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“Yoga, as I have found it practiced at most yoga studios, is a very solitary adventure. People wait for class without much interaction; then they leave right after. I long for some kind of yoga chums, but am relatively new to yoga and not quite sure what’s appropriate in “yoga culture.” But now I am going to give some thought to this notion of yoga sangha. Maybe in a month or two I’ll have a lot more to report.”
editor’s note: A few days later, Greg sent me a follow up email: “Believe it or not, I actually took a major step
forward in yoga sangha building a few days ago and am excited to tell you about it. I mentioned to some friends that I do yoga; they expressed interest, and so I said, ‘I have a yoga teacher who has given me some private instruction. Let’s hire her for the small group of us and we can have semi-private lessons, plus a little yoga community.’ They went for it! First class is in one week. The plan is to hire her each Sunday for months at a time, in order to get a break in cost. Community to me is so crucial with something I love and value, and having this little group with which to explore yoga will be a real treat, so I am hoping. I’ll keep you posted.”
“I own my own studio in a small town in Northern Utah. We have comfortable seating and hot tea and real mugs. Since this is a small, older community, students arrive with friends, run into old friends or make new ones quite easily. My students often sit with a cup of tea and chat or support one another with long conversations in the studio after class and the lights are low. During class they provide verbal support to other students who are struggling. We all share tears and laughter held together with hugs and love.
This has supported my practice by teaching me everyday, it’s about the love, support and laughter in the room, not the pose.”
“I’ve been feeling a need for friendship and community in my life, but realized that part of the reason I don’t have it is that yoga is my primary activity (outside of working part-time at my own architecture business and raising two elementary school kids and trying to pay some attention to my relationship with my husband). And yoga doesn’t seem like a “connecting” activity to me. I go to class and try to respect fellow students need to tune in to their practice before class, and then after class, when I’m in that blissful post-savasana state, I find it disrupting when others then start to chat about the Super Bowl or the weather.
I’m wondering how other people make yoga into a community building experience, or even something from which just one friendship can develop. Are most of these people single? Do they go out for tea after class? My class itself takes an hour and a half, from 5:45-7:15 pm, so most people are coming from work and then going home. I’d love to hear from someone about how they work reaching outward into what is essentially an inwardly focused practice. Because I’m sure that I would love to get to know the other people who have decided to dedicate themselves to yoga.”
“This issue is so big for me. I moved from Alaska to Thailand about a year and half ago. I live in a rural part of Thailand, teaching at an international school. There is a teacher in Bangkok I like, about 2 hours’ drive. I try to get to his classes once a month on the weekends. During the week, I would teach yoga to an interested group of high school students after school. I also have decided to make Wednesdays my yoga day. Each Wednesday at 3:30, I go upstairs to the multipurpose room, pull out the yoga mats I ordered for the high school kids, and put on Shiva Rea’s audio CD. I have another mom from the community who comes with me every week, and occasionally other teachers or Thai members of the staff join me. I tell them, “I’m always there, anytime you want to come.” So, I’m not really a teacher, just a fixture. It helps me to know I’ve told others I will be there every Wednesday, and they can come any time. That way, I can’t make excuses for not doing it. Plus, to practice at school in a quiet empty room is better odds than coming home to my 3-year old daughter, husband and golden retriever, all offering me various distractions.
Not perfect, and I know I’m not growing in my practice nearly as much as with a great teacher nearby, but I’m working on it.”
“Oh, yes, without the “sangha” of Dallas Yoga Center, I would feel very much alone in the fundamentalist Bible Belt of Texas! It is a physical community, an emotional support system, and a spiritual support system, and even feels like family in many ways. There is nothing quite like the closeness one feels to the human being whose behind is under your nose as you participate in partner-assisted Adho Mukha Svanasana! We laugh together, sweat together, groan together, sit together, lie side by side in Viparita Karani—well, even those folks whose names I cannot recall feel like good friends by the end of a week-end intensive or even a two-hour class where the common focus put us on common ground. Always an introvert and a “loner,” I have found a sangha that affords me the comfort of human community without the invasiveness of too-close family bonds. I don’t see them all that often—it’s a drive once a week in bad traffic from where I live—but they are there in my heart and my practice every day. If you don’t have one (a sangha), find one, get one, create one!”
—Carol Ann Bauer, RYT
“It’s wonderful to experience the community of people who have found the enlightened path of yoga. My community stems from the Yoga Journal and those who I have met and mutually support through the publication and on the internet. This may seem a little unusual to you as you read this but in fact it became the healer that inspired me to learn to walk again when I was told I would be crippled for life. My doctor is astonished at how well I have recovered and has asked numerous times exactly what I’m doing. I always suggest learning about yoga as a good start and things will blossom from there. It all starts with mind healing and then support from a community of friends who have been enlightened. I have become a child of the universe as a result or perhaps just a child in the way that I look at all things with wonder now.”
“One of the biggest reasons that I choose to practice at a local studio rather than my home is because I enjoy seeing the happy, smiling faces of other students in my classes. Over the years, these people have become my friends and seeing them always puts a smile on my own face. Practicing with them comforts me and makes me feel like I belong to a very special group of people.”
“I’m in El Salvador, Central America and we don’t have a large Sangha but we are group of 7-10 who constantly get together and study Patanjali, practice yoga, do our community service and meditate to the point of trying to do Samyama with everything we can. We are planning to visit an Ashram and hoping to find our Guru. I love God who lives within.”