Yoga is a personal experience about union within yourself—connecting body, mind, and breath. But it’s also about connection with your fellow beings, and one of the sweetest side benefits of your yoga practice is belonging to a yoga community, or kula. It is incredibly rewarding to find other like-minded companions to accompany on your yoga journey.
During that magical time while we are in a yoga class, every single person is temporarily separated from their devices for perhaps the first time all day. We’re moving and breathing in unison. This allows us to be present with those in the room and more open to human connection.
Health benefits of community belonging
The benefits of belonging to a community are manifold. In the US, back in the day, a sense of community was forged mostly through business colleagues and religious institutions. But nowadays, we may need to be more purposeful in our attempts to build an IRL (in real life) community.
According to an article in Yoga Journal, “Strong, broad-based social support…increases your odds of living longer by 91 percent, according to a review of 148 studies conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University. Close connections also have a proven impact on survival or quality of life for people facing health issues like cancer, stroke, dementia, depression, and diabetes. Being embedded in a community is biologically reassuring, experts theorize; it confers a protective effect that actually seems to boost immunity and fights stress and inflammation.”
There is a vast, informative, and open online virtual yoga community that you can connect with through social media, Youtube, and livestreaming to boost your at-home practice. This has been absolutely vital for a lot of people during quarantine since the Coronavirus Pandemic started. But now that things are starting to open up again and people are getting vaccinated, it’s looking like we’ll be able to enjoy more in-person group events once again. Either way, you’ll gain the benefits of belonging to a community.
Finding your community
When looking for a yoga studio or specific yoga classes to take, consider the following:
- Would you prefer to take live online classes or to be in-person with local community neighbors?
- What kind of classes are you more interested in—relaxation and stress management or fitness and athleticism? Or a mix of both depending on the day?
- Do you like an atmosphere with low lighting, candles, soft music or silence? Or are you attracted to one with a higher room temperature and danceable music?
- Are you interested in meditation, pranayama (breathing techniques), or chanting?
- Do you prefer a teacher who leads with the spiritual and philosophical aspects or one who keeps things light and focuses on physical movement?
- Do you like teachers who offer hands-on body adjustments to improve your form or do you prefer they let students feel their way through poses?
You’ll learn some of the answers to these questions through trial and experience. If you’re looking for a place to start, you can try our Ignite Yoga Online 2 Week Free Trial or our In-Studio New Student Special.
Deepening your connections
If you’ve already found a yoga studio home base, but would like to forge a more meaningful connection with your fellow yogis and go deeper into your practice, try taking a cue from the ever-wise Brené Brown, and be brave by daring to be vulnerable. Be open to trying new things and put yourself out there:
- Show up to class a few minutes early: even sharing just a polite greeting of hello, a genuine compliment, or a smile can foster a feeling of connection and help you bond with your fellow yogis.
- Stay to chat a few minutes afterward: at the end of class there is a palpable feeling of good energy and oneness vibes. This is an opportune time to mingle a bit with your fellow yogis. Introduce yourself to your teacher and offer honest feedback—hopefully positive and/or constructive.
- Sign up for a partner yoga class: performing the poses in tandem with another yogi creates an immediate feeling of emotional connection and literal physical connection, and laughter is bound to happen, which produces endorphins that encourage social bonding.
- Take advantage of workshop opportunities: the longer format allows time for more social interaction, and there’s nothing like celebrating triumphant inversions with a group or sharing a laugh over attempted arm balances.
- Go on a yoga retreat: not only are they amazing for immersing yourself in yoga culture and helping cement your asana and meditation into a daily practice, but they’re an excellent way to really get to know the other retreaters on a more profound level.
- Take yoga teacher training: even if you’re unsure of whether you’d like to actually be a yoga teacher, completing a yoga teacher training often has the effect of fellowship with the other students. The intense experience encourages lasting connections and lifelong friendships.
We are social beings, as they say, and sharing what you’re passionate about with those in your life is the key to a full life. When you join a community, not only are you doing yourself good, but you are acting for the greater good. By cultivating meaningful relationships, you’re building a vital component to human physical and mental well-being for everyone around you with just your presence.
Well done, you.
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