Some days we can taste that peace of mind and body that we chase, practicing with a fluidity and focus that leaves us deeply refreshed. Then, there are the other days, when the world leaks in and we can't seem to push past a busy mind to connect with ourselves. On those days, it is easy to let frustration cheat us out of enjoying the journey that sometimes moves slowly and, in the face of disconnection, we fail to remember how far we've come. I am the first to admit that I can be quickly disappointed: seeking long goals in minutes and stalling when I don't achieve with a speed I unfairly expected. In those moments of difficulty, it can be so easy to get lost in the woods of achievement-base living, where we focus on being better rather than being present.
When our perspective needs a tune up, the yoga journal becomes a lifeline back to shore. You see, yoga and writing have one very important thing in common: it is hard to do either well when you're distracted—making writing a perfect way to debrief and deeply reflect on the experience of time on the mat. When you journal about your practice:
You are able to appreciate how much you've grown.
Even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes, you have never been static. On the journey of opening and unifying the mind and body, change can be microscopic. Taking a moment after each class to jot down where you're at will provide perspective down the road, especially when you need to be reminded how far you've come.
How? Each time you practice, make a note of a small improvement you felt, as well as something that's still a challenge. As you move forward, those challenges will become a record of all the small victories that came with the commitment to your practice.
You are able to recognize and troubleshoot bad habits.
Occasionally, we step into a class and everything just feels wrong. Maybe you just ate a heavy meal or rushed in late and never really calmed down. Maybe life is just feeling heavy and you haven't been able to shake it off. However this situation happened, acknowledging the moment not only allows you to release disappointment and move forward but can also help you recognize underlying behaviors that are diminishing the quality of your practice.
How? Write a sentence or two about how your practice felt, choosing your words carefully. If there is something you feel that should have gone differently, be honest about that and then let it go. Write notes about what contributed to the quality of your experience (food/mood/life-events). Take a moment to release any negative thoughts and fears and then look back at a positive moment in your practice. Let that experience inspire you as you move forward.
You leave room to celebrate the journey.
In the hour and a half that we spend on our mats, it is easy to miss the privilege and beauty of those minutes. Our days are so packed with activity that we rarely take the time to appreciate the current moment before moving on to the next item on our schedule. Writing is an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the fullness of our practice before moving on with the day. By ending each studio session with gratitude, our attitudes are prepared for whatever comes next, which may be less than perfect.
How? In your yoga journal, keep a gratitude column for organically documenting things that you are thankful for. Personally, during meditation, when my mind is at rest, articles of gratitude present themselves as thoughts or sensations that I observe and leave for later. Writing these things down etches them into our minds and creates a sort of "gratitude bank" for days when you need an emotional or psychological boost.
As you incorporate journaling into your practice, you can be as creative as you like: your yoga journal could be an actual analogue book, folder on your phone, or a tab in a OneNote book. Finally, whatever format works for you, I hope you take the time to enjoy a new language of expression in your practice.