I have been pondering, reading about and comtemplating the concept of Yoga Community. What is it? Does it really exist or are we all just walking the path side by side and not really connecting?
Surely there is such thing as a yoga community. The friends you practice with, the teachers you study with and the the studio you visit are all part of your larger yoga community. You are all interested in the same things and even sport similiar yoga gear.
Just like your best friends from high school, eventually you will also drift away from your yoga friends as well. I know it’s hard to hear, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your best yoga girlfriend is going to have a baby, or get a promotion that messes with her schedule, or move to a different city. Eventually your favorite teacher will no longer inspire you and you will either stop the practice altogether, or (hopefully) search out a new teacher.
This brings me to my point.
We have to stop defining yoga by things that are outside of us.
With yoga’s explosion and popularity came its inevitable commercialization and commodification.
The perfect fitting yoga pants, the highest quality mat, a green smoothie and even your best yoga buddies, have very little to do with your yoga.
I would like to propose an alternate definintion for “Yoga Community,” or maybe create a new version of the term, how about a “Yoga Community of One”?
Yoga Community of One:
“Your body, mind and breath uniting (yoke) with the common goal of increased self-awareness and awareness of the world around you.”
Yoga is a personal practice. It resides within you and is about your inner work. You don’t need an external yoga community, but you do need your Yoga Community of One. Your own inner community.
Your community of yoga starts deep within yourself and culminates with your spiritual and physical practices. It’s a deep reflection of how you treat yourself and eventually how you treat others. Starting with the Yama of ahimsa—nonviolence. It’s the first, and for some the most important step, on the path to true enlightenment. Start with being kind to yourself in all ways. Be loving to yourself: go to bed early, eat good nourishing food, exercise, pursue hobbies and most of all practice your yoga. All of it.
Start with your yoga on your yoga mat. In the West, we are very conscious of our physical self, that is why Hatha yoga has come to be the face of yoga.
Asana practice is something that is very tangible for us. We can feel it in our bodies. When we step on the mat, we can feel the earth beneath us. When we stretch our fingers to the sky we can feel our bodies getting taller and the breath filling our lungs with prana. We twist to the right to release our spine and then we twist to the left and restore our well being.
Be vigilant. Old habits die hard. Your mind may wander and you may forget to listen to your body. We forget ourselves and push to achieve the end result. We want to be the full expression of the pose.
The inner voice says:
No pain no gain, just a little further. I am almost there. She can do it, so why not me?
Remember, ahimsa starts by allowing compassion to yourself. If it hurts, back off. You have nothing to prove to anyone.
Time to get back together with your Yoga Community of One. Listen to your body. Let go of your ego. If your body is saying, “Not Today,” then respect that. Allow your mind to use your breath to guide your body. That’s your Yoga Community of One at your service!
Community is you on your yoga mat and connecting with your breath. Community starts with understanding why you practice yoga. Yoga can allow you to connect to your emotions and help you sit with them no matter how uncomfortable. You should not push to the point of pain. Pain is not gain in yoga. Yoga is understanding that there are physical limits within your body. The first step to building a life long practice of yoga is connecting with your breath and listening to your body.
Your best yoga friends and perfect fitting yoga pants are just be the icing on the cake.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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