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.