Understanding the benefits of yoga journaling
Almost every yoga enthusiast will embark on keeping a yoga journal, but few will stay the course. The best way to stay on the yoga journal wagon is to have a clear understanding of the benefits of keeping a yoga journal. This section will look at 5 tips that are tied to these benefits.
Tip 1: Deepening Your Practice
The first tip is understanding that keeping a yoga journal is a surefire way to cultivate a deeper relationship with each yoga session. The time spent on your yoga mat is precious. Therefore we want to develop a connection to the physical postures, the breathwork, and the meditation as guided by your yoga teacher.
For many of us, our entry point and main focus in yoga is through asana, the physical postures. The same is true for me. Therefore, a big part of my own yoga journal is on a particular pose from class that stuck in my mind. Here are two excerpts from my online journal that I keep in a Google Sheet.
” Tree pose: felt far more grounded this time, like my body finally found its center of balance. I wonder if it’s at certain times of the month that my balance goes off a bit”.
“Downward-facing Dog: shoulders are feeling stronger. Keep an eye on your ribs flaring out”.
Tip 2: Developing Svadhyaya (Self-study)
Svadhyaya is a concept in yoga that refers to self-study. Seasoned practitioners will be the first to tell you that yoga often doesn’t always feel good. It is a path of personal growth, of understanding your true self, and that often can mean looking at the parts of you that are less desirable.
For example, in my case, my yoga journaling showed me that I have a tendency to cut corners and take shortcuts. This is apparent in my asana practice when I take the easier option of a pose modification even though I would benefit from a more challenging variation. I also will skip vinyasas in my Ashtanga practice,
I have always erred on the side of laziness, and this shows up on the mat, and therefore in my journal too.
If I don’t keep a journal, I can ignore that part of me once practice is finished, But, if I make the effort to write about it, I am putting myself on the path to greater self-awareness, and therefore can do something about it.
Make a promise to yourself that part of your journaling practice will be about being honest about what comes up on the mat in terms of habits and nuances that you’d rather not look at.
Tip 3: Cultivating Mindfulness
Your journal will be messy at first and that’s OK. Mine was a rambling of free writing and scribbles for a while. Over time, the concept of mindful journaling worked its way into my periphery and I began to take it more seriously.
Giving your journal some structure and purpose (which we will talk about further down) helps to turn it into an effective mindfulness practice.
Tip 4: Gaining clarity
Another benefit of keeping a yoga journal is that you will occasionally be blessed with those “Aha!” moments. Over time you will notice patterns emerge that provide insight into who you are. For example, I noticed that I was avoiding meditation practice because I struggled with staying in the present moment while sitting still. I also defined which teachers online I really resonated with, and focused more on their classes.
The journal is also a great place to note down any minor alignment adjustments that totally alter how a pose feels. For example, making sure that my bum wasn’t sticking out behind me in Triangle pose really helped to feel the stretch along the side body.
Writing these moments down helps you to remember them for the next time.
Tip 5: Defining Your Sankalpa
Sankalpa is a concept in yoga that is similar to setting an intention. For example, “I listen carefully to my body” or “I focus fully on my breath”. Sometimes, these are referred to as affirmations and are always in the present tense so as to embody the meaning. “I am calm” is a popular intention or Sankalpa for someone who intends to reduce the feeling of stress.
A Sankalpa goes a little further than an intention or an affirmation. For example, in Tip 2 I mentioned that I am inherently lazy. This is something that shows up repeatedly. I use this insight to develop my Sankalpa, essentially an intention of what I desire to be.
I don’t want to be lazy or sloppy on or off the yoga mat. Nor do I want to talk myself out of practice or cut short because I’d rather be watching some reality TV. I want to be someone who practices authentic yoga, and who endeavors to learn continuously about all aspects of this beautiful way of life. Therefore, my Sankalpa, which I have used for years, is “I practice with integrity”.
Your Sankalpa will emerge with regular journaling of your yoga practice. It will be unique to you and will be a constant for months or years to come.