I have a confession. Until last Saturday, I hadn’t been to a yoga class in about a month, but I have a good reason. My local studio, Ubuntu in Napa, had closed it’s doors and just reopened as Rev Yoga in a new location on Saturday.
Why not just find another studio for a month, you may ask. Well, if you practice yoga you know it’s just not that easy. Once you find a studio you like, it almost becomes a home. A sanctuary of acceptance and serenity. A place where you go to exercise not just your body, but your mind as well. You can’t just go down the block and find a foster family for a month.
This isn’t to say I didn’t exercise or practice yoga during the studio’s rebirth. There is something to be said for a home practice, where you can take your time visiting and exploring the poses that call to you. It’s a great way to set your intention for the day or to wind down in the evening. I always mix yoga into my daily workouts, and often set aside time for dedicated practice.
But practicing at home is never quite the same as practicing at your favorite studio.
In my view, there are two reasons for this and they are forever intertwined. First, when you find a yoga studio that fits your life and your values, you become part of a community. This may happen quickly, or it may evolve over time depending on your personality. I have never been a joiner. Team sports were never my thing and quite frankly, that is one of the aspects that first attracted me to yoga. It’s something you can do on your own.
Here is the interesting thing. When you become a regular member of a studio, you begin to feel a kinship with the other students. True, it happens with any group or club, but with yoga there is a subtle difference. People in the studio are on a similar path. They want to improve their health, of course, but more importantly, they are looking to increase their overall well-being. It may be unspoken, but the desire is there. And because it is such a personal issue, it is a little easier to let down those walls we defend so vigorously and let others get closer than you would in a gym or a Zumba class.
There is nothing to prove in the studio. It is a place of acceptance, not of competition. On the mat you accept yourself for what you can do–and what you can’t. There is no judgement there, simply a recognition of the facts. When you are in that frame of mind, it allows to you accept yourself and it becomes much easier to accept others.
The second half of the equation deals with balance and breath. Not physical balance, although that definitely plays a role. I’m talking about the mental clarity and balance created when the mind is focused on uniting the movement and the breath. The distractions of the day fade away, and for that moment there is only the pose and that time. The energy of the body and mind find balance through the breath, and it is truly amazing.
Something else happens in a yoga class when the students begin to move as one. Physically it is not so difficult to do, but when a group of people begins to breathe as one, the energy that floods the room is incredible. It becomes a shared personal experience and forges bonds of friendship more quickly than years of water cooler chats.
In order to thrive in this life, it is essential to have a strong support network. Some people find that support through their family, some through their friends. And some of us find it with a group of strangers who come together on a regular basis to move, to stretch, to breathe, and to share the experience.
And after all, sharing is what a community is all about.