“My perception of the world softens as a result of keeping a journal.”– Lynn Burgess
(Earlier this year I shared thoughts with Lynn Burgess, the owner and director of Yoga From the Heart in Sarasota, FL, about keeping a practice journal. I found Lynn’s insights both helpful and inspiring, and I hope her observations inspire you to keep a journal as part of your yoga practice.)
Bruce: I’m always curious about how others find their way to journaling about their yoga practice. 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 or 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.
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. 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 Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana). It helps me discover a link between these issues and similar issues that I might find 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.
Lynn: When I first began journaling, I wrote in my journal after each yoga class I took. Over the years, my writing frequency became 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 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 insight that I glean from the process of writing is 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.” 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: Writing in your journal almost every day . . .what a fantastic habit!
Bruce: I’m wondering if keeping a practice journal changes the way you look at the world after you step off your mat?
Lynn: Yes, in a magical way. My perception of the world softens as a result of keeping a journal. After stepping off my mat, I feel myself open up toward a particular situation, or I am able to move through a fear easier. Journaling helps transform my view of the world into a more beautiful and joyful experience.
Bruce: Do you ever journal about the poses and their physical architecture—the process and challenges of constructing a pose, for example?
Lynn: I journal about poses all the time! The other day I was playing with Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana). I wanted to find my ease, to become quiet, like a half moon in the night sky. Physically, I focused on aligning myself on the skeleton of my bottom leg so that very little muscular work was required. For a second I felt as if I was floating in the pose! The rest of the day had that same quality to it. I was able to glide through my to-do list, soar through making dinner, and sink into a deep sleep that evening.
Bruce: What a beautiful and poetic image! I love the way playing with your pose enabled you to find the same quality of playfulness and ease in your life.
Lynn: Yes, the more I loosen my grip, both in my yoga practice, and in my life, the easier it is to connect with the beauty that surrounds us, and to be satiated and grateful.
If you’d like to learn more about Lynn Burgess, 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, visit her website: http://yogafromtheheart.com/instructors/lynn-burgess/.
And if you’d like to learn more about keeping your own practice journal, you might enjoy taking a look at my book, Writing Yoga: http://www.shambhala.com/writing-yoga.html