Put Thoughts to Paper and Add Svadyaya to Your Life
Practice yoga regularly, and some find themselves yearning for more, wanting to go deeper into the philosophical aspects of yoga. Yoga journaling provides a way to access that through practicing what yogis call svadyaya, or self-study.
Yoga’s Thoughtful Tradition
At first, when most people practice yoga, they think of the poses, or asanas. Yet that is just one of the eight limbs of yoga, and the one that gets minimal attention in classical yoga texts.
In Eastern tradition, asana comes later in the process than the yamas and niyamas. There are five of each, and they constitute the external and internal restraints that describe the yogic lifestyle.
In the Western world, many yoga practitioners never make it to exploring the yamas and niyamas at all, or at least no more than what an instructor weaves into class.
Yet even without consciously exploring these two limbs, journaling allows yoga students to practice svadyaya. By writing and reflecting on class and home practice, yogis are creating a record of how their moods affect their yoga and how various poses affect them physically and mentally.
Learn From Your Journal
Over time, journaling also creates a record of the yogic journey that can be as basic as greater depth in poses or learning new poses and as deep as the student wishes to delve. This is partially because the reflection inherent in journaling allows for realizations that might not have come during class while focusing on a challenging pose or reining in monkey mind during relaxation and meditation.
By periodically re-reading journal entries, yogis can see this progress on their yoga journey themselves. It allows practitioners to step back and see patterns in their thoughts, reactions and practice. By incorporating those findings into their yoga practice and continuing to journal, the cycle continues. This learning cycle can particularly useful for those who practice solely at home, without benefit of a teacher, for it allows them to gain a greater understanding of their practice.
In Integral Yoga founder Sri Swami Satchidanana’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, he alludes to this, saying “Study is all right, but not for mere logic, quoting or fighting. Actually, it is only when you ‘quote’ from your own experience that your words have weight.”
Even when a student chooses not to review past entries, the act of writing and thinking through each yoga practice period can allow insights to bubble to the surface as they do in any form of journaling.
All of these acts are examples of practicing svadyaya, one of the five niyamas. As students continue down this path, their yoga practice often can deepen.