Thoughts from Cath

Yoga is a 'Self-Practice' so why is community also important?

Catherine Kelleher

2nd November 2017

Yoga is ultimately, a self-practice. As my teacher Paul Harvey says, it is a ‘work-in’ not a ‘work-out’. Our path is OUR path and as we travel along it people (and teachers) may come and go.

The benefits of a consistent self-practice are huge. I cannot emphasis this enough. Taking time in your day to make space for inner connection is a fundamental shift of priorities. We start to see our ‘stuff’ for what it really is and our relationship to our own wellbeing and to the world around us changes.

But all spiritual paths have some provision for sangha, or community; the possibility of coming together and learning from elders or teachers and also from peers; others who are walking the same path and can share in their experiences. And equally important, a place to be inspired and to keep you engaged in the practice.

There can be many pitfalls in practice; things that ‘come up’ for us. Here is an example that came up recently when working with a group of secondary school teachers and support staff. I think it is a very common issue and one you might recognise. It is that when we start to practice regularly, we become more sensitive. Our senses are heightened and we feel things more deeply. We notice more of what is going on around us but we are also more aware of our own ‘stuff’. However, we may not feel we are equipped to do much with what comes up at this time. These new observations can feel abrasive, as though we are being pulled out of our centre. We can get frustrated. Staying grounded can be difficult and we are drawn to old habits.

Without having somewhere to go with these observations we can feel isolated. It is a positive step forwards in our practice but may not feel that way. It can be difficult to discuss these kinds of things at the end of a group class. So what do we do with it?

In my own experience, this is where the benefit of having a teacher or a community around us can be hugely helpful. To hear from others on the same path that they have stumbled in the same way can be very comforting. To have your observations and concerns acknowledged is to make connection with another on a similar journey and learn from one another’s experiences.

We can gain support from community. We can gain inspiration and encouragement. We often need this for continued practice. Some of the most successful courses I have taught have been where small groups have bonded and shared their experiences of trying to integrate yoga into their lives. I’m sure the pressure of wanting to return to the group and show they had been practicing also had something to do with it but I’ll take that as a win too. By any means necessary!

If you have been trying to establish a home practice, if you are trying to walk this path and hit obstacles along the way, know that this is normal. I hope you seek out a teacher that can work with you as well as a community to support and inspire. Cardiff is blessed with many teachers that have a similar approach to community. Seek them out, or make your own community. Connection is important. We need it to thrive.
Cath x