The greatest tool a yogi can have is a magical yoga diary. I am not talking about a book where you record what happens in your life; nor am I talking about a book of yoga techniques, tips, and quotes. A yoga diary consists of scientific entries that record how you perceive your daily practice. The diary is a tool to stimulate spiritual growth, help other yogis, and directly access your past yoga practices. For five years I have kept a detailed record of my practice, and it changed everything.
The Most Powerful Tool in Yoga
A conscious daily assessment over years of practice is a hard pill to swallow. No excuses, surprises, and deviations can occur when done right. Years later, you’ll look back at problems or triumphs and see exactly where they manifested. The process of a magical diary is unlike any self-help system ever created. Almost all Western occult organizations in the early 1900’s such as the Golden Dawn, Free Masons, Ordo Templi Orientis, and The Theosophical Society required a magical diary. Each group had a yoga regiment and all asana, pranayama, and meditation practices were recorded. The rituals specific to the organizations were also recorded.
My journey with a yoga diary started when my Eastern Philosophy professor gave me the book Magical Diary by Daniel Michael Kraig. He gave it to me at 9 am, and after five straight hours of reading cover to cover, I recorded my first entry.
February 2, 2012 – 3:53pm-4:25
Phase of moon: Waxing gibbous
Weather Conditions: Warm day, 50 degrees, suns out and snow is melted.
Emotions: Tired and excited
Ritual: Thirty minutes of meditation on Old Main Hill. 119 breaks in concentration recorded on my mala beads. 25 Pranayama breath waves and nadi shodana.
Result: Feel light headed and hungry but really good. Maybe a result of not eating yet today.
In 2012, I had over 500 entries in my diary. It was the best decision of my life, even if it was tedious to carry a notebook everywhere. Currently, I have over two thousand entries; looking back now, I can see my evolution. Why not take the extra 3 minutes to write in your diary? You can track the trajectory of your life, and see the story of your life in a more concrete way, which is essential to self-awareness and evolution.
How to Start a Magical Diary
Aleister Crowley introduces the of a magical diary in Liber IV (pg. 46),
“He may select any practices that he prefers, but in any case must keep an exact record, so that he may discover the relation of cause and effect in his working.”
You do not need to change any of your practices for the diary. Whatever asana, pranayama, and meditation you do, stick with it. The key is doing repeatable actions, which is the only way to determine differences and changes in self. We constantly try to cheat ourselves in the area of religion and spirituality. Weekly attendance at a church/group, scripture study, and community involvement is not enough to penetrate the deeper levels of high consciousness. How much are you growing? Does this religion enhance your life? An honest diary makes cheating ourselves impossible by forcing us to answer these tough questions and confront the hard data of our successes and failures. We are scientists in our yoga and personal growth.
“That is why you should follow what is called “the scientific method.” This method tries to control all variables in yoga and keeps accurate records of your yoga. This is why your diary is so important. It will show how variables (weather, emotions, etc.) affect your yoga (rituals)”
You will surprise yourself how even the weather changes everything. When it rains, my pranayama suffers and my asana gets better.
My favorite quote/concept of the diary again comes from Crowley in Magick in Theory and Practice.
“Verily, it is better to fail in the ritual (yoga) than to fail in writing down an accurate record of it.”
What a powerful statement. If we do not manage to record our practice, then its benefits may be lost forever. No matter how tired you are, or how awkward it is you need to make an entry. Depending on the class I attend, I write my account in my car right after leaving the studio.
“The record of the magician (yogi) is his best asset. To do magic yoga without keeping a record is like trying to run a business without book keeping. From one point of view, magical process actually consists in deciphering one’s own record.”
What to Write in the Diary
I know the first thing on your mind is, “What will I write in this diary? Can I speak about my emotions?”. After five years of using a diary, my advice is to keep your input as free and open as possible. If it is relevant to your lifelong yoga journey, then put it in. A trend for every diary is to start off with too much. Start too big and reduce, instead of going small and building. Once you establish a routine and record all rituals, you’ll know what is important. If you use a similar template to mine, you won’t go wrong.
“What is the point of this class? Your body will get old one day, and you will forget this.”
“I am already fine. Why do I need to change and put so much focus on yoga?”
Yoga is supposed to still the fluctuations of the mind. A fellow yogi once told me
“Whats the point of this diary? You stress if you don’t write in it.”
My response was,
“Without a diary my purpose in yoga is suspect. The different levels of awakening take tremendous work. My diary has assumed a super ego of its own. As I slack in my yoga practice, the diary simultaneously suffers in its beauty.”
Now my practice is simple, stress-free, and flows like water. Crowley’s definition of yoga is,
“Sit still. Stop thinking. Shut up. Get out!”
Benefits of a Yoga Diary: Spiritual Growth
There is no poetic language, no expectations, and no stress when you do this. The concept is that by practicing this for twelve weeks, you’ll have hundreds of pages of your inner thoughts down. My writing, yoga, and life improved immensely with this method. I use the yoga diary in the same way as if it is relevant to my life purpose in yoga. These last few months I worked through questions around the religious nature of yoga. To start a yoga blog, become a teacher, and make significant progressions in my life need to know where I stand. If you are reading this, it is apparent that I succeeded. The 100 yoga journal pages it took me to resolve the issue of my writer’s block broke the fear that held this blog from starting. As I wrote, the potential that yoga has to heal the world dawned on me.
Benefits of the diary: Helping others
Every month I focus on a particular body part and notice how it changes my physical, mental, and emotional states. This past month I’ve focused on my lower back, and it has been a roller coaster of a month. Here is a journal entry after an ashtanga yoga intermediate class that focused on a series heavy in backbends.
December 9, 2016 – 6:53 pm – Las Vegas, Nevada -Studio 103 Yoga
Phase of moon: Full
Weather Conditions: 60 degrees outside. The room was the right temperature.
Emotions: Motivated and happy before.
Ritual: Ashtanga Intermediate series minus a few poses. Shavasana and five rounds of Nadi shodana after class.
Result- Did not push the back bends today, focused on opening the front of the body. I feel an openness on the front side of my body. My body does not feel grounded and stable though. My mind is clear but does not feel ready for reading or writing tonight. Starving.
As I look back on this now, I see my mistakes. Judging from past diary entries on back bends, I know that hunger and not feeling like reading means I pushed it too hard. I have standards like this for my hips, knees, quads, hamstrings, shoulders, and upper back.
Subtle discoveries add up, and one day they will make me a more proficient teacher and writer. The majority of yogis experience the same thing when they open a body part, even though it is subjective. It is also the same for pranayama, meditation, and changes to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
If someone you know is struggling and has a diary, you can compare notes and see if something’s off. Yes, that does take a high level of trust, but most of us need an outside perspective. Our victories, flaws, and stagnation is in our diaries. Take precaution in who you show, and use your best judgment when you look at another diary.
Benefits of the Diary: Direct Access to the Past
After a few years the diary will become your strongest link to the past. It turns into a meditation of the fourth dimension when you flip through it. All sides of obstacles are exposed, and the roots of problems are suddenly visible. Memories, diary entries, and your experience in the present moment can help you put together a timeline of the past and present. As we understand the past, a template for your future will come with ease. A general trajectory of your life will reveal itself.
As I look at my current diary I see where danger lurks. From past diary logs, I know that when I write a lot, I am ungrounded. If not supplemented with meditation, natural pranayama, and yin yoga, I can become a bit too judgmental. Looking at a diary log from just three days ago shows this harshness.
January 7, 2017 – 5:19 am – Las Vegas, Nevada- My house
Phase of moon: Full
Weather Conditions: Cold windy morning with overcast skies.
Emotions: Tired and unmotivated
Ritual: 10-minute meditation, 30 minutes pranayama, and 10-minute meditation to close.
Results: My concentration broke more than it has in months this morning. I must have only had a calm mind for five minutes the whole twenty minutes of meditating. Too many thoughts about the direction of my life. My breath retentions on inhales were on point. However, my exhale breath retentions were terrible. The shortest holds and exhales I’ve had in months.”
I was way too hard on myself that day. I got up at 3:55 am to practice and had gone to bed late the night before. The problems in pranayama and meditation were more from diet and lack of sleep than anything. I was too hard on myself for one practice, but I know that if it happens ten more times that I am digging a hole. “Going with the flow” and not having a journal or some tool of measurement would not bring out these revelations.
A New Reality in Yoga
We all need to throw aside our preconceived notions of what yoga is, what should be done after a yoga class, and our view of self-examination. As Abraham Maslow said,
“We are simultaneously Gods and Worms.”
Our mind needs some form of a system for stillness. It may not be a diary, but we all need tools to help still, control, and be at peace with our mind. Please ask any questions you want about my diary, or tell me about your system. One of the best ways to do a 30-day challenge is to do it with a friend. You don’t need to share entries, moreover discuss with each other the general nature of the experience.
As we record our experiences, our life will become a little more poetic, and we will start to find more synchronicity in mundane, ordinary existence. What could be better than that?