When she steps off the mat—be it at home, in her local studio, or after headlining a major festival—author and founder of Teach.yoga Elena Brower practices visual journaling to center her thoughts and channel her creativity. She’s been using art to supplement her daily musings since the late ’90s, and even decades later it continues to impact her life in profound ways.
“My mom died just a few months prior to me beginning to work on the book and I would wake up every day at 5 AM, just naturally, and I would start painting,” Brower says of how the beautiful visualizations in her new book, Practice You: A Journal, came to be. “Then, I would just sit quietly for a while, maybe going through a book or one of my old notebooks—and a writing prompt would come to me.”
Each page of Practice You has a phrase or question meant to spark internal reflection, and space to either write or draw what comes up. For Brower, creating the visual journal was about healing. “I learned profound grief can be a source of inspiration, and not to run from it,” she says.
Wondering what visual journaling could do for you? Keep reading for three ways it can change your life, plus to see behind-the-scenes photos of Brower creating her book and three sample pages to print out (old school, I know) and try the practice firsthand.
Scroll down to learn more about visual journaling—and to try it first-hand.
1. You learn what’s holding you back—and what inspires you
Brower explains that one big benefit of visual journaling is that it puts you more in touch with yourself. “You realize very quickly and easily what exactly is stopping you from accomplishing something, as well as what lights you up,” she explains. “To be able to see on paper the obstacle that’s holding you back and get comfortable with that—or even just having a laugh at it—takes you one step closer to removing it from your life.”
2. You get to break the rules
When asked how she sees people using her book, going in order page by- page or opening to one at random, Brower says there is no wrong way to go about it. “I encourage people to do whatever it is they wouldn’t normally do,” she says. “So if you’re inclined to go in order, try picking a page at random. It stretches your capacity to think in a new way.”
Brower says one of the best parts of visual journaling is that there are no rules. “Don’t be afraid to make a mess,” she says. “Don’t worry about what things look like or the trace you’ll leave behind. Just be free.”
3. It gets the creative juices flowing
Once you start taking the time to be creative on a regular basis, you’ll find that it’s easier to access that part of yourself in other situations, too—like at work. Brower says for her, visual journaling even made her yoga practice stronger—tapping into herself happened more easily because it was something she was doing regularly outside of the studio.
If you want to try visual journaling but don’t know where or how to start, print out the below three pages from Brower’s book as a guide. (And if you want to print out a second copy to just hang on your wall—they’re seriously pretty, right?—I strongly support you.)