands”). When I am pondering how to make instructions clearer or come across a meaningful quote in a book or experience a random memory or thought, I jot it down in my journal. I make it a practice once a week to go back and read my notes (some of which are snippets that, a few days later, I might have no recollection of why I wrote them down!) to see if there’s further research or additional reading that I might do, or any clarity that I might have gained since making the journal entry.
Bruce: It’s interesting to hear that you go back to read your notes. I might try that some day, but it’s not something that I feel compelled to do at the moment. For me, the insights that I glean from the process of writing in the journal are the treasure. One of my favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor, said “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” It’s in the writing that I come to discover some new idea or thought that I might not have had if I hadn’t started writing, just as I might discover in my asana practice some new way of looking at the world or insight into a particular pose. I try to write in my journal every day before I step onto my mat. If there’s enough time, I try to make notes after I finish my home practice, too.
Lynn: Wow! Writing in your journal almost every day . . .what a fantastic habit!
Bruce: Maybe that’s a good definition of practice—a habit that you develop and return to day after day? Do you think keeping a journal influences your practice before you step on your mat that day or the next time you step on your mat?
Lynn: My future practices grow out of my journal entries. I often make notes directing myself to explore the relationships between certain poses or body parts or to work on poses that are challenging for me.
Bruce: When I’m writing in my journal, I may explore poses, too, but mostly I tend to explore issues at play in my life, such as how I might reduce the stress of working too hard, or whether to keep pushing a story that isn’t moving, or when to take a risk and share unfinished work with a friend. Out of such issues I may find a theme for my practice, such as practicing patience, or taking risks, or letting myself be more vulnerable. Then I’ll explore these themes in my poses, and the theme—the intention—will shape the practice for that day. I don’t usually write while I’m practicing on my mat but if I get a compelling enough idea I’ll stop and make a note. There are no rules, really, about keeping a journal.
Lynn: The confluence of life issues into your yoga practice feels like such a fluid way to integrate the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of the practice. My journaling is more cerebral. It’s the flowing together of all aspects that eludes me at times on my mat. I find myself being more performance driven. Our conversation is inspiring me to remember that eventually all things merge into one.
Lynn Burgess is the founder and director of Yoga from the Heart in Sarasota, FL, where she teaches public classes and workshops, offers private instruction, and conducts teacher training and advanced-studies programs. You can find out more about her (and her yoga instructional DVDs, meditation CD, and Sanskrit/English CD) at her website (http://yogafromtheheart.com/instructors/lynn-burgess/). She lives in Sarasota.
Bruce Black is the author of Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal (Rodmell Press). His work has appeared in the pages of OM Yoga Magazine, Tiferet Journal and Dogs Naturally Magazine, and online at Yogi Times, Mindbodygreen, Yogamint, and Hugger Mugger. You can read more of his work at his blog, Writing Yoga With Bruce Black http://journalpractice.wordpress.com) and follow him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WritingYogaWithBruceBlack/) and Twitter (@WritingYoga). He lives with his wife in Sarasota, FL, where he offers workshops on learning how to keep a practice journal.
If you missed Part One of our conversation, we invite you to join us here: http://yogafromtheheart.com/yogapracticejournal/