Community is vital for humanity. But what are the key ingredients that make community? Why do we gravitate towards community? In this article Joanna Gilbert shares her thoughts why humans need, and the benefits of, community.
The word community is thrown around a lot these days, and it does bear the question, what exactly are the ingredients that make a community? What makes a group of people a community rather than simply friends or people who are associated through work? And what are the benefits of being part of a yoga community?
Something for Everyone
One place this is particularly prevalent is in the yoga world. There are many different types of yoga communities. You can find yoga and meditation communities that are isolated, self sustainable, with everyone living together, working together and practising together.
For many of us this is something unrealistic to weave into our every day lives and commitments. Luckily for us we can find a sense of community in the yoga world in various other shapes and sizes. Your yoga community might be orientated around a location, or a particular yoga studio. You might be connected to your yoga community through a training you have done or a retreat you participated in, and that might mean your community is quite spread out. Alternatively, like MFML, your yoga community might be totally online based, making it accessible from your living room and actually from anywhere in the world.
What are the key ingredients that make a community?
Having spent time in various yoga communities, both online and in person, I have my three key ingredients that that make a community:
- Having shared interests – The glue that pulls and holds community together. Whether that common interest be in yoga, religion, or politics. Having the same values and interests is fundamental to the formation of community. This connects the group and gives purpose and strength.
- Regular meetings and sharing space – this can be physical classes, social gatherings, or online yoga retreats. But the important part is that there are regular occasions where you meet as a group and share a positive collective experience, doing something you love.
- Mutual support and looking out for each other – caring for others within the community and feeling cared for back. This is a human need that we all seem to be searching for, and definitely draws us towards community spaces.
Why do so many of us gravitate towards community?
Because it is a fundamental desire of humans to connect and relate to others.
Back in the days, when we lived in tribes, humans survived because of community. Before the industrial revolution, before the formation of the nuclear family, before we began remote working… We were tribal community dwellers. Whether we like it or not, humanity is hard-wired to seek to belong. Yet this is the very thing often lacking in our day to day existence.
We are more transitional than ever before. Whilst travelling we often meet partners and find new connections, away from family and our roots. As a result, many of us instinctively seek out ways to form bonds and relationships to replicate this.
Humans thrive off living together and supporting one another. It gives us a sense of both purpose and belonging. Research shows that our social network and interactions can improve our chances of survival and longevity by around 50%. On the other hand loneliness can make us sick and reduce our life expectancy. You just need to look at the places with longest life expectancy such as Sardinia (Italy) and Okinawa (Japan). Both of these pride themselves not just on their lifestyle and nutrition, but also on their closeness to their family and social support networks.
Hence, wherever we are and wherever we go, we gravitate towards finding a version of community and support. We tend to find people at similar ages and stages, or with similar interests, who we can resonate and connect with and share experiences with.
What are the five biggest benefits of being part of a yoga community?
Being part of a yoga community we re-find this lost sense of community and connection. Like with our yoga practice, the community aspect gives us a sense of union, dissolving separateness. Uniting us and improving our social connections.
We are also united through shared positive collective experiences with our ‘communal hobby’ at the heart. Sharing this positive experience helps us tune into our collective consciousness, and we remember we are all part of the same.
- We Feel Less Alone
Being part of a yoga community can make us feel less alone and support us through bouts of depression or challenging mental health. When you are part of a supportive community you often share tools and can pick up self care recommendations from others.
The Yoga community also encourages the spirit of sharing and expressing ourselves. This opportunity to share our experiences with others is healing, as often in this process we find we are not alone. The experience of sharing develops a valuable and deeper sense of belonging. We feel less alone and are able to support each other on the rollercoaster of life.
The practice of yoga brings us back into connection, with our bodies, our prana, and with spirit or something greater than us. Like yoga, the yoga community is also all about connection, adding in another aspect of connection, connection to others.
The yoga community is a place to feel safe amongst people on a similar path. Within this you find mutual support and encouragement. This is valuable as when you choose the the yoga path you can often feel like you are going off the beaten track and doing things a little different to your friends and family. Having this connection and support from others who are on the same journey helps you to continue on your path of yoga discovery.
- Learn from Others
Ok so being part of a yoga community connects you others on the same journey. Another benefit of this is you also gain a whole network of people who you can learn from (and with!). We established that these people tend to have shared interests and perspectives on life so this can make for some deep, meaningful and profound conversations.
It’s a great way to connect to teachers or to gather information on yoga, health advice and wellness, or even get book or podcast recommendations.
Being part of a community can accelerate your growth and development. This can be from the exchanging of information and resources and through being inspired by the journeys of those around you. It might also give you access to a teacher or expert who can guide you on your next steps.
- Community Nourishes the mind and body
Like yoga, community is just as nourishing for the body and mind.
Being within a community can literally improve our health, combat depression, and improve longevity. Community can give us a reason to get up in the morning, motivation to move our body, and purpose to our day.
Yoga equips us with tools to nurture the mind. We improve our ability to stay present and this helps us focus on small tasks. We make small steps towards big changes. At the same time, the skills we develop from through part of a yoga community can help us to improve and maintain all our relationships and connections.
A bonus benefit:
A bonus of online yoga is it offers an inclusive and accessible environment for everyone (different ages, disabilities, races, and sexual orientation). It is also financially accessible and sustainable as there’s no need to travel or even get out your pyjamas!
To sum up, community is vital for humanity (and so is yoga!).
There is power in union, this is what yoga teaches us, as does community. Yoga and community together really does have a positive influence on the world beyond our yoga mats.
If your yoga journey was like mine, it most likely began as an individual path. I pursued yoga on my own because it made my body feel good. However along the way more meaning and purpose may have entered your movement. That meaning often comes from the people we meet, the teachers who inspire us, the community that supports and encourages us, and when we realise we are part of a worldwide network of like minded yogis.
When we do yoga together we share a positive collective experience. This builds inner strength and encourages us to keep on going and growing even in the more challenging moments. Sharing this experience also reminds us it is possible to transcend our differences.
Most importantly, when I feel alone or low, being part of a yoga community reminds me that we are united, we are one, and we are in this together.
Find more tips for keeping up motivation and a daily yoga practice
Written by Joanna Gilbert – MFML’s Happiness Maven!
Community is at the heart of Movement for Modern Life. Because of this we offer a FREE monthly community class that is available to all our subscribers and their friends.
There is also access to the private community facebook page, a wonderful place for connecting to other movers, sharing your class recommendations, and asking questions to the team and teachers.
We also offer regular ‘live’ Zoom workshops, courses and events, this is a beautiful way to go deeper into your practice with a specific focus, and at the same time meet people from the community in real time!
From our heart, THANK YOU for being part of the MFML family.
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