Why You Don't Need Yoga
2019’s got me wondering when I became a PA on the set of MTV’s The Real World because it’s a straight up yoga confessional over here these days.
Some of it legitimately breaks my heart. I’ve had people tell me that: (1) They’re “failing” because they haven’t gotten on their mat enough in 2019, (2) They’ve only attended two classes in their home studio this week — instead of the five, six, or seven classes they “should” be attending — and that makes them a shitty member of their yoga community, (3) They’re “lazy” or not working hard enough because they take too many “easy” modifications in their practice.
The saddest thing about all of these confessions is that the shame-infused subtext is more than just “I’m a bad yogi.” It’s “I’m a bad person.”
Darlings, for the love, PLEASE stop saying this stuff to yourself. Please stop believing it when someone else says some sort of slickly spiritualized version of this stuff to you, even if it’s your teacher (ESPECIALLY if it’s your teacher).
Here is the truth: You do not need yoga. You can live a big, beautiful, grounded, healthy, mindful, connected, kind life without it.
Yoga is just a practice. And your practice can be whatever YOU want it to be.
In my experience, all yoga does is simultaneously soften and strengthen you. And any practice — listen to me — ANY practice can do this. Meditate, paint in watercolor, go to therapy (yes, therapy is a practice), bake bread, write poetry, pray, belly dance, grow a garden, play guitar, swim laps, quilt. Each of these practices, done well (mindfully and somewhat consistently, with curiosity and honesty), will soften and strengthen you.
I don’t know what this softening and strengthening will bring you, but it brought me right into the very heart of myself. Yoga held my hand while I gathered the courage that I needed to move instead of standing still, even though I was terrified. Yoga somehow allowed me to relax myself open until the fearful, bossy, mean little gremlin that had such a tight, clenchy grip on my heart got quieter, smaller, and less powerful. And it was like waking up to myself.
Yoga didn’t heal me, it just helped me to get soft and strong so that I could start healing myself.
And I guess if painting in watercolor or belly dancing or writing poetry was what helped me wake up to myself, then that’s what I’d love and that’s probably what I’d be teaching.
So if you ever feel compelled to give yoga (or any practice) your complete and unquestioning allegiance or you start telling yourself that you are “good” or “bad” based on how closely you’re adhering to a rigid set of “shoulds,” STOP. Take a breath. Remind yourself that it’s not about the practice. The practice is just a tool.
It’s about what the practice brings you.
If the way you’re practicing is bringing you softness, strength, joy, equanimity, connection, and levity, awesome — keep doing exactly what you’re doing. If the way you’re practicing (or being told to practice) is bringing you brittleness, anxiety, pain, a lack of balance, guilt, tension, or a meaner inner gremlin, do something differently. Change anything that you need to change. Even if that means going against everything you’ve been told about what the “right” way to practice is.
YOU are your best teacher and your ultimate authority — don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise.