How yoga can still be about connection and community in the online space.
There’s a sense of trepidation, I think, for all of us as we look down the long road of a new year. 2020 was unusual - to say the least. For many of us the sphere of our lives shrank, we couldn’t see the people we really wanted to, we weren’t able to be physically present for so many important events: birthdays, weddings, visiting family. All things we took for granted before. With that, for many, came a deepening sense of isolation and disconnect. The future continues to be uncertain, but perhaps yoga can offer a way of rebuilding connection and community even in the online space. Here’s how:
Yoga is fundamentally about connection
Yoga is often translated as union, to yoke, or to re-join. At the deepest facet of the ancient philosophies of yoga is this idea that it is a method and practice of reconnecting. The higher aims of yoga over the centuries have always centered around cultivating awareness, removing the illusion or ‘veil’ of our separateness from the grander workings of the universe. Below the surface of our individual, isolated self, lies a deeper knowing that we are all ultimately one, connected to each other and to the natural world.
Connecting to ourselves
As we practice, paying attention to breath, movement, and the stirrings of the mind, we often we come into a deeper sense of contact with who we truly are. Behind the roles, commitments and responsibilities of our lives we find we reconnect with our own innate sense of peace, joy, or ease - the person we are beneath all the ‘stuff’ of life. This can be enormously reaffirming. It can also be a huge relief. That’s often why people feel like they have been physically and mentally ‘reset’ after practice.
Connecting to each other as a community
The beauty of yoga practice is that it gives us the chance to cultivate inner connection at the same time as harmoniously growing a sense of outward connection to those around us. Group classes are an interesting phenomena: in one sense we are alone, on the island of our mat, practicing, becoming more aware and present. In another sense we are together, moving, breathing and flowing as one. Group class, to me, is a celebration of both our individual identity and uniqueness, and of our connection to a wider community of practitioners who also sense and share how beneficial the practice can be in their lives. This community is often called the ‘sangha’, a word which encapsulates a sense of togetherness, support, and a shared love of these transformative practices.
What has been a really positive surprise in the last year, is just how well that sense of community and connection can translate in the online yoga space. Many of us as teachers and students were sceptical that the sense of the ‘sangha’ would be lost over wifi somehow. But countless students continue to tell me how connected they feel to the group, to know they are practicing with other regular students from all around the world. We get to see each other, we get to hear each others’ names when teachers give individuated instruction, and with that comes a sense of familiarity and comfort.
If you haven’t tried an online class because you feel there would not be the same sense of connection, then you might be surprised. Of course, it depends on the teacher and how they hold this new space, but the community and connection is out there if you take the steps to find it. My recommendation is to be curious, try a few different classes and see where it takes you.
Warrior Addict Men's Yoga Challenge
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This article was written for us by our awesome Global Brand Warrior, International Yoga & Qigong Teacher and Writer, Soho-based James Rafael. For more information about James, click here