How To Make A Yoga Journal

November 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Jacqueline Austin

BKS Iyengar In Practice

A few years ago, Anna Delury, a long term practitioner and teacher of Iyengar yoga, handed me a tiny yoga newsletter.  She asked me and Linda Nishio, a designer and yoga teacher, to make it into a thriving journal for our Iyengar yoga community.  The only parts we were asked to keep were the title, Yoga Vidya, and the goal–a truthful expression of yoga.

Yoga Vidya is Sanskrit for “the yoga of knowledge.”  As avidya, lack of knowledge, is said by Patanjali, the creator of yoga, to be a major obstacle in the practice of yoga, our work was cut out for us by our title.

I asked our staff how best we might do yoga vidya in print form.  How could we use words and pictures and time to show yoga vidya in action in our big community?  How could we draw correctly from the roots of yoga, and make yoga vidya accessible to readers now and in the future?

Too often, words and news are, in and of themselves, opaque.  A beginner’s words might show a spirit of enthusiasm, but fail to show a reader how to practice.  An expert’s words might show experience, but fail in other ways, for example, in empathy.  And any two given articles, put together, are just as likely to show a community’s avidya in practice, as they are to show its vidya.

There is no better verbal grammar of yoga than that of the Yogasutras of Patanjali.  It is the text which first described yoga practice, and it has never been bettered.  So we decided that Patanjali would be our central design and visual focus, as well as our thematic focus.  Each issue, we would pick a sutra to become the backbone of that issue.  It would be our seasonal, thematic focus.  We would draw our structure from it.  And then, as strongly as possible, we would link our sutra to our community.  Where was our community expressing the dynamic of that sutra?  Where did we have work to do?

If sutras are rules for practice, then our entire community could be seen as one practitioner, and all the members of our community could be seen as that practitioner’s component parts.

If you are planning to make a yoga journal, I suggest that you do the same.  Have your staff pick a sutra for each issue.  Deconstruct the sutra into its component phrases.  Feel out the affect of each phrase and the whole, in context of the entire sutra.   Then ask your community for content, by writing individually to practitioners as well as sending out a general call.  Place your content within the issue to rhythmically activate each component in print, as literally and dynamically as you can.

Explore the medium of print as if it were connective tissue.  Like fascia, this medium is ubiquitous, unnoticed, exquisitely responsive and designed (within its constraints) to maximize freedom.  Thus it is literally a means of transport for the soul.

If you do kriya yoga, the yoga of action, then show people and groups in action.  This way, over time, your community can physically and historically track the karma caused by its actions.

Be inclusive, asking for content from practitioners of Iyengar yoga at every level, every age, and every stage (if it seems illuminating) of fitness or nature. Each practitioner speaks from a unique understanding.  Celebrate individual voices and visions, and ground them within the meaningful context of the whole.  Seek out practitioners from every point in your community, and honor their experience,  Over time, the change in collective consciousness, tracked concretely via visual and verbal changes in your printed documents, will give you each of you, and all of you, a stellar opportunity to engage in self-study on the level of the whole.

In each issue, I suggest that you also honor your lineage.  Place your community members in context.  Connect your local, national and international community laterally through geography; vertically through your teaching structure; and historically through time.  Maintain a correspondence with other yoga groups, one which will suggest actions for your future.

Print is a less tractable medium than that of the body.  But your teachers have guided you on your journey through the kosas (sheaths; levels).  I feel that their principles must be as applicable in our body of media, as they are in flesh.  Work to make the spirit of yoga plain and clear in your internal and external communications.  Check back with each contributor, do your best to fill gaps, and when you or your community make mistakes, rectify the error as best you can. Work to become as transparent as you can be, to the best health of your community.

Consider the internal flow of each issue as an asana sequence (sequence of poses).  Arrange your readers’ experience, if they’re going through the issue page by page, in the grammatic order of your chosen sutra.  

Because the present time is syntactically implied to be the most accessible, make the article which is most expressive of your sutra in the present, into the Page 1 cover story.  Make the article which is the best contrast to it, into the Page 1 color story–highlighting another aspect of the sutra.  Use a photo which brings this sutra into focus.

In the body of the issue, move on to instances of the past and future, rolling moments into movements, effects and changes of consciousness, in this small arena, in a way which you hope will be a joy for readers to experience.  Parallel the sutra, but leave room to breathe.

The contributions your community sends you, may be quite disparate, even raw.  But when they are nestled within the context of a sutra, their meaning will expand. Sometimes it is this rawness which seems most alive to readers–most free.

Then, after you have edited your journal for a couple of years, train the next editor.  Editing a yoga magazine is as much about training as it is about doing the job at hand.  Only when you pass it on, and see it grow, have you really done your job.

Here is what the current editor of our journal, Catherine Fisher, had to say about her task, when we transferred power to her.  “The printed word is alive with meaning–it breathes and it speaks to us.  Words, in yoga, are expressions of living experience, of moment-by-moment truth.  While people change, words stay stable.  This piece of paper with words on it is a vital reflection today, but it has an equal, though perhaps a different, presence tomorrow and in the days to come.

“We are passing on all this information to the next generation.  This journal weaves through cycles of time and carries with it aspects of time, some of which roll onwards with time into the future, remaining as relevant tomorrow as they were yesterday or are today.”

The task of an editor is like that of a mother rocking a cradle.  As the artifact moves, gently holding nature whether it is night or day, the child who rests within can wake, receive its nourishment, and grow in peace, toward kaivalya, freedom.

Copyright 2011 by Jacqueline Austin.  All rights reserved.  Adapted from “From Sutra To Community,” an article originally published in Yoga Vidya, The Journal of Iyengar Yoga of Southern California, 2008, with thanks to Anna Delury.

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