Don’t “Should” Me.

Via Joslyn Hamilton
on Aug 13, 2013
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I'll be taking your advice never

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:

“You should….”

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 three-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.

I think the practice of yoga can be 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 15 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.

Mount Tamalpais, where I most often trek here in the Bay Area, 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:

hiking 4
Mt. Tam at sunset — Mill Valley, CA
hiking 3
Tennessee Valley Beach in Marin County, CA — only accessible by hiking in
hiking 2
Hiking in Mill Valley, CA
Hiking 1
The view of Tennessee Valley Beach from the Marin Headlands in Marin County, CA































































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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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 [email protected]


10 Responses to “Don’t “Should” Me.”

  1. Wendy says:

    I smiled through reading this. Thank you for saying what needed to be said. I've learned to gently say "Well thank you….maybe that's YOUR should…" (should's usually are). Although I really try not to 'should' on myself. I can thank Byron Katie and Loving What Is for that. I too can eat everything that nobody else can (other than MSG) and I feel just fine……

    One of the things I have been pondering the past few weeks is the idea that we are not supposed to experience pain, sickness, or difficulty so we rush to find a remedy without first asking the question "what do I need to pay attention to". So many outside, and well meaning 'shoulds' are born trying to fix rather than listen to ourselves. And indeed, sometimes there is a fix. Other times, its just pain. Its just part of life, part of growing older, part of being human. More and more, wisdom teaches me to simply hold that space for myself and others and keep moving to keep moving as I allow my body to age gracefully and grumpily. (I still practice yoga when I feel like it, ride my horse, take photo walks, and dance…..drink milk, eat gluten, AND grow kale, but not because anyone told me I should or shouldn't).

  2. Jeneen says:

    UGH! I have spent my whole adult life un-learning "should". Most of them I have said to myself, and anytime I talked to a professional they would as me, "OK, so you think you SHOULD, but do you WANT?" After all of these years, and all of this practice, including yoga, I'm finally learning that it's somewhat of a dirty word. No, I should NOT lose 5 pounds. No, I should NOT give up sugar (or any other food that I enjoy in moderation). No, I should NOT, should NOT, should NOT – just because you say so, and just because I say so.

  3. Lindsey says:

    Love it! I’m so tired of all the “shoulds,” they’re draining! I have committed to only doing what works for me!

  4. Lincoln says:

    I love this. Every time I am speaking to my therapist and I say the words "I should…so and so…" her response is always "Don't "should" all over yourself".

    I should tell her about this article… *wink, wink*

  5. yingyangyoga says:

    yes !!!!

  6. Hillary says:

    Love this article.. I actually had read into and decided to try the elimination diet as well.. Which I’m excited about.. But I agree with you on doing things based on knowing yourself and what’s best for us and not based on what others believe we should do..

  7. kevin says:

    Nice. Sometimes I'm a little more base and say "Don't should on me!"
    (I should on myself quite enough, thank you very much !)

  8. Candace Magnuson says:

    FREEDOM! Hallelujah!

  9. Bryan says:

    Thank you for this. I too have lived in the bay area for many years, been through the studio regime, teacher training's, blah blah blah, and prefer Mt. Tam to most people any day. People are so caught in asana. It will not make you enlightened folks. It will not cure every ailment you have. In fact the way people practice it, it is making you more imbalanced physically and mentally and you don't even have a clue. Wait another ten or twenty years. There is so much more to yoga then asana. Asana is just the beginning. And no it is not for everyone.

  10. Brooke says:

    I agree, asana is only the beginning! And it should be teaching you to listen to your body and give it what it needs. If that happens to not be yoga, then so be it. 😉 Personally, I love yoga….and asana. I needed it. I have always been very spiritual, so much so, that at times I felt completely disconnected with the world, but what brought me to yoga was that I was feeling very disconnected from my body. I was running 5 miles a day and it had started to seriously drain me and I realized I had no clue what my body was feeling or what it needed. I started practicing asana to get back to it and to have another way to move my body that wouldn't drain it but hopefully bring it back to life. After almost two years I can say that it is defn for me, but I recognize that it is not for everybody. Everyone is different and what resonates with one person physically, mentally, or spiritually may not resonate with others..and it shouldn't have to. Bravo for speaking your truth even when it's not necessarily "popular."