A Yoga Conversation About Keeping A Practice Journal
with Lynn Burgess, owner and director of Yoga From the Heart in Sarasota, FL, and Bruce Black, author of Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal (Rodmell Press)
Bruce: Thanks for inviting me to join you in a yoga conversation about keeping a practice journal. I’m always curious about how others find their way to journaling about their yoga practice, so I wonder if you might share a bit of your story. Did you keep a journal when you first started your practice? What – or who – prompted you to begin keeping a journal?
Lynn: My first yoga teacher, Anita, kept a journal with notes on every class she taught. The details of her journal included the class sequence for that day, the students in the class, and a reflection afterward of what she needed/wanted to adjust or change. My respect for Anita’s brilliant teaching, along with my fascination with and love of yoga, inspired me to start keeping a journal shortly after I began practicing.
Bruce: Anita sounds like an inspiring teacher. I was lucky, too, to find a teacher who inspired me to keep a journal about my yoga practice. Rita was one of my first yoga teachers. One day she handed blank journals to each of the students in our class and suggested we use them to explore our practice. Her prompting meant something different, I suppose, for each student. For me it meant making a deeper commitment to practicing yoga.
Lynn: The moment I open my journal and begin writing, I find I am immediately more mindful. It feels as if slowing down to write in my journal signals to my brain and body “this is important.” This mindfulness helps me understand, remember, and notice things I may have overlooked or forgotten when I was practicing or teaching. Through journaling a deeper awareness and connectedness to the practice begins to emerge. There’s a pleasure in the way insights and realizations unfold; a unique relationship between the hand and brain, sparked by the composition of thoughts and ideas. Reviewing my journal notes from time spent with my teacher helps strengthen previously covered information.
Bruce: Yes, that’s what I find, too. Somehow the process of keeping a journal encourages, as you point out, greater mindfulness in one’s practice. As I begin writing, I start to notice connections that I might not have made between my practice and my life. In the pages of my journal I can review the poses that I’ve learned in class (and in my home practice) so that I have a safe place to explore whatever might be giving me trouble on my mat. And as the words flow—just as the poses flow—I begin to see connections between the physical challenges of a pose and the emotional issues or challenges that might arise in a pose. Keeping a journal helps me notice, for instance, when I might doubt if I have enough strength, patience, or faith to do a pose like Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). It helps me discover a link between these issues and similar issues that I might find in in my life, such as doubting my strength to finish a project or trust a friend or believe that I can learn to do something new. In this way practicing yoga and journaling about my practice help me become more aware of certain issues in my life. Yoga offers a way of staying limber and fit physically and, thanks to keeping a journal, I’ve discovered it can also offer a way to gain deeper insights into my emotional and spiritual life.
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.