How to Create a Successful Writing Ritual with the Help of Ayurveda
When was the last time you wrote something that made you feel good? From emails to texts to social media posts, we have no shortage of opportunities to engage with language—but not always in a way that feels particularly harmonious or nourishing.
These modes of productive, essential, even transactional communication can be a source of depletion for many, yet being able to express yourself through words is essential to maintaining the mind-body-spirit balance at the heart of Ayurveda.
We all have things we need to express, and writing provides the perfect opportunity. Journaling is a place to experiment. Be creative. Rant. Remember. Regret. Rejoice. Release.
In this article:
- The Healing Power of a Daily Writing Practice
- How Writing Relates to Ayurveda and the Doshas
- How to Set Yourself Up for a Successful Writing Ritual
- Parting Words
Writing doesn’t come easily for many people. Whether they’re burned out from sending emails all day or scarred from too many writing assignments in school, there are many reasons why putting pen to paper might not appeal.
At the same time, expressing ourselves through writing can be a key to unlocking some of the psychological congestion that builds up throughout our days and provide a space for mental and emotional healing to take place.
Writing and Digestion
Just like the body needs to digest and eliminate the food we ingest, the mind needs to process what we take in through our senses.
Whether it’s body-food or mind-food, if it stays in the system too long, it will result in feelings of indigestion (or ama): brain fog, fatigue, sluggishness, poor digestion, body aches, even illness, sadness, anxiousness, and more.
By putting pen to paper, you’re transferring “food” from your mind through your hand into your pen and onto the page, allowing for a release of whatever might be clogging up your brain such that you can be fully present in the now.
While engaging in this act of digestion and expression, we want to keep our physical digestion, or agni, strong as well. It’s all too easy, especially for those with a lot of vata or pitta, to get lost in their words and forget to eat, setting off a cycle of irregular or imbalanced digestion.
Balancing Vata with Embodied Writing
Writing is also a powerful healing tool because it balances vata dosha. Like all forms of expression, writing is a vata-heavy activity, involving an inherent mobility of thoughts and a creative element driven by the air and ether elements.
While there are many ways to express yourself—talking, drawing, punching a pillow—writing balances heady vata by adding embodiment into the mix.
Below are some basic ways of understanding writing through an Ayurvedic lens, ways to prepare for a fruitful writing practice, and prompts to get the creative juices flowing. We hope these tips will shine a light on how the art of journaling can complement your existing dinacharya (or daily routine), or if you are already writing, help deepen your practice.
There is a saying in Ayurveda that everything can be medicine or poison, depending on the person, time, and place. The same can be said for writing. As writers and Ayurvedic practitioners, we’ve seen that the ways we engage with writing in relation to our doshas can be key in setting up the conditions for writing to be a healing modality1:
- Vata takes the lead when it comes to writing, churning out thoughts and ideas as it sends our pen racing across the page.
- Pitta is the glow that analyzes and transforms our thoughts and feelings into something coherent and clear.
- Kapha provides the container in which all this energy is flowing.
Let’s take a moment to meet the doshas at their writing desks.
The Vata Writer
Writing itself, as a form of communication that streams from the mind, is an inherently vata-stoking activity. Those with vata in their constitution might feel particularly drawn to this practice, but the air and ether elements that make verbal expression so easy for vata can also present challenges when it comes to creating structure and stability.
Vatas tend to write their notes on whatever is available, which can mean their writing accumulates on random scraps of paper, strewn in a variety of notebooks, or even in a pile of Post-Its. On these scraps you’ll see flourishes, hearts, flowers, circles around specific thoughts, and words going in every direction.
A vata’s journal, if they have one, might look like a hodgepodge of random lists, notes from dreams, and doodles, all living side by side.
Balancing their tendency for disorganization, vatas will benefit from finding a place to record their thoughts in a more standardized way. Using the container of a physical journal or a distraction-free screen can help support their creative spirit.
The Pitta Writer
Considering the combination of fire and water at the heart of pitta, their writing practice will embody passion, precision, perfectionism, and productivity. Even a healing or reflective journaling activity will likely manifest as a sharp mental analysis.
As pittas strive for the best of the best, their journals will be of the highest quality to reflect the standards they have for what will go inside. Their handwriting is neat as a pin, etched between the lines in small, precise letters, never straying in thought or deed.
Jennifer once had a childhood friend (a true pitta, though she didn’t know it at the time) who used to write atop a ruler to keep her letters straight! We’ve seen these types in our practices, too, when they show up armed with laminated pages of food diaries, spreadsheets of their dinacharya practices, and chronological and color-coded medical records.
Letting go of perfectionism and allowing themselves to expand outside the lines (literally!) might allow the pitta writer to relax, go with the flow, and accept a little more ease.
The Kapha Writer
Kapha is the dosha known for being grounded and serene, qualities that ideally balance the more mobile and mental task of writing. Their attunement to deep emotions also makes this cathartic practice beneficial for keeping their feelings flowing through them, rather than getting stuck.
Because kapha is at home in the physical world, they’ll have no problem cozying up to the stuff of writing. The act of choosing a chunky, substantial, lined, and aesthetically pleasing journal that they can hold—and horde—may even overshadow their desire to actually write!
Because kaphas need more time than other doshas to feel fully prepared for any task, writing rituals that support accountability like classes or challenges are a great way to coax them to the page. When they do get there, though, they’ll write in large, loopy letters, usually two lines to a sentence.
Jennifer once heard someone describe reading their grandmother’s diaries from the mid-twentieth century, which were detailed accounts of everything her husband and children did, ate, and felt during the day; she, on the other hand, was completely absent.
Letting kapha shine front and center on the pages of their journal may be a challenge, but it can also be one of the few places where they feel they’re allowed to have their needs met first.
No matter what dosha is holding the pen, creating rituals around the practice of writing allows it to be an enjoyable, sustainable, and digestible part of your dinacharya. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it works for you. A few lines in the morning can be enough, and a longer stretch, if you can carve out the time, clears the space to find a more prolific flow.
The conditions needed for this work are ultimately those of sattva: peaceful, grounded, and pleasing to the senses. Through clarity of body and mind, we can let our thoughts, emotions, and dreams move through us rather than getting stuck in the channels of the mind.
It can also be useful to settle the physical body through gentle movement and breathwork. A simple stretch of the arms overhead or a few yoga postures will get any stagnant prana flowing and allow for a more comfortable seat while writing.
Setting the Scene
When choosing a setting for your writing, you may prefer to get out of your home, where distractions—people, animals, dishes, laundry—abound, ready to distract you from your self-care. Escaping to a park or a cafe, or even riding in the metro, can provide the solitude needed to write without interruption.
The din of the espresso machine and the hum of activities around you can be calming and grounding, or those same details might prove to be too distracting and draw you out of your ability to focus inward.
Rather than trying to home in on a perfect spot to write, consider the qualities that will balance each dosha:
- Vata: safe, contained, warm—such as an oversized reading chair next to a fire
- Pitta: expansive, playful, compassionate—such as a park or other outdoor space
- Kapha: motivating, stimulating, visible—a neighborhood cafe, library, or group class
Regardless of where you choose to write, consider the principles of the ancient Vedic art of order and placement, Vastu Shastra. Facing north, east, or northeast will offer creative expression and mental support. Facing south, west, or southwest can drain you of your creativity and energy.
You may also try using your favorite essential oil to set the scene. Good choices include floral and woody scents for vata, sweet, cooling essential oils for pitta, and uplifting oils for kapha.
Susan has a writing space set up in her sunroom, with her desk facing northeast, her favorite pens collected in one place, and various journals on hand. She also keeps a basket of colored pencils nearby in case the urge to draw arises. Taking the time to set an intentional space facilitates the process of digestion that is writing.
Times of Day
Ayurveda divides the day according to dosha, which helps us decide when to eat, exercise, rest—and write. The influence of the energy at any given time of day may help or hinder your writing practice, so experiment with different times and see what works best for you.
Here are the general qualities of each time of day for you to keep in mind:
- Vata Time of Day: 2–6 a.m. or p.m. Many of us are not awake in those early morning hours, but vata’s influence may produce writing that is free-form, fluid, or responding to dreams. The afternoon can bring another gust of vata creativity, but it could be a little less focused and perhaps more creative.
- Kapha Time of Day: 6–10 a.m. or p.m. Kapha time is the winding up and winding down period, a natural time for reflection and cozying up for story time—think bedtime stories for kids or gathering around a fire. If you find yourself dwelling in stuck emotions during these periods, it’s not just you—kapha likes to hold onto things. You might choose to write through emotions during vata or pitta time so they can move along and be digested with more ease.
- Pitta Time of Day: 10–2 a.m. or p.m. Writing that requires focus and efficiency might come naturally during this time. But beware the call to stay up too late past 10 p.m. to finally start that novel you’ve been dreaming about—our bodies need to sleep during the night!
A writing prompt is just an invitation to spark your creativity. You can use it as a jumping off point, stick to it and dig deep into your own experience, or come up with something completely new. Fiction, memoir, spoken word, poetry—it’s all good! Just keep your pen moving across the page.
If you get stuck, just write—we get stuck over and over again, and then suddenly we're unstuck. No one is watching, judging, or commenting on your work. Bring in your senses. What do you see? Smell? Taste? Feel? Hear? Go back to your body to help you find your way.
A nice, easy method to get into your writing practice is to think of a color, a food, or a season that you love and write about that. “Everything I know about the color blue.” “The best croissant and why.” “Coffee.” Anything that stimulates thought, ideas, and memories. Then go from there—go anywhere!
Let these prompts serve as the first lines to a piece of writing and see where you wind up.
- The last project I began was…
- What I forgot to tell you…
- The most beautiful thing I ever saw…
- Well, I certainly didn’t expect…
- Here’s how you make my favorite meal…
- Everything I know about snow…
- That time I thought I was wrong…
- I last felt appreciated when…
- I made a mistake, but…
- How to do _______...
- My hair...
- What my best friend loves about me…
- My idea of the perfect day…
- I love my favorite cafe because…
- The time I said no instead of yes…
- Write a love letter to yourself. Start off with these words: Dear [NAME], I love you because…
- Write your obituary. Don’t be shy! Recount your dreams, desires, and accomplishments, note what you want your legacy to be.
Let this activity be a chance to support your wholeness. Try not to edit yourself as you write. If using a computer, ignore red lines and auto-correct. It can be easier to write by hand and just let it flow, connecting to the theta state of mind which allows thought to move freely from the brain to the hand to the page.
If you haven’t done it before, it can be fun to look at your own writing. Which dosha best describes it and what can you learn from that? Perhaps you have more vata in you than you know! Is your pitta helping to keep you on task? Is your kapha expressing itself through earthy missives?
Enjoy the process of discovering yourself through your writing. Watch how the ebb and flow of the seasons of the year, and of your life, bring all the beautiful sides of your story together in just the right time, place, and words.