Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal by Bruce Black. Rodmell Press, 176 pages. Paper or digital, $14.95.
Bum knees started writer, teacher and lifelong runner Bruce Black on a midlife transition to yoga student. He would’ve been content with a joint-friendly fitness regime. But when his yoga teacher encouraged him to start journaling, his entries unearthed the ultimate writer’s discovery: his true voice. In Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal, Black uses his personal experience as a blueprint to show writers how to combine yoga and journaling to find their voice.
For a how-to on introspection, Black’s approach is refreshingly doable. You can read the short chapters out of order, and the journaling exercises don’t guilt-trip you into doing them before you can graduate to the next chapter. He uses English rather than Sanskrit names for yoga poses, and self-help jargon is graciously absent. It’s all so down-to-earth and straightforward that one might be tempted to call this “self-realization lite.” Except that it isn’t. Like a fresh salad lovingly prepared with simple ingredients, Black’s insights and journaling exercises have real flavor and leave your head clear and your gut unexpectedly full.
So, how is a recipe with so few ingredients so effective? “It was this process of writing in the journal each day, before and after yoga practice, that helped me learn to lower my defenses, let go of the impostors and the fake voices, open up and write from my heart,” Black says. And his heart, it seems, is a gentle teacher inclined to leave criticism at the door like so many shoes in a yoga-studio foyer. His observations and journal excerpts are disarmingly honest and vulnerable without being uncomfortable to read. And it’s this unadorned openness that gets you to lay down your skepticism, get out your mat, and fill up a page or two.
Even if you’ve never set foot in tree pose, the book will help you look inward. Short on time? Skip the chapters and just do the journaling exercises. Applied correctly, many would acquaint you intimately with the characters in your forthcoming novel.
But to get the full experience, try for the tandem writing and yoga practices. Shifting from mind to body gave Black “a refuge from words.” He noticed “the feelings beneath the words” and was able to write from a fresh perspective.
Black also points out that “the ongoing conversation with your body is a crucial element in the process of learning to trust yourself.” If he hadn’t questioned how far to push his body in yoga, Black wouldn’t have reflected on his decision to ignore painful injuries as a young runner. Because he listened to his coaches instead of his body, he’d done permanent damage. “Instead of helping me reach my full potential, my coach and fellow runners had helped me curtail it,” Black says. “I realized that if I kept listening to other people and ignoring my own voice, I’d destroy my potential and any chance of reaching it.”
So, if you’ve been battling mental noise pollution, do your voice a favor. Grab Black’s book and start listening.
Kristin Sutter is associate editor for Cabin Life. Follow her on twitter.com/kristinsutter.