There was a tragedy in my building last month. At first, my neighbors and I spent the hours following walking around in shock. Not knowing whether to stay or go. The energy hanging heavy like fog on a San Francisco morning. Then something beautiful happened: we bonded. We sat in each other’s apartments and shared stories. We brought each other gifts like blessed sage and fresh flowers. Some baked cookies. Group texts moved from talking about the event itself to sharing pictures of our dogs. This great tragedy strengthened the community and our unified love cleared the darkness.
Community is powerful and important. We often feel separate and alone, but spiritual teachings remind us that this is an illusion. “I”, “me”, “mine” are merely constructs of the brain. Yoga teaches us that we are all aspects of the divine – when a teacher bows at the end class and says “namaste”, they are literally saying, “you and me are one”. The invisible moat isolating us from one another is often self-created.
Other times it is our culture that divides us. I had the privilege of leading a teacher training in Beirut, Lebanon last summer. This was a powerful training on many levels, but the most potent aspect was witnessing people of different politics and religions coming together for a common purpose in a part of the world where this union is often unimaginable. The trainees chose to rise above the manmade stories about their differences and seek the higher truth of their oneness.
Yoga can change this world. It already is. The first tenet of yoga is ahimsa, or being kind to others. When yogis lead by example, they set the tone and energy in their community, which creates a ripple effect throughout the world.
Here are some ways you can build community at your studio:
- Make a friend. That person you have been practicing next to for five years? Introduce yourself one day. True story, I have a group of women who attend my retreats – two of them were practicing next to one another for years before finally speaking, and now they are best friends.
- Meet your neighbor. Smile and say hello to the people next to you. Create a welcoming energy. Maybe ask them how they are doing. You don’t need to become someone’s therapist, but a little kindness goes a long way – who knows maybe this will lead to a great friendship (see #1).
- Live from abundance. Classes in Los Angeles are definitely packed and often there’s a panicked rush to get in the door and claim “one’s space”. As a teacher I can assure you that there is always room! Save your energy and allow others to enter the studio first. Or help someone find a spot. If you live open-heartedly and generously, you will be taken care of.
- The late bird gets a spot. Class has started and you see someone slip in looking hurried and lost. Make space not just physically, but also on an energetic level by doing so from a place of welcoming. Smile when you move your mat. Volunteer to do so!
- Continuing Education. Attend workshops, trainings, and retreats. I met my best friend in training, and now I have the honor of witnessing best friendships form amongst my students. Not only will you deepen your personal practice with continuing education, you will deepen your bonds with your fellow students.
“There is no safer refuge, there is no happier place to be than in the place of wishing well.” – Sylvia Boorstein
Click here to explore upcoming teacher trainings around the world, including Beirut, Lebanon.
Sarah Ezrin, E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher, writer, and YogaWorks teacher trainer based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the globe leading trainings, workshops and retreats. For Sarah, yoga is not about the tricks or the postures; it is about finding one’s center amidst the challenges and chaos of the world. She believes that life is short and that it should be spent laughing, with the people and animals we love, and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! Practice with her at several of our LA based studios, or online with myyogaworks.com. For more information on Sarah, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.