I remember my first yoga class at a community center. I didn’t know anybody, and I’m pretty sure nobody else knew anyone either. I remember thinking “this is weird,” because there were people of all different ages and backgrounds, with me being the youngest. To be honest, if we hadn’t come together in yoga class, I’m not sure any of us would have met to be friends. But here we were, creating a safe little tribe. And we did become friends, even across generational gaps and socio-economic boundaries.
You see, my favorite part of yoga has nothing to do with poses or breathing. Truth is my favorite part of yoga is community. The coming together of humans of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, ages, interests to share the same experience. That’s why I go back every day as a student and as a teacher. And science tells us that being in a healthy community is good for us. The vibration of positive minded people raises our vibrational frequency. This shared joy elevates our spirits and is talked about in Yoga Sutra Chapter 2.33 Pratipaksha Bhavana. Essentially the sutras spell out that if we are imbalanced mentally, physically, or emotionally then we are not living our true nature which is joy. Therefore engaging with others trying to think happy thoughts helps us create happy thoughts as well. Positive energy creates and attracts more positive energy!
Fast forward a few years and I’m practicing at a studio, owned by my friend Pam. For seven years I’m consistently coming together in class with the same core group of people. Within this tribe there was an implied contract amongst us to be back the next day. We set the expectation that if I’m coming, you’re coming too. And we all experienced incredible breakthroughs and saw our personal practices flourish! So much so, that of that core group, half of us eventually studied to become yoga teachers and are still teaching and practicing today. Although that studio changed hands and we all went on to practice other places if it wasn’t for the strength of that initial healing power yoga community my dedication to yoga would not be what it is today.
I not only became a teacher, but I also owned a 4,000 square foot studio that welcomed over 9,000 students in 9 years. My vision for total body yoga was to create a fun and friendly place for the whole family to practice yoga in an unpretentious, loving environment. Our mission was to create a loving community for “every body” regardless of our differences or limitations. We truly catered to all levels and types of practioners. We were promoting unconditional love, and unconditional yoga. It was a dream come true! We were doing my favorite pose – community.
Community was the heart of my studio total body yoga. And my proudest accomplishments didn’t take place in the asana room. The most sacred yoga was the yoga of relationship taking place in the lounges and “living room” space of the studio where students would come early to hang out with friends, read a book, knit together, study for school exams or after class would enjoy a cup of tea, a beer, or pizza. The yoga of community cultivated friendships, marriages, and partnerships that will go on way longer than a class package or learning a new technique. The power of connection supported the Kula, “community of the heart”, with unconditional love through both hardships and celebrations. I saw love in action everyday:
“Love creates a communion with life. Love expands us, connects us, sweetens us, ennobles us. Love springs up in tender concern, it blossoms into caring action. It makes beauty out of all we touch. In any moment we can step beyond our small self and embrace each other as beloved parts of the whole.”
Speaking of this whole: All of our small yoga tribes, yoga studio to studio, community center to YMCA to church basement all connect to create a larger community. There is power in this union. And if we harness the power of connection with loving intention we can influence even greater positive changes in the bigger community outside our yoga world. Certainly we have been challenged this last couple years to see how viral negativity can become when yogis fight yogis. “If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.” (Practicing Peace in Times of War)
Community requires we take responsibility. To see that our actions, our thoughts, our words impact the connections we have with those around us: just as positive energy creates more positive energy, so the same is with negative energy promoting increased negative energy. Our Yoga Kula is strong in love but we diminish our power by publicly degrading other styles of yoga that are not our favorite (picking on Mr. Bikram doesn’t help anyone), by bad mouthing other teachers, facebook sharing smack talking yoga articles, by focusing on different points of opinion in yoga videos or by promoting separation of any kind.
Instead, I challenge us to be brave enough to soften, even towards the diversity amongst yogis and the varied way the practice is expressed. If in a well sequenced class we experience a variety of different groups of poses (forward folds, backbends, twists, balances) and all these poses seem to get along peacefully in our bodies then we can find the courage to get along with the different groups of yogis in the world as well. In community there is power in union and connection. Right now pick one dramatic action you can take within the next 24-48 hours that promotes community and positivity. From that spark of momentum let this set the intention for you to keep taking action after action to promote union and therefore peace in the world! This year let’s work together more than ever before to be the Best Example for the world.
May our united offering benefit everyone to raise the vibration back to our true joyful selves!
Love yourself, love your day, love your life!