The importance of connection
How yoga, and the simple act of going to a class, can enhance our sense of connection with others and our spiritual selves. By Greg Ormson
Yoga communities around the world continue to be deeply affected by an invisible virus called Covid-19. Starting in 2020, our community in-person gatherings have been stunted, intensifying the challenge to make important new social connections. We’ve responded the best we can, and we’ve learned to use social media tools to meet our longing for contact with others. But we also noticed that while communities established through the internet were important, they were different.
I’ve taught online but it still doesn’t feel normal and it’s a bit strange for me to think of ‘communities’ generated virtually. These communities are happening though and are connected through a vast, unseen network with potentially far-reaching effects…just like the network of connections transferring a virus.
Still, dealing with fallout from the worldwide pandemic, we’ve learned to navigate a ‘new normal’ and attempted to go on as before. Concerned about the future and wondering what the next trend or challenge will be, it’s hard to be present, calm, and connected. But this new awareness of social space is upon us.
Noreena Hertz, author of The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart, wrote: “Even before Covid, three in five adults in the US considered themselves to be lonely.” She went on to cite examples in Japan where people were committing minor offences just be arrested and go to jail, so they’d have someone to talk to.
Social scientists tell us we’re re-learning how to reconnect after our forced isolation. This shows both the adaptability of the human species and our longing for a healthy life. We could argue that yoga is built to meet this need because yoga teaches us how to reframe the spaces we inhabit.
Reframing yoga space means redefining social distance and seeing it as the possibility for a new sacred space. If this happens, our yoga communities may become springboards for new forms of yoga and life in the present.
It’s nothing new, but worth repeating, that yoga comes from the word yuj, meaning yoke or connection. A yoke can be hard to bear, but today we know better than before that living without connection is perilous to our health and sanity. I don’t know anyone that wants their gravestone to read: “Lived a shallow life alone; buried in a shallow grave alone.”
Carl Jung was famous for having said that unless a person has a deep spiritual community to which they belong, they will fall victim to the lower denominators of base instincts or even evil. I don’t think humans are destined to fall into evil without a spiritual community, but without meaningful connections, isolation and loneliness can be a slippery slope to desperation and more.
The myth of rugged individualism, a notion that’s driven the ethic of individualism and ambition in a country like the USA really is a myth.
We all need connections with others; and that need is so powerful that people will change their identities, alter their most treasured beliefs, or explore far and wide to find a niche from which to draw comfort.
Yoga practice with others can open us to a meaningful and powerful community of connection. Yoga practice individually and in community creates space for dialogue and relationship; it lays down a platform for a starting point for all community and that is our encounter with self. From that first step, relationships with others grow naturally.
Perfection in yoga may have been an ancient goal, but most people I know do not have perfection on their bucket list. I’ve not heard anyone say: “Yeah, I want to become the perfect yogi, to levitate, and become one with god.”
For most of us, learning to be at ease through yoga while improving our practice of breath and breathing is enough. From this, we may form new communities, improve our relationships and lives, and start doing things on our bucket lists.
Yoga is about relationship with self, but also about providing space for connection and learning. Crisis offers a time for renewed connections. Crisis can provide an entrée to a renewed friendship with ourselves and our yoga. Crisis may even help us see that we are endowed with a longing for connection.
And if you celebrate my learning with me, or better yet, get yourself to the mat so that you can learn something new…then I’m happy for you. If your goal is to be perfect, you’re welcome to go for it. I’ll wait for your video showing me that you’ve levitated. But until that time, let’s reimagine Hamlet’s sardonic words to Ophelia. Get thee to a yoga session.
Yes, maybe the connections with others will happen in new ways and will be different in the post Covid years; even so, yoga will connect you to your deeper self, and from that place you can leap confidently into the future. Get there and the rest will fall into place. Get there and trust that connections and community will happen.