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Writing Yoga by Bruce Black

Just in time for me to read before I begin taking my upcoming yoga and tai chi classes* came a copy of Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal by Bruce Black. I first "met" Bruce through his wonderful blog, Wordswimmer, and have gotten to know him better over the past several years thanks to the CYBILS Awards. Bruce is a kind, generous, thoughtful person, as any one who has read his posts and his in-depth interviews can see, and he has written a book that reflects those qualities.

The book purports to be about how keeping a journal about yoga class can enhance one's experience and practice, but - intentionally or not - quite a bit of it can be read metaphorically as being about growth, flexibility, and practice as a writer - a sort of stretching and workout for your writing skills, and not just use of writing skills to talk about yoga.

A confession: I don't keep a journal. I tried keeping a diary for a week or so when I was 12, but it felt artificial and embarrassing and I quickly gave it up. I tried half-heartedly in high school, then again in college, and at least once after that, and I always, always felt self-conscious about it. And worried about what I'd think when I went back to read it later. And yet, I love the idea of a journal, and heaven knows I love reading passages from the journals of historical personages and whatnot, so I've often wished I could manage it.

Bruce's words about journaling have changed how I view a journal, and may just have given me permission to try a yoga/tai chi journal myself. Here's what he says early on:

The practice of journaling is all about process--the process of putting words on paper, the process of thinking and sifting through layers of memories and experiences to make discoveries and gain insights. It's not about what you produce. Like many writers, I rarely reread what I write in my journals. That's because it's in the process of writing--the actual physical act of writing--that you'll make discoveries. That's the point of keeping a journal--not the product, but the process.

Having permission to not read it, permission to work things out, and acknowledgement that the words on the page are not, in the end, what's important takes a lot of the pressure off, so I'm willing to give it a try.

In addition to chapters of instruction and thoughtful exploration on what a journal is, and what it can or should be, Bruce provides samples from his own journal, as well as writing exercises to help one get started journaling - and some of those work as excellent writing exercises, journals be damned.

I recommend this one for folks interested in journaling, whether they practice yoga or not, and for quite a few writers, even if they're not necessarily interested in journaling or yoga. A lovely book, filled with lovely words - just as readers of Bruce's blog would expect. My thanks to Bruce's publisher, Rodmell Press, for sending me a review copy.

*I have, in fact, taken yoga classes in the past, and do a half-assed job with DVDs at home, so I know I love yoga, but I've not yet tried tai chi.

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 1st, 2011 10:38 am (UTC)
Happy Birthday, Kelly!
Apr. 1st, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you, my friend! And thanks for your email as well - I tried to respond to it, but the mailer daemon kept eating it. *mailfail*
Apr. 1st, 2011 12:42 pm (UTC)
Ive tried SO MANY times to keep one in writing in a notebook but I worry about that too...that sort of permanacy, that it will seem stupid. Somehow LJ writing seems less daunting and its less labor intensive to type. im fully aware it will all sound stupid but ive just come to accept that. even the next day things sound stupid and wildly emotional or out of proportion.

Apr. 1st, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
Perhaps it's best to take Bruce's tip and just not bother to read it once you've written it!
Apr. 1st, 2011 12:42 pm (UTC)

Happy Birthday:):)
Apr. 1st, 2011 02:43 pm (UTC)
Apr. 1st, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
But this is a journal!
Ok, it's online, and people read it, so it's not really the dear-diary sort of journal where you can just wave a wand at your head, pull out the thoughts and put them into the pensieve... oh wait, that's not a journal either - that's just one of those things in Harry Potter that I really wish existed.
I don't have a paper journal either. I started a notebook to give to Paige when she's older, as something that I've written that's just for her, and the intent was to record her milestones and stuff about her and our family, but I've been really bad about writing in that. I keep thinking that there's so much that I need to catch up on, but in waiting to get a chance to write about those, I inevitably miss the next thing.
Apr. 1st, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
I am exceedingly aware that this particular journal is public, and that I am "performing" for an audience - and while I put some personal stuff here, mostly this is a "professional" sort of endeavor. What you see here is a persona - one that is drawn from me, and is not essentially false, but it's not exactly me, either - it's like the difference between public and private voice that Bruce describes so well in the opening chapter of his marvelous book.

I know just what you mean about the baby/childhood stuff. I didn't do it at all because I wanted to do something grand and never had the time. Now I wish I'd done anything at all. So perhaps 2-3 lines once a month or so is easier to accomplish than a massive essay, and will be something you both can look back on later. (E.g., "You started crawling like a soldier this month, using your elbows and sliding on your belly" could be just enough, and is better than nothing at all.)
Apr. 1st, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
Happy happy birthday, Poetry Goddess! :)
Apr. 2nd, 2011 01:54 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jeni!
Apr. 2nd, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
Happy Birthday Kelly! Hope the reading goes wonderfully. I have started many journals but always leave off halfway through, not able to stand how messy and boring they get. I have taken tai chi for a couple years and loved it. I want to get back into that practice - it's fabulous.
Apr. 2nd, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)
I'm very much looking forward to the tai chi - and thanks for the birthday wishes!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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