Make this the year you write your yoga bestseller
Have you ever thought you’d like to write a yoga book? In this blog post I'll share with you some writing tips, techniques, suggestions and encouraging words to get you started on your writing journey. (This post has been adapted from an article I wrote for the Summer 2020 edition of Spectrum, the official magazine of the British Wheel of Yoga).
Write Your Passion
Is there a subject you’re really interested in that sparks your curiosity? Is it like an itch and you can’t rest until you’ve found the answer? Is there something that makes you so indignant that you want to do something about it to bring about change? Yes? Well come on then…get writing! You are unique and only you can tell this story in your own unique way, and, if you don’t tell it, it will go forever untold.
Writing, for me, is about curiosity. When I get intrigued by a subject, it becomes like a puzzle that I want to solve through the writing process. My original motivation to write was that I wanted to solve the mystery of women’s involvement in (or absence from) the history of yoga. I wanted to know what an authentic women’s yoga would look like if over the millennia yoga, instead of being handed down from father to son, it had been handed down through a female lineage from mother to daughter. It was trying to solve this mystery that led me, in a roundabout way, to develop a seasonal approach to yoga, and to write my first book, Yoga Through the Year.
If you want to write…my best advice to you is…well write! If you have ideas in your head, then get them down on paper (or digital equivalent). Nowadays, there are so many opportunities to practice your writing. You can mindfully text, tweet, email, blog, write a card, or even a letter to someone. To be honest when I started writing I didn’t think of myself as the sort of person who would get a book published. I didn’t know anyone who moved in those circles. My main motivation for writing was that I was curious, and I wanted to share my ideas. So, I created websites. I blogged. I wrote newsletters. I shared my ideas and I gave them away for free. My Seasonal Yoga website attracted thousands of visitors and I received many complimentary emails, and so it dawned on me that lots of people shared my passions and wanted to take part in this conversation too.
I think the internet is a wonderful thing, especially for women, as we can get our ideas out there and bypass the usual gatekeepers. So, my advice to you is, get started, get writing, get your ideas out there and build a community of like minds to cheer you on. Take one step at a time and have faith that it will lead you a step closer to becoming a published author.
Write With Mindfulness
Writing a book requires a lot of stamina. Along the way your writing can be a nourishing, spiritual practice if you bring the same mindfulness to it that you bring to your yoga practice. In fact, your yoga practice is a great asset to your writing because it relaxes you and gives you access to your unconscious mind where all your best and most original ideas reside. For me yoga and writing go hand in hand. Before I start a piece of writing I do ten minutes of mindful walking, and my focus for the meditation will be whatever I am writing about that day. I find this a great way of freeing up my ideas. As I walk, I’m aware of the contact my feet are making with the earth beneath me. I allow ideas to come and go, and if my mind wanders off to everyday concerns, I gently bring it back to focusing on my chosen writing theme. Try it and I’m sure you’ll be inspired!
All my books have been written using a technique called writing meditation. It’s a great way to get your ideas flowing, shift creative blocks, and gain access to the wisdom of your subconscious mind. Personally, I like the physicality of writing with pen and paper. However, it’s fine to work digitally too.
Set your timer (for 10-20 minutes) and start writing. Keep your pen in contact with the paper and keep writing until your timer goes. Write down whatever comes into your head. Your aim is to capture the stream of thoughts and feelings as they flow through your mind. Let go of your inner editor! It doesn’t matter how off the wall your thoughts are, just get them down! Later, after the meditation has finished, you can read through and separate the nougats of gold from the stones and grit. But for now, just keep that pen moving! Be reassured that whatever you write down during your meditation is for your eyes only! No need to pay attention to handwriting, neatness, spelling, grammar, presentation etc.
Be aware of the physical act of writing and how it feels to be someone sitting here writing. Relax any parts of your body that don’t need to be engaged with the act of writing. If you find that you’re tensing up, slow your writing down, consciously relax, and reconnect with the flow of your breath. At the same time keep writing! A relaxed attitude will help you to access your subconscious mind, and it’s here that we uncover our gold.
Learn to Write
I’d been working for a few years on my first book when it struck me that I didn’t know how to write! Yes, I could string words together on paper and I had no shortage of ideas, but in order to convey my ideas more effectively I needed to learn writing skills and to master my craft. It was a humbling moment, and it did slow me down considerably as I set myself the task of completing a course on writing. This paid off, as subsequently I started getting articles published in yoga magazines and it eventually led to my first book, Yoga Through the Year, being accepted for publication.
It's fine to be experimental in your writing, but you’ll be a better communicator if you’ve taken the time to learn your craft. For example, take the artist Picasso, his work is pure iconoclastic genius. However, it only works because he knows the rules of drawing and painting and so can confidently break them.
Behind Every Good Book is a Great Editor
When you start out on your writing journey remember not to put your Inner Editor in the driving seat, as they will relentlessly criticise your writing and convince you that it’s rubbish. At this early stage on the path this is not what you need! Instead try to cultivate self-compassion and kindness for yourself, as this will create the right conditions for creativity to grow and flourish. However, once your confidence has grown you will need to reinstate your Inner Editor, who at this stage has an important job to do of discerning what’s good writing and what is not.
Give yourself time to build up confidence and resilience before you share your work with others; done too soon and it will set you back. However, when you’re ready take the plunge and share what you’ve written with trusted others. It takes the loneliness out of writing and helps you to feel part of a community.
Whilst I was writing Yoga Through the Year, before I’d got a publishing deal, I enlisted a group of trusted readers to read chapters of the book and give me feedback. I selected readers with different skills to offer. One was great at spotting typos and bad grammar. Another was a “critical friend” sometimes giving me advice I didn’t want to hear but that helped to improve my writing. Still another was chosen because she had a great knack of cheering me on.
All the above steps in this article will prepare you for the big day when you submit your finished manuscript to a publisher. I was lucky, the first publisher I approached accepted my seasonal yoga book. Fortunately, my editor saw something in my raw talent and was prepared to nurture it, and with her help (and lots of red lines through my original manuscript) together we made my Yoga Through the Year book the best it could be.
For me getting my first book published (and soon my second) is a dream come true! I hope your dreams of writing a yoga best seller come true too. Moreover, I hope that your writing journey transforms you and that you learn something new along the way. Enjoy the ride!
The seasonal meditation questions are a key component of the Seasonal Yoga approach. We use them every six weeks or so to correspond with the solstices, equinoxes, and seasonal transition points. The questions are a series of open inquiries that will help you do the following:
Here's an example of some Summer Solstice meditation questions:
My favourite way of working with the meditation questions is to combine them with a walking meditation. So, to do this I set my timer for 10 minutes, and then I walk and meditate upon the questions. I walk back and forth across the downstairs floor of my house, gently turning the meditation questions over in my mind. Then when my timer goes off, I make myself a cup of tea, and I sit down and write for 10-20 minutes, jotting down any insights I've gained from meditating upon the questions.
You can also work with the meditation questions when you are outside on a walk, during a sitting meditation, or whilst holding a yoga pose. For those of you who are short of time, there are a few quick and easy ways of working with the questions. Simply read the meditation questions through before you go to bed and trust that your subconscious and universal conscious will come up with answers to the questions. You might also integrate one of the questions into an activity that you are doing anyway, such as walking to your car, walking along a corridor at work, exercising at the gym, jogging, showering, and so on.
The seasonal meditation questions are an accessible way to begin your Seasonal Yoga journey. And if you commit to devoting some time to working with them every six weeks or so, your life will be enriched for it. Once you are in the habit of using them regularly, your life flows better, you’re well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that come your way, and you’ll find ways to make your dreams come true!
Full details of how to work with the Seasonal Meditation Questions can be found in the Yoga Through the Year book pages 13-19.
See also: Seasonal Meditation Questions Summer, Recognise Your Losses and Celebrate Your Achievements
The light half of the year, between the winter solstice and the summer solstice, is energising, expansive, and supports activity. It's associated with sunlight, fire, radiating, expansion, waxing, pushing, effort, action, extroversion, and outer activities. During this time, the sun’s energy is waxing, the light is expanding, and the days are getting longer and warmer.
Generally speaking, this light half of the year favours an outward focus, with an emphasis on action and outward achievements. We use the season’s fiery, expansive energy to make things happen and to get things done. But…things are different this year… and getting things done and making things happen has been a challenge for all of us as we've wrestled with the restrictions put in place because of the global pandemic. The virus has swept away the dreams of many, leaving in its wake both bigger and smaller losses. Let's bear this in mind when we come to use the Summer Solstice seasonal meditation questions that focus on the theme of celebrating and assessing our achievements. You will get the maximum healing and self-knowledge from the following meditation questions if you approach them with kindness, compassion, and curiosity.
Summer Solstice Meditation Questions: Celebrating Achievements
The above meditation questions can provide you with an opportunity to get in touch with feelings such as disappointment at projects that didn't happen due to the pandemic. Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge that this has been a truly tough time to live through. Also, congratulate yourself for what you have achieved despite the pandemic. Perhaps you have mastered new technologies to keep in touch with colleagues, friends, and loved ones. Or maybe you were resilient and versatile enough to redirect your skills into new, unexpected avenues. Or you've been working full-time from home and somehow managing also to tutor your kids who are off school. If depression is a problem for you, then congratulate yourself that somehow day after day you got up, got dressed, showered and faced each day, one day at a time, and somehow got through it. Remember, yoga teaches us not to compare ourselves with others (a tough call in these airbrushed social media days!). Recognise what you have achieved, be it big or small, and treat yourself with kindness and love. You deserve it!
It's worth approaching the meditation questions with a sense of humour. During a writing meditation yesterday, in answer to the question, “Which seeds failed to germinate and how would I do things differently next time to ensure success?”, I wrote (tongue in cheek), "I would do things differently next time by arranging for there not to be a global pandemic!"
In my next post I will share with you a variety of ways that you can work with the meditation questions.
See also my previous post: Seasonal Meditation Questions Summer
A full set of meditation questions and guidance about how to work with them can be found in my Yoga Through the Year book.
The seasonal meditation questions are my favourite part of the seasonal yoga approach that I've developed in the Yoga Through the Year book. They are specific to the season you are in and will help you to align your own energy, plans, and dreams, to the ebb and flow of the energy of the season you are in. I find working with them always brings something out into the light that had been previously hidden, and in doing so I am helped to overcome obstacles and move forward with my life.
In the next few blog posts I'll look at specific topics covered by the Summer Solstice meditation questions, and we can explore the challenges and opportunities that are present when working with them during these unprecedented times. I'll also share with you different ways of working with the questions depending on how much time you have available to you.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are a few days away from the Summer Solstice, and now is a good time to start working with the Summer Solstice meditation question ( a full set of questions can be found in the Yoga Through the Year book, pages 73-75). The questions will give you the space to reflect on the journey you have taken across the light half of the year, since the Winter Solstice; and the direction you want to take over the coming months as we enter the darker half of the year.
What a year 2020 has been so far! Usually summer is a very yang, outward going time. It's a time for pushing your ideas out into the world and the emphasis is on outward action and achievement, rather than contemplation and simply being. It's usually a time for getting together with friends, outside community events, travel to beautiful places. However, this year it's all different, many of us are quarantined, physically distancing ourselves from other people, each in our own little bubble. With this in mind I was wondering how it would be to work with the meditation questions at this challenging time? Would they still be relevant when the whole world has been turned upside down by the virus? Yesterday morning I put aside some time to work with the Summer Solstice meditation questions, and I'm so glad I did! I can report back to you that even during the pandemic the questions are still relevant, and working with them will help you to review your year so far, to arrive firmly in the present, and to look forward to where you want to get to over the coming months.
In my next few posts I'll give you more guidance on working with the Summer Solstice meditation questions.
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Coronavirus: Finding Peace in Troubled Times
The next few weeks look set to be a challenging time as the world tries to find a way through and out of this coronavirus crisis.
Many of you will be self-isolating at home, so over the next few weeks I will regularly post simple, accessible yoga and mindfulness techniques to help you find your calm place in the midst of the storm. I will also post short, simple yoga practices for you to do at home.
Please consult the expert advice in your own country on keeping yourself safe and well during the pandemic.
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.