We just recently celebrated World AIDS Day last December 1. The HIV cause is close to my heart because I started my regular yoga practice through my involvement in the HIV advocacy. In 2010, Yoga for Life started offering yoga classes for people living with and affected by HIV. As someone who has just started to work in the cause by supporting people living with HIV, I felt the same level of fear and apprehension that the people I was trying to help felt.
In the last ten years, I saw first hand the power of yoga in building and fostering communities of care and support. Yoga provides a common ground through an experience shared by individuals who may have diverse backgrounds. In yoga, your HIV status does not matter; everyone is equal on the mat. Seeing the joy that people feel whenever they discover their capabilities helps cement that common bond. Seeing that everyone struggles differently on the mat help people put their own personal struggles into perspective.
Sharing that bond is empowering for many people. And that bond extends beyond the mat through the years. Through yoga, people who otherwise would not have met because of their different personal circumstances have become friends, even lovers. But most strikingly of all, everyone has become family.
A community that has become a family is special because in a family, you don’t accept someone just because you like them. You accept them and love them unconditionally as they are, with all their flaws and other attributes.
Yoga is a powerful tool in fostering community, leveling the playing field, and expanding people’s social equity—or the richness of our social experience. Do you have a special community in mind that you want to enrich and foster? Try introducing yoga and observe how much your community can grow because of it.
This year has brought about a new change in the Yoga landscape when the lockdown began. Teachers everywhere started teaching online and before we knew it, we suddenly had more options than ever before. Looking around for a community or teacher that suits you can be overwhelming. The wide variety of options, marketing collateral, and logistical considerations are a lot to take in and has sometimes left some people without any choice at all!
Yoga is something that brings so much value to ourselves on a mental, emotional, and physical level. Now that its benefits are so well known, the pandemic has had more people interested in taking classes for the first time. If you’re new to yoga or confused about where to invest your money for classes, here are my tips to get the most out of online practice:
1. Find a style of Yoga you resonate with.
Whether it is Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Rocket, or any other style of Yoga, remember that not all styles have the same approach. It needs to feel good in your body and mind! Explore different yoga styles and shop around. Figure out what you want and need out of the yoga practice and you’ll be able to find a style of yoga that suits you the most.
2. Know who is teaching.
For every style of yoga, there will be a number of teachers who will teach each of them in different ways. Beyond figuring out what kind of yoga you’re interested in, get to know WHO is teaching it. Make sure that they resonate with you. Consider if their cues easy to understand, informative, and detail-oriented. And also, don’t hesitate to ask questions, they need to know their stuff!.
3. Figure out if your teacher matches your learning style.
Each teacher has their own approach in leading classes. You’ll find a lot of differences depending on what or how they teach. Some teachers are good demonstrators and spend most of the class on their mats, there are others who are verbal communicators and rarely demonstrate at all. There are teachers who teach each class through a different sequence, and some with a lot of repetition. As you try out different classes, make sure you check in and see if you truly feel like you are learning.
4. Make sure that you feel seen and welcome.
If you feel intimidated joining a brand new community, remember that it is important to feel like you are taken care of. As teachers, it is our job to be able to cater to all kinds of people who come with different bodies, levels of experience, and learning style. This will be evident in the way a community comes together. Your experience should always make you feel supported and empowered at the same time.
As we make our way towards the end of this year, don’t hesitate to invest in your self-care. The classes you take can create a positive impact in the way you handle your life outside of your mat so make sure that the process of choosing the community for you is done mindfully. Good luck and keep practicing!
Teacher Ben and Teacher Rianna are experienced yoga teachers, who dedicate their lives to guiding fellow practitioners reach their full potential.