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.