Yoga and life may start and end in our relationship with ourselves, but along the way the practice is in connecting with others. Relationship is one of the greatest opportunities to make yoga in our lives.
Many of us have dear memories of practice groups and shalas across the globe which have supported our practice over the years. It is an art to do one’s self-led practice gracefully in a group setting.
I believe that it matters whom we practice with and how. The support and inspiration of sangha (community of practitioners) can be incredibly valuable. There is a reason why rooms for Ashtanga yoga tend to me small, personal, mat-to-mat. The practice is about dissolving barriers rather than creating them.
One and one can make more than two. The sound of my breath may keep you focused. Your concentration may encourage me to let go of the thoughts in my mind. We may feel supported and learn from each other, simply by going through this bizarre and powerful ritual in silence.
There is a time to take our practice to the front and center of the room, and a time to lay low in the back. There are benefits to consistency, but we are also open to the inevitable change. As we navigate these decisions, we always keep in mind how we can contribute to the group.
The asana practice can take us to our most vulnerable state. It can expose our strength and weakness, our fear and pride, the ego, and the yearning. Anybody who we may find difficult to be with can either drive us totally nuts on the mat or settle into the relaxed rhythm of our breath and body.
The Pattabhi Jois yoga shalas have always emphasized the communal effort of beginners and ‘old students’, men and women. We all practice together and collectively create that space that supports our practice. If you have been or are planning to practice in Mysore, you may understand the challenge and value of extending your yoga practice to getting on with the next yogi.
Inside all of us is the same thing: spirit, atman, purusha, divine.
“May the merit of your practice move out in all directions, like ripples from a pebble falling into a still pond, through all beings.”