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  • Writer's pictureBrandy Berlin

From Bliss to Bewilderment: The Importance of Critical Thinking in Minimizing Harm in Wellness

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Each year right around this time I get a fresh spurt of energy. As a former high school teacher, when many of my friends were cooked, I somehow felt a wellspring of inspiration emerge. I heard a part of myself saying, “This year is done. No sense beating yourself up for what didn’t quite work. (Cuz I’m REAL good at self-flagellation.) Ya got the whole summer ahead of you. What do you want to shift going into summer that will change how you start your school year in the fall?” Then, I’d hang out with that question in the background and see what surfaced. Oftentimes, I’d get ideas right away, so I’d jot them down for later, and then as summer wrapped her arms around me I’d get wisps of insight while I was walking in nature or swimming in a lake.


This year stuff I’d set aside from last fall is pushing up through the soft dirt, stuff with roots that go REAL DEEP for me. I’ve also been chasing around the question of “Where do I begin?” and heard, “Ya gotta start somewhere, anywhere, just start – so I am.” So here we go…


Photo credit: Adam Peterson

Differentiating Fact from Fiction

In the vast and ever-evolving world of yoga and wellness, it is essential to recognize that not all claims are created equal. I don't know if ya noticed but peeps, myself included, are making lots of claims about what could be helpful or harmful to us. While the intentions behind promoting practices and products in this industry may often be positive, we must also acknowledge that harm can be unintentionally caused if we don't apply critical thinking to the claims made. In my past, I’ve made claims that I now know hurt others and myself. And it’s for that reason, I’ve re-committed to my PRACTICE OF CRITICAL THINKING. (Imagine I’m real excited when ya get the CAPS!)


The Pitfalls of Blind Acceptance

By blindly accepting and embracing every claim without question, we run the risk of perpetuating misinformation, false promises, and potentially harmful practices. For instance, there may be claims of miraculous healing powers, quick fixes for mental health issues, or promises of achieving physical perfection or spiritual enlightenment through certain yoga poses or wellness products. Without critical thinking, we may fall prey to the allure of these claims, investing our time, energy, and resources in pursuits that ultimately prove futile or even detrimental to our well-being.


For me, EVEN AS A FORMER TEACHER OF CRITICAL THINKING, when I accepted the invitation to “trust the process”, I thought of it as a “new way of thinking” that I had not explored. My mind framed it as “intellectual humility” which is something I highly value. Raised a good little Baptist girl, I wanted to reconnect to faith. Being encouraged to set aside my skepticism (and really dismiss the many red flags) seemed like uncharted territory. Maybe I was too critical? Maybe I was overthinking things? Was my critically-trained mind locking me out of discovering new and fruitful landscapes? Being a curiosity junkie, I wanted to know. I wanted to learn. I wanted to experience rather than summarily dismiss it because it was different from what I had already done. And, that’s a good thing. Except. Except when the challenge to our way of thinking is actually asking us not to think. Then, it’s actually indoctrination. Then it causes harm.


The Ripple Effect

And that harm extends beyond ourselves to others in our community. When we uncritically amplify and share misleading or false claims, we contribute to a culture of misinformation and potentially influence others to make choices that could harm them physically, mentally, or emotionally. This is what happened to me. This is what I did, and I own that. And this is how I begin to correct it. It is our responsibility to ensure that we promote practices and ideas that are evidence-based, safe, and aligned with the principles of holistic well-being.


Charting Your Course

Critical thinking acts as our compass in navigating the complex landscape of yoga and wellness. It empowers us to question the validity, authenticity, and effectiveness of claims before embracing them wholeheartedly. By cultivating a healthy dose of skepticism and honing our ability to analyze information critically, we become better equipped to discern between what is supported by evidence and what is simply wishful thinking or marketing hype. It’s not about never having faith. It’s about being willing to trust, and also knowing how to vet the shit we learn and teach, so we are practicing satya.


More Than a (Quick) Fix

When we think critically, we delve into the depths of claims, seeking reliable sources, examining scientific research, and consulting trusted experts. We explore the origins, cultural context, and potential motives behind the claims made in the yoga and wellness industry. We recognize that the path to well-being is multifaceted and nuanced, and it cannot be reduced to quick fixes or one-size-fits-all approaches. And that takes time and a certain skill set, a skill set that is often poo-pooed in an industry often quite vocally in favor of more magical ways of thinking. It’s like we lose yogi points if we don’t “just trust our intuition.” Intuition is something, but it ain’t everything. And what the hell IS intuition, anyway - beyond the New Age definition you may have encountered? (More on that in a later blog…)


The Making of Empowered Advocates

By engaging in critical thinking, we not only protect ourselves from falling into the traps of false claims but also foster a more responsible and informed community. We become advocates for evidence-based practices, authentic teachings, and ethical conduct within the yoga and wellness industry. Through our commitment to critical thinking, we contribute to a shift in the narrative, promoting transparency, integrity, and accountability. But, remember not all communities or community leaders want that to actually happen. In capitalist commerce, having informed consumers as empowered advocates could cut into control tactics and profits. It’s our job to be responsible consumers of what passes as knowledge especially before we pass it on to others. I know it is increasingly difficult to do these days especially with so much misinformation and with AI on the rise, but you will pick up the skills to do it just like other skills you want and need – like cooking or roller skating or yoga.


My Prayer

May we whole-heartedly embrace the power of critical thinking for the good of all and especially those who have been harmed by unscrupulous wellness practices.


May we question, investigate, and challenge the claims made in the wellness industry to ensure that we make choices that genuinely support our well-being.


May we together cultivate a community that upholds the highest standards of authenticity, compassion, and empowerment.


Let us remember that our choices and actions have the potential to create a ripple effect, shaping not only our own lives but also the lives of others.

In our quest for understanding, let us honor the interconnectedness of all beings. May our commitment to thoughtful inquiry contribute to a culture that values evidence, nurtures well-being, and empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their own health and happiness.


As we conclude this prayer, may we carry the torch of critical thinking in our hearts and minds, illuminating the path ahead with clarity, discernment, and integrity. Let us be the ambassadors of a mindful and empowered approach to these beautiful, bountiful wisdom traditions. Let it be so. Aho.



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