March 27, 2012

The Power of Community: Working Together for Greatness.

Sherri Mills - Yoga Teacher as photographed by Simone Jowell of Cleveland Groove

The power of yoga starts within one person and quickly becomes a shared experience, growing exponentially as we leave our mats and take our practice into reality.

The magical moment that starts when your breath connects with your body can be extended by connecting your actions and energy to a community of people. When this group of people finds a common goal, the impossible becomes possible and change happens relatively quickly. Looking around the country, I see yoga studios lit up with service oriented causes, whether it is fundraisers or trips to local or international locations to participate in helping others. This is our yoga community reaching its potential, taking care of each other and extending the efforts beyond our own basic needs.

As I finished a delicious lunch in Cancun, I looked over at the wall and saw a group of ants accomplishing the impossible. There was a small trail of ants leading up the wall to the roof, the majority of the ants were ferociously circling a sliver of sugar cube, lifting it up the wall. The scouts kept the team on the right path, as the rest alternated lifting and moving quickly to the next spot. Sure, I know these ants could have lifted the cube and moved it along a horizontal path. Climbing a wall, impossible.

When a community starts to work together, anything is possible. Just like those ants, we can accomplish more than any one person thinks possible. So how do we get organized like the ants?

In many ways, we already are. Our yoga communities are centralized systems of communication. The tools are basic and generally free – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Blogging. What is missing? Leaders.

I believe that yoga teachers are simply great students, sharing what they learn and experience along their journey. Leaders are teachers who use the tools to communicate effectively – shining a light on every dark place. As you look at your own journey, the choice to be a student, teacher and/or a leader is yours. Are you using your authentic voice when you are on Facebook? If not, don’t worry. We know (and we have probably hidden your posts to minimize the junk in our newsfeed).

The good news is, a few of our teachers are showing up as leaders. They post on Facebook sharing their lives and respond to comments, using the tools to communicate and teach. Are you Leading or Lurking? How you show up on Facebook is how you are showing up everywhere. This is not the time to make yourself small, this is the time to show up exactly how you see yourself when you are flowing on your mat…shining bright energy!

But this is about us. How can we move that sugar cube up the wall?

Looking at one of my favorite groups, the Africa Yoga Project, I see a lot of ways people are making a difference. My friend  and yoga teacher, Terri Bahr, is a mentor to a new yoga teacher in Nairobi, putting all of her knowledge and training to work helping to spread yoga in Africa. My friend Pauline Caballero just returned from leading a team of yogis to Nairobi to build a playground at the Kibera School for Girls with the Africa Yoga Project. Erin Anderson is hosting Yoga Jam fundraisers at Whistler Mountain (she will help you launch yours) and leading the fundraising efforts for the Africa Yoga Project. Marie Phillips is bring Trevor Hall to Buffalo for a Fundraising concert for the Africa Yoga Project.  Paige Elenson is training teachers and leading the efforts in Nairobi to harness the power of yoga to create change in individual lives and maybe the lives of a town, city, country, continent, world. How can you start helping? Maybe buy the book, Portraits of Empowerment and Peace – supporting the Africa Yoga Project or maybe this is your time to volunteer in Kenya and be on the ground making change happen.

Whatever your role is, keep doing it. We are the ants that are going to make this world a better place for everyone. Yoga is our Weapon of Mass Construction.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

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