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Not to be confused with the popular publication of the same name, a yoga journal is one of the most effective ways to improve your practice while also serving as a personalized resource. A written record of your yoga journey can document how far you have come and what you still want to accomplish, as well as various tools that can help you get there. Here are some ideas about ways to use a yoga notebook.

Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy. I used the same notebook that I used for the rest of my notes during the training. A lover of beautiful journals, I often find that fancy covers and gold-lined pages intimidate me from “dirtying” them with my imperfect words (especially on the hard days). Use what works for you, but focus on the process of journaling rather than the journal itself.

Don’t fear the blank page. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from journaling is that it doesn’t have to sound like poetry. Just get that pen on the paper and don’t give yourself time to second-guess yourself. Write the first thing that pops up and take it from there. If that means a poem or two pops up here and there, that’s great. If not, that’s also great. Either way, if you’ve written something down, you’re doing great.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable. If it was a particularly challenging day, don’t be afraid to write freely and unfiltered. This journal is for you. Some of my favorite entries to look back on are from the raw days where I was exhausted and struggling. These include a lot of scribbles, capital letters, and a few profanities. But reading them takes me back to the struggles I had, and I can appreciate my honesty in that moment and my progress since then.

Chances are you’ll want to give up. Keep going. There will be days when you won’t feel like writing or you feel like you have nothing to say. The key to journaling is to make it a habit–even if for a few minutes each day or each time you practice yoga. Even if you didn’t have an “aha” moment on the mat or your practice for the day consisted of one sun salutation, jot down a quick note in your journal.

Finally, know that: There’s no right way to journal. Sorry, but there’s no cookie cutter method or template to follow when journaling (not that you’d want it anyway). Your yoga practice=your yoga journal. Embrace your personal journey and find a journaling style that works for you.

That said, if you feel lost or have what one of my teachers calls “yoga brain” after a class (aka “zenned out”), here are a few prompts to get your gears turning. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How do I feel? Consider physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual feelings.
  • What did I learn? Maybe you tried a new asana, pranayama, or vinyasa sequence. Perhaps you gained a new perspective or insight about yourself.
  • How did I grow or deepen my practice? This could relate to knowledge, asanas, self-understanding, goals, etc.
  • How can I apply what I’ve learned in yoga off the mat?

    To transform dharma–thought, values, or purpose–into action, we must first know and explore our personal dharma. Journaling is a powerful tool in doing this, as it increases our awareness of our yoga practice and ourselves.

    Keeping a journal during my training reminded me to focus on and appreciate my journey. It also helped me reflect on my dharma, encouraging me to embody and pursue what I believe.

    Amongst all the books, materials, and knowledge I’ve accumulated through my practice, my yoga journal will always be my most valuable resource.

    How to Get Started

    1. Class intention or Sankalpa (affirmation resolution) – record it and reflect on whether the class helped you achieve that intention (whether it be balance, focus, peace, deeper breathing or whatever).

    2. Mental awareness – what thoughts were going through your mind? How did you arrive into the practice? Did you dump your day down on the mat? Did you have any recurring thoughts of worry or distraction, or where you able to calm your mind and create positive thoughts? Just notice, don’t judge.

    3. Emotional awareness – how did you feel walking into the class, during the class, and afterwards? Yoga doesn’t always make us feel better immediately and we need to value the opportunity it gives us to express emotions through our bodies…even if it doesn’t feel good at the time.

    Just try to record how you feel with emotional distance, like a scientist. Of course if you feel like crying into your journal that’s ok too.

    4. Alignment awareness – did any alignment cues ‘speak to you’? Did you gain any subtle insights that allowed you to go deeper into an asana (grounding the outside edge of a foot, dropping the pelvis down for example).

    5. Muscular skeletal awareness – did you notice a stronger (or weaker) standing leg in balance postures, or perhaps you felt your core really switching on in plank or a subtle opening through your left hip in half pigeon?

    6. Breath awareness – was your breathing deep or shallow? Did you accentuate the inhale or exhale, was it even, did you notice moments when breath helped you through movement or calmed agitation?

    7. Energy awareness – how were your energy levels and what was the energy of the room in a group practice? Did you notice an energetic shift from standing to floor practice?

    Did the energy feel more yin or yang or a balance of both? Did you notice yin or yang energy within different asana – were you pushing or surrendering?

    8. Chakra/meridian line awareness – did you notice activation of any of the main chakras? Did you feel your heart or throat opening, for example?

    Did you feel any subtle flow of energy along the nadis or meridian lines (for example, the heart-lung lines in Triangle posture or the flow of prana or chi up your spine through compression of the kidneys/adrenals).

    9. Challenging asanas – did you find certain poses challenging? Perhaps you have a particular posture that always presents a challenge and you can reflect on subtle changes – remember no judgement.

    10. Breakthroughs (however small) – did something just click—whether it be the right combination of breath with movement in a certain asana, a firm locking of a standing leg to help balance, or a greater sense of stillness in Savasana. It’s ok to celebrate these little insights.

    The power of journaling is that it both helps you go deeper into your practice as you go along, and allows you to reflect more fully with the passage of time on how far you’ve come in yoga and life. 11. Diet & Sleep – How is the practice effecting your diet and sleep? Or how is your diet and sleep effecting your practice? Monitor what you eat and its effects, plus monitor how much and quality of sleep

    12. The Moon and Sun – What is the phase of the Moon, any Solar flares and or geomagnetic activity?