Working On Yourself

Although yoga comes out of the East it fits nicely within a humanistic existential framework. You can think of humanism as the Western answer to Eastern philosophy. It, just like yoga, is concerned with Self-transcendence but it sees humans as ends in themselves, where the goal of life is to become the most human possible, to reach the fullest expression of your SelfIt doesn’t require a metaphysical realm to accomplish the task.

When we think of Eastern religions and spirituality we’re usually thinking about community, about the group over and above the individual, which is one reason why yoga is unique since it’s focused on the individual, on peeling back those layers in order to transcend your ego, leaving illusion behind to reach your true Self.

Psychoanalysis and other Western psychologies help clients do the exact same thing, though we would call ego illusions neuroses and rationalizations. The process of going inwards, of questioning thoughts and beliefs in order to reach a higher stage of consciousness, is the same. The underlying idea in both yoga and Western psychology is that working on yourself is a good thing, a necessary thing, and that with self-actualization comes benefits for everyone around you as you start to think and act differently, as you leave behind your egocentricity and narcissism, becoming a more open, more loving person.

Of course in yoga the deepest insight is that the light in me is the same as the light in you, that underneath those layers there is no difference between us. From an existential self-actualization point of view there are differences between us because self-actualization is not just about taking away neuroses and rationalizations but also about adding on, activating human potentialities, becoming the most fully expressed version of yourself, a version that is singularly unique.

Like we said, in a lot of ways humanistic existential thought and yoga philosophy are interchangeable. They are both highly concerned with the individual and seek to provide the individual with the tools and insight necessary for self-transcendence.

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