There was a time in my life when I allowed everything outside of me to define and shape me: where I went to school, where I worked, who I was friends with, my relationship status, my religion, the expectations of bosses, coworkers, friends, family, and significant others.
I took on identities and stories that weren’t mine with incredible ease. I called myself adaptable when really, I was impressionable. There was constant anxiety bubbling within me as I tried to keep up appearances.
After years of traditional therapy, I began a deeper exploration into the spiritual realm. I was about 30 when I started to practice yoga and meditation regularly. The idea of an inner wisdom existing within all of us both fascinated and comforted me. I heard it referred to as the Divine Self, the Inner Self, the True Self. In yoga philosophy, there is the concept of Atman, the Self (with a capital S), the innermost essence of an individual that exists beyond worldly definitions or identifications, and is always present.
I began to tap into this inner wisdom through yoga and journaling, which started out as two separate practices. Both helped me realize how far I had drifted—that I often didn’t know the difference between my own thoughts and feelings and those of another. I continued to explore this, but since journaling was such a solitary activity, I more often found myself in group yoga classes where I could feel that sense of community.
Then I discovered Yoga & Journaling as a unified practice. I took my first Yoga & Journaling class at Room to Breathe in Chicago on my lunch break. A yoga teacher I very much admire, Amber Cook, led the classes, and they forever left an impression on me. I am a writer and storyteller at my core, and experiencing such a harmonious combination of these two practices that are so meaningful to me was transformative.
Why do I think they work so well together? To break it down, practicing and living the principles of Yoga (which is so much more than Asana, or the physical postures) brings us closer to realizing that innermost Self. Meditation, breath, mindful movement, focused concentration—all of these bring us back to ourselves.
Journaling adds another layer to the practice that allows for deeper self-study, which relates to Svadhaya, the fourth Niyama as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Examining ourselves – our values, thoughts, emotions, and actions – can help us spot our patterns and our stories, showing us where we may not be in alignment with our true selves.
As a storyteller, I like to also think of this in terms of stories. There are the stories people tell us and there are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves—both true and untrue. I think journaling helps us investigate these stories that exist behind our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. And through regular practice, it allows us to honor our stories and rewrite the ones that got misreported along the way.
For me, both yoga and journaling (whether they practiced together or separately) are spiritual practices. Each time I practice, I come to know myself better, and it becomes easier to channel my inner wisdom. I want this for you as well, which is why I decided to teach.
I think we all struggle with the amount of noise and information coming at us each day, whether consciously or unconsciously. So much of what we experience in our daily lives can distract and prevent us from seeing and knowing who we really are. And if we don’t make connection to ourselves a regular practice, it’s easier to drift further and further away from our true center.
I hope you’ll join me and my community, so we can get back on track together.