Connecting with Community

It took Erica Rodefer Winters a long time understand the importance of connecting with her local yoga community. But now it's one of the most gratifying parts of her practice.

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While many other yoga students dedicate themselves to one yoga tradition, one teacher, and one studio–I’ve always preferred to keep trying new things. There are SO many different kinds of yoga in the world, so many different teachers, and so many beautiful studios. Each one has something amazing to offer. I could never just choose one!

While this approach has made me a well-rounded yogi, it has also made it difficult to become a part of my local yoga community. (Of course, being on the shy side didn’t help either!) For a long time, that was fine with me. I went to yoga class to learn about yoga, a very personal practice, and deepen my knowledge and understanding of myself. My goal was never to meet people that I could invite to happy hours. Singing an Om at the beginning of class and ending with a “Namaste” to show gratitude to my classmates seemed like enough connection for me.

That was before I realized how wonderful it is to be a part of a community. Last year, I began teaching a yoga class where week after week, the same students have shown up with smiles on their faces. They embraced me, and the practice (it was new for most of them), almost immediately. I watched as they embraced each other, too. They hang out before and after class. When someone misses class for a while they check in to make sure everything is OK and encourage him to come back. When someone gets married/has a baby/has a birthday, they invite the whole group to celebrate together. It’s been such an amazing support system, and it has shown me what I’ve been missing out on all these years by going it alone.

While it hasn’t changed my mind about studying with many different teachers in many different venues, it has inspired me to make connections with more people when I attend classes–especially those who sit quietly and awkwardly stare at their toes before class starts (that totally used to be me!). I’ve even started to connect with other local yoga teachers and become an active part of that community, too. Lately, no matter what studio I find myself visiting, I bump into someone I know, which is an awesome feeling.

It has been a profound lesson. Yoga isn’t just about connecting to ourselves–it’s about connecting to each other and our communities, too. This is something that I’ve always known intellectually. But maybe, just as yoga is something you have to experience in your body to fully understand it, I had to be a part of a tight-knit community to truly see how important it is to share–not just my yoga practice–but my light, with others in a meaningful way, too.