Depending on your experience of yoga, you may or may not be surprised to hear me say that yoga is at its heart a contemplative practice and reflective journaling is a key tool. Of course, yoga can be used purely for exercise and the physical aspect of the practice has the potential to bring many benefits including a stronger more flexible body, less tension, less aches and pains, so we can live in our bodies more comfortably.
As well as the physical gains, yoga encourages us to live more consciously with greater awareness and as such can bring benefits to all aspects of daily life. Reflection gives us the opportunity to tap into our awareness more fully, so we can make the most of our insights, to bring perspective and direction, it provides us with counsel.
Journaling is one of the fundamental tools for reflection and although some of my Foundation Course students are at first surprised to be asked to keep a journal as part of a yoga course, once they get going they invariably find the process supportive and enlightening.
So what does journaling do and why is it so helpful? Journaling gives us the opportunity to hear our own thoughts and to acknowledge our emotions. It enables us to clarify our feelings and experiences and to notice how we meet ourselves in those experiences. In the act of journaling, we are listening to ourselves, just like we would listen to a friend, we are taking ourselves into consideration, it’s an act of self-care.
It’s important to write openly, honestly and from the heart – although this can take a little practice – no one has to read it other than you, so you can feel safe exploring your own experience.
Sometimes it’s enough to empty thoughts onto the page, to quieten the mind, and to reduce the mental chatter. That alone can feel liberating and calming in equal measure, as we unburden ourselves through the practice. At other times as we write down and record our thoughts and feelings, we may notice our mind repeating certain thought patterns, tapping into old belief systems, playing out emotional storylines and/or exaggerating and catastrophizing. This is useful to notice, to bring to the forefront of our awareness so we can see whether these thoughts belong to us, are useful for us, or if they are no longer serving us. We can reframe our experiences, perhaps using different language to describe the situation, we can test out ideas and responses to problems we may have.
If we don’t know where to start, it can be useful to ask ourselves some questions. Three simple questions my teachers taught me are the ones I still regularly use to get myself writing when I feel a bit stuck.
- How do I feel right now?
- What’s going well?
- What’s on my mind?
I encourage you to have a go. Let me know how you get on.
Take care of yourself, Clair.