yoga ain’t self-help

For years I’ve struggled to articulate the purpose of yoga in my life, a struggle that only intensified when I became a Registered Yoga Teacher. I wasn’t any more wise the day I received the certification than I was the day before. I was more wise than I’d been a year before, and 5 years and so on, but was that yoga? Well, yes…  and no. Insofar as yoga was an integrated part of my life, it contributed to that growth. Would it have happened in the absence of yoga classes at a studio? Assuredly. In the absence of any practice? Perhaps not, but then I would have been a different person all together.

English: Blue Ridge Rollergirls doing yoga on ...

Image via Wikipedia

Yoga is a form of exercise, a form of meditation and a form of joy. Is walking self-help? You can make it that, but you can also just really dig it (I do). Hula-hooping now has its advocates for entrance into the woo-woo pantheon. Are all children who waggle their hips in a big PVC circle tube now being inducted into a cult of hoop? Of course not. And we’re mistaken if we think that “doing yoga” is a gateway to anything but joy and flexibility. Joy and flexibility can feel a lot like enlightenment, and yoga – like sitting, walking, hooping or standing – can be used as a pathway to enlightenment, sorority, belonging or a certain physical aesthetic.

If you think you require help in an area of your life, then by all means seek: read, research, consult, adapt. This is power. We all need help, and part of embracing change as the M.O. of life is seeking it rather than pushing it away. But filing yoga – or any other art – under “self-help” underestimates the beauty and joy of simply being, studying and engaging. Doing so also underestimates our own value, worth and struggles: self-help implies not only that we’re broken, but that we can be fixed and then return to some supposed normal.

What if there is no difference between the mind and body, spirit and mind? What if the things we experience as obstacles, problems and brokenness are paths to meaning, grace and beauty? What if there is no point in doing anything except that it enhances the beauty of life? What if the solutions aren’t fixes but facts, and support is just the air we breathe when we’re taking joy in our lives, in all their maddening mundanity? Then yoga isn’t self-help, it’s nothing more or less than joyous activity. Is there anything else?

One thought on “yoga ain’t self-help

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