Yoga is known to be a deeply personal practice, a way to clear the mind and find a sense of personal balance. Yet the social connections created, through deep friendships and meaningful communities, is as important is. Here are some yoga benefits, from research and personal experience, that can offer meaningful connections to others in a world of uncertainty and superficial social media connections.
- Movement: Even if doing it alone, there’s ample evidence that physical activity improves mood and cognitive functioning. Recent research also shows how exercise increases neuroplasticity , the brain’s adaptability change. When in a better mood, chances are you will be kinder and more patient with others. After my first in person studio class this year, I also re-discovered the thrill of flowing with others, feeling the energy of the room and the collective breathing. Even during the quietness of the practice, the group movement can offer a great way to reconnect with others.
- Nonharming:, Ahimsa, often translated as as “nonviolence” or “absence of injury” is an ancient concept originating in the Vedas—Indian spiritual and philosophical wisdom dating from as far back as 1900 BCE, or nearly 4,000 years ago. Much later, around the second century BCE, Patanjali, is said to have studied these Vedic texts and developed the classic texto of yoga, the Yoga Sutras. One of the key principals in the Sutras is Ahimsa, a spirit of non-harming, which extends to friends. Avoiding gossip, meaningful acts or words are all part of ahimsa and explains why yogis make great friends.
- Presence. In the most famous verse in the entire Yoga Sutras, yoga is described as ” resolution of the agitations of the mind.” The practice of restraint, observances, posture, breath control, withdrawal from the senses, concentration, meditation and samadhi are also part of Patanjali’s the eight-fold path of yoga. In simple terms, through meditation and mindfulness, yoga promotes a presence in the present moment. When you are really present with your friends, listening without judgment or trying to fix or correct, a deeper connection emerges.
As Amina J. Mohammed (Deputy Secretary-General) said two years ago on International day of Yoga,“The essence of yoga is ‘balance’, not just within us but also within our relationship with humanity, with the rest of the world.” So next time you are on the mat in a group setting, try to open to its wider benefits of building social connections, offering a smile or a Namaste to the yogi next to you or across the screen.