When I signed on for Breathe Yoga’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program in September of 2014, I didn’t really know what to expect. Would it be 200 hours of doing yoga? Would it be a combination of yoga plus sitting in a classroom learning history and theory, chakras and the yamas and niyamas (don’t worry, you don’t have to know any of these things to do yoga!), and the correct alignment for poses? The answer, in part, was yes – we studied all of those things, and we did a lot of yoga. What I didn’t know or expect was how much writing we would also be doing, particularly to do with self exploration.
Yoga is a lot about self exploration. The idea is to turn inward. To focus on your breathing and your movements, and turn off the parts of your brain that think about your work day that just happened, or what you need to get at Wegmans after class, and to turn off the parts that wonder what everyone else is thinking of you and how you can’t touch your toes, or how you’re sweating all over your toes, or how you forget to reapply nail polish to your toes.
(By the way, the answer is that no one is looking at you, and no one cares, because they’re all wondering what you’re thinking of them, or they’re just trying to drop their shoulders away from their ears, or they’re so in the zone that they don’t even remember you’re there).
My point is – your yoga teacher is trying to remind you to turn your gaze inward during a yoga class. It’s hard, and that’s why it’s a constant refrain. What I hadn’t thought about before YTT was how writing can be so useful in helping people focus their thoughts (of course!). During YTT and since then I have done a lot of writing about my thoughts on my yoga practice itself – how I feel when I’m in it, thinking about and analyzing the kinds of thoughts that crop up when I’m in certain poses (those “who’s looking at me and what are they thinking” types or the self-doubt/self-beratement), and what yoga adds to my mental and physical well-being. I’ve found it helpful to process the work done in the yoga studio.
And it works in the other direction too – I think doing yoga can help you process whatever writing you are working on outside of the studio. Both writing and yoga are practices that require effort, time, and a lot of self examination and reflection.