Although yoga is very much about centering yourself as an individual, it is also about inclusion. That’s where the yoga tribe – also known as a sangha or kula plays its part. Your yoga community supports you and holds you accountable for your dedication to the art and practice of yoga. In your sangha, cultural differences and backgrounds are divisions and boundaries that simply don’t exist. But how do you find your yoga sangha?
1. Talk to All Kinds of People
It’s funny, but our minds tend to categorize people into 2 basic groups; “like me” and “not like me.” But a funny thing happens when we abandon those preconceptions - you may find your yoga sangha in people with whom you didn’t think we had anything in common. You tend to discover that almost everyone has shared hopes, dreams and fears that should indeed bind us together instead of tearing us apart. Although the similarities may not have been immediately obvious, you may actually find kindred spirits in people who outwardly are very different from you.
2. Actively Listen
Listening is an active skill, not a passive one. Often, when we think we are listening, we are actually only waiting for our opportunity to speak. Think about it this way - the person talking to you is entrusting you with their opinion, their view of life, and even their secrets. You really can’t absorb this important information and find emotional intimacy with this person if you are only thinking of the things you want to say, if you are only thinking about being heard. It’s amazing what you’ll hear when you really open your ears to accept the other persons words.
3. Be Worthy of People’s Trust
Be trustworthy; don’t pass on things that you’ve heard about people. While gossip is a sort of social glue, it can also be very destructive. If you treat people’s stories as something that they own, like a car or a book, then you are less likely to “steal” something that doesn’t belong to you. People who relay any kind of confidence in you shouldn’t have to worry that this information will be on the lips of others. The only exception to this is when the conversation involved the abuse of a child, violence towards others, or illegal activity.
4. Take Trips and Go Places
While yoga classes, which tend to last about 90 minutes, are a good place to get connected with people of similar thinking, this short time may not be enough to form connections that are all that meaningful. Go to retreats, immersions and trainings that are offered to the community and you are certain to cultivate more meaningful connections. It usually takes five to ten days together for us to break down the walls we build and unravel the assumptions we’ve projected onto other people, which leads us to better understanding.
5. Go beyond Hello
Your classmates and you probably exchange friendly greetings each time you meet. But there are a number of life events that bring people to practice yoga, such as breakups, relocations, career changes, etc. So go beyond hello and find out why your classmates are there, what they hope to get out of their involvement in yoga. Learn what they are passionate about, and share experiences about what you’ve learned about yourself so far. Learn what others have found out about yoga that has enriched their lives. You may learn from others new things you can apply to your own life.
6. Be Willing to Share of Yourself
This is a lot more difficult than it might seem. All of us have secret selves that we keep to ourselves and are unwilling to expose. But, if we lower our guards just a little, we might find that we have more in common than we thought with people. Even if we have differences, these differences can also be the foundation of friendships. The key is to respect that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that we develop those opinions based on our experiences.
7. Keep Connected
In this day and age, it’s easier to stay connected than it has ever been. But it’s not about the devices, because these devices and impersonalize our conversations/ However, if you express heartfelt feelings it doesn’t matter what device it’s communicated on. Drop unexpected hellos to people from time to time; tell them how your time together has affected you and what it means. Congratulate their successes and mourn with them when something terrible happens. These little gestures not only endear you to people, it enriches your own life.
I like to think that a lot of this applies to life and your social circle as well as your yoga tribe. Have you found your yoga sangha?