I still remember the sweat on my body and the tears running down my face. This hot yoga class left me in pieces. I had too much to deal with. I remember asking myself, “Why does yoga make me so emotional?” It turns out that this is quite normal. Certain postures can make us feel all the sensations. After all, yoga is all about breaking free, isn’t it?
But what if you could organize your thoughts before and after the mat so you could taste a moment of peace in between? If you don’t want to face your wandering mind during your practice (although this is expected and welcome), maybe it is time to add a pen and paper to your yoga kit.
What is free writing?
Besides being my favorite method of emotional release, free writing is a creative writing technique originally used to overcome the notorious writer’s block. Think of it as a stream of consciousness on paper – the written representation of your thoughts as they come, without any judgment or censorship.
The term “free writing” was coined by author and professor Ken Macrorie, and has been popularized by academics like Pierre Elbow, professor emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It is a great practice to clear your mind, whether you use it daily or sporadically.
Why add free writing to your yoga practice?
During confinement, I was unable to keep my hands off my journal and yoga mat. That’s when I started flirting with the idea of ââhaving them both in my routine. They kept me sane and centered.
For the free writing part, I used both my journal and 750mots.com (a site dedicated to hosting 750 word daily hikes). For my yoga practice, Yoga with AdrieneThe short, gentle classes worked the best for me.
But it wasn’t until I met and started training with a PCOS fitness coach Emma Krishnaswami that I ended up really combining writing and movement. “I call them check-ins”, says Krishnaswami Stylist. âI encourage my clients to write about how they feel before and after moving their body. It’s a subtle way to change their mindset. This is how you become less resistant to change.
She reminds us that you can also combine free writing with any type of movement like HIIT or running, not just yoga. âYour body is changing all the time. It is a vehicle of expression, not of aesthetics. If only we could change our thought patterns!
Fitness is food, not punishment, she points out: âWhether it’s yoga or any other type of movement, it’s never meant to be what Western cultures use it for. . It’s a form of expression, not a way to lose weight and look good because society tells you to.
As for me, I’m a fan of the free writing and yoga combo sessions. I let my thoughts move between the lines and my muscles move through space, with benevolence and compassion.
According to yoga teacher Carmen Guda: âYoga reflects where we are psychically, mentally and emotionally at the precise moment we step on the mat. When we transfer the knowledge we get and the questions that might arise on paper, transformation can occur. “
And Caitlin cady, another meditation and yoga teacher agrees. She explains that writing can create what she calls a âtangible sense of spaceâ: âIt is such a powerful yoga companion. Both are tools for transforming, digesting and alchemizing our experiences.
They give us a space for our creativity to develop, to let creativity out. âYoga brings us back to who we really are. Free writing can further improve this process, âsays vinyasa and yin teacher Cynthia Overeem.
Develop body confidence and creativity through free writing
Since May 2020, I have been leading and facilitating more than 20 free writing workshops, both in English and in Italian. I may seem biased, but my students assure me that they have benefited from free writing – some of them fully embracing the practice as part of their routine.
There are so many benefits to free writing and journaling. By letting your thoughts flow onto the page, you gain clarity and confidence, improve self-awareness, make peace with perfectionism, and discover new perspectives. Research by James W. Pennebaker and his student Sandra Beall have even discovered that emotionally expressive writing can boost your immune system – and that’s just one reason to consider it a great ally for physical health.
âJournaling allows us to pay attention to how we feel. This is also why we avoid it so much â, Megan February, trauma-sensitive writing coach, tells Stylist.
âWhen we create a space for our voice and our story, we open the door to getting to know each other better. Is there anything more powerful? In a world built on scrolling and mindless dissociation, we need a journaling practice that slows us down and connects us to the present moment.
How to get started with free writing
It is important to distinguish between journaling (the general term and the system) and free writing (the writing technique). When you write freely, you tap into your intuition and follow whatever your mind and hands want to write or type at that precise moment. Sometimes I feel like the words are writing themselves and I’m just a mediator or a spectator.
In The way of the artist, writer Julia Cameron recommends indulging in the practice of Morning Pages, âThe basic tool of a creative recoveryâ, as she likes to call them. She says there’s no wrong way to do it – so I hope she agrees with me as a Night Pages ambassador, as I tend to prefer writing in the evenings for “Cancel the day”.
New in practice? Use prompts. A invite is a starting idea, an invitation to respond, a kick in the buttocks to encourage you to sit down and write. It could be an opening sentence, a picture, a conversation you overheard on the bus, a word that keeps ringing in your head.
When I write freely, I mainly write for my eyes only. I vomit my thoughts onto the page, often feeling delusional with excitement because I let it all hang out – the good, the bad, the ugly. I bathe with my inner child in the sea of ââthe creative process, and I put it aside. I focus on the direction, not the destination.
Everything is valid, even the slightest thought.
Moments and movements: how to combine free writing with yoga, HIIT or any other type of exercise
Before the movement
Before getting on your mat, spend 10 minutes doing a braindump or checking in.
Observe how you are feeling (are you frustrated? Are you excited?), Or identify something that bothered you, and start writing freely. As a yoga teacher Trudy Vains says, “Writing what’s bothering you sends you a message that you’re ready to let this go.” “
The prompts that I find useful include:
- Today, I would like to explore …
- Let’s see if …
- One thing I love about me …
Write down a word or affirmation that speaks to you and use it as a mantra during your yoga practice.
Select your yoga video or practice. I like going to Yoga with Adriene who even has a flow dedicated to helping writers.
To unleash creativity and eliminate blocks, combine your free writing practice with Kundalini. Give yourself permission to stop and take note in the middle of your feed, if that’s what you need.
After the movement
Use the postmate moment to really observe how you are feeling and what you will get out of your yoga or HIIT session.
Febuary recommends: âWrite down what your body said during practice. It can also take the form of a poem or a story. You can set the rules here. More importantly, let it be a practice, not a performance. “
The prompts that I find useful include:
- I’m proud of myself for …
- I take care of myself by …
- One thing I’m grateful for …
Emma Krishnaswami recommends asking yourself why you have moved your body and whether you have reached the mental state you envisioned when you started your practice.
How do you feel after training? Draw a bottle or glass on a sheet of paper, paste your post mat print, and place the image anywhere you can see it for the rest of the day.
Do you feel inspired? Why not try free writing alongside one of our 15 minute mobility stretches. Just pause the video when you want to write something, then resume.
Images: Getty / author’s own