Heal THY-SELF?
Yoga Journal|November - December 2020
A new trend promises better mental wellness without the help of Western medicine. Is it unsafe—or just what we need?
By Ashley Ross

Over the past few years, self-care has shifted from expensive, instant-satisfaction indulgences such as manicures and massages toward consistently nourishing pursuits such as prioritizing sleep, developing a regular meditation practice, and spending time with loved ones. It’s an evolution, driven by a much-needed awareness for better mental health, that makes self-care more accessible and, as a breadth of research suggests, supports true, long-term well-being.

But even as outdated notions of self-care fade from our social media feeds, a new trend is cropping up: #selfhealers. Its followers posit that Western medicine isn’t the holy grail of healing, that an individual — as opposed to a physician, therapist, or health practitioner —already has the tools within themselves to recover from unhealed trauma, unhealthy relationships, mental health conditions such as anxiety, and even genetic diseases.

In pastel Instagram quotes adorned with inspiring captions (some examples: “Let shit go,” “Repeat positive affirmations,” and “Identify emotions”), the notion feels encouraging. Similarly promising is the advice of self-healers to find relief through tools such as shadow work (exploring the negative emotions and impulses of the self), Reiki and acupuncture (both of which can be used to treat mental as well as physical health), diet, yoga, Ayurveda, and unlearning codependency patterns. After all, there is plenty of evidence that many of these practices can improve mental wellness and overall well-being.

The potential dangers: The self-healing movement is vague and involves a defiance of research-backed science, medicine, and Western treatments that have been proven helpful to many people. Any message that discourages people from feeling like they can include treatments that could help them has the potential to do harm, says Nancy Zucker, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Duke University.

For example, if someone is suffering from anxiety and depression and feels that their current psychiatrist or medication isn’t working for them, they might interpret social media self-healing messages as needing to eschew psychiatry or medication altogether, instead of switching providers or drugs and combining those therapies with other self-care practices such as exercise and meditation.

Health care isn’t black or white and sometimes multiple approaches are needed. But every option should be on the table when you’re trying to work your way back to feeling balanced and whole, as we are in yoga, says Rebecca Butler, a yoga instructor in Fort Worth, Texas.

THE APPEAL OF DIY HEALING

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM YOGA JOURNALView All

Holotropic Breathing Ignites Boundless Joy

I’ve tried all sorts of breathwork practices, from the Wim Hof Method to three-part breath, but Holotropic breathing—a pattern of inhalations and exhalations designed to help practitioners access higher states of consciousness—was new to me.

3 mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

Here's How a Dublin Studio Fuses Modern Style and Safety During the COVID Era

In the midst of daily highs and lows, life unfolds in the gray middle area—and at the Space Between, a Dublin yoga studio that recently celebrated its first anniversary in the wake of a pandemic, it’s that challenging intersection of dark and light where yogis deepen their practice.

3 mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

I Started Resiliency School to Cultivate Peace in the Modern World

Sometimes life comes at you blow after blow. When that happens, how do you get up? How do you thrive?

7 mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

Grace Cathedral Fosters Inclusivity and Healing through Yoga

Before Covid-19 shuttered the city, on any given Tuesday in downtown San Francisco, hundreds of mat-toting yogis streamed up Nob Hill in droves to converge at the historic Grace Cathedral, a midcentury Episcopalian church the size of a football field where, in 1965, nearly 5,000 people gathered—spilling out into the streets—to hear a sermon from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

2 mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

3 Ways to... Ease a Headache

3 Ways to... Ease a Headache

2 mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

Find Your Flow

At specific points around the world, the earth churns with tangible, tingly energy at sites known as vortices, visited by those seeking connection, healing, or a good story to tell. Here’s your road map to six such hotspots in the Western United States—and what to do once you get there.

10+ mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

Come On Get Higher

Best-selling author and wellness educator Lalah Delia on raising your vibration to find your highest Self

10 mins read
Yoga Journal
January - February 2021

Pride and Joy

is teaching us to honor our highest selves—and tearing down patriarchal ideology in the process.

8 mins read
Yoga Journal
November - December 2020

Heal THY-SELF?

A new trend promises better mental wellness without the help of Western medicine. Is it unsafe—or just what we need?

7 mins read
Yoga Journal
November - December 2020

4 Steps to Help Manage Overwhelming Emotions

This challenging year has depleted our emotional well-being in unpredictable ways. During times like these, failing to remember our innate unbreakable wholeness—and its qualities of indestructible joy and peace—can cause us to overidentify with our emotional responses. Our egos may translate physical illness, emotional trauma, or even day-to-day challenges as “something’s wrong with me.”

2 mins read
Yoga Journal
November - December 2020