Don’t “should” me
By Joslyn Hamilton
Because I worked in the yoga world for so long as a yoga teacher, assistant and manager of various yoga studios and businesses, pretty much any time I run into an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a while, their very first question is: “So, you still doing yoga?”
To which I say, “No,” and try to change the subject.
But that never works. Because in the Bay Area, where I live, saying you don’t do yoga is like saying you choose not to pay your taxes or decided to grow a third nipple just for the hell of it. It incites shock and awe (and pity), and people need to know more. So then I have to get into it. And lately, I’m realizing that the one thing I am more sick of than the yoga world is talking about how sick I am of the yoga world.
You’re probably wondering why I am taking the time to write about how sick I am of talking about yoga. Touché, indeed.
But recently I put my finger precisely on what it is that bugs me. If I had to dial it down to one single thing about the culture of the yoga world that repels me, it is sentences that start with these words:
If you’ve spent any time at all around yoga people, you know what I’m talking about.
“You should have a home practice.”
“You should cut out gluten.”
“You should read the new Eckhart Tolle book.”
“You should eat more kale.”
“You should exercise in the early morning. For your dosha.”
You should you should you should you should you should… STOP!
When someone starts a sentence with the words “You should…” my ears close up involuntarily. Tell me about your experience. Tell me what worked for you. Tell me—and while you are telling me, keep in mind that I am not you. I am a wizened old lady who has spent a lot of decades figuring herself out. And I know me way better than you know me.
I know, for instance, that I am not gluten intolerant. I know this because I once did a rigorous 3-month elimination diet where I cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol and nightshade vegetables for God’s sake. And guess what? It turns out that not only can I eat gluten, but dairy is also no problem whatsoever. So, that’s not it. (By the way, the reason I did this elimination diet is because my acupuncturist said “You should…” but she is exempt from all of this because she’s brilliant.)
I’m glad cutting out gluten worked for you. I’m touched that you’re inspired to share your success with me and everyone else within earshot at any possible opportunity. But. Boundaries. We’re not the same person.
When it comes to the practice of yoga, I think it’s a great thing. I know people whose daily practice has literally saved their lives. For others, it’s saved their backs/necks/knees/spirits/whatever. And that is really, really great. No, I mean it. It’s terrific. For them.
But for me, after fifteen years of asana practice, I know that yoga isn’t the be-all end-all to my problems. Yes, it can make me feel good and calm me down. It also sometimes jacks my shoulder, and then I have to sleep with a heating pad on it. And don’t even talk to my left knee about yoga. Thankfully, after cutting back on asana across the spectrum of styles and intensities, and then taking up hiking, my knees are happy again.
Besides how it treats my knees, there is another, much bigger reason that I love hiking so much. Mt. Tamalpais, where I most often trek, never says “You should…” It just says, “Here I am, if you want to.” But it doesn’t take it personally if I choose not to hike.
And talk about spiritual experiences:
About Joslyn Hamilton
Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org