The Creation of a Yoga Community

I have interesting disclosure habits.  I’ll tell anyone funny stories about my life, but I usually won’t share serious stuff (ok, I’ve been doing it more lately via blogging, but that’s like talking to myself) until I’m comfortable with someone.  And then, Katie bar the door, out it comes.  I have some friends, around whom I feel very comfortable, that I seem to always be spilling a major life issue (sorry folks – you know who you are).  But, one of those very friends was overheard a few years ago telling someone else that I’m “hard to get to know,” because of the aforementioned tendency to share the silly and not the serious.  I have family members who don’t know some rather large parts of my life, because I haven’t ever gotten to a place where I feel ok sharing the “deep/dark” with them.

This being the case, it’s been interesting to watch the changes in my own level of disclosure with my yoga teacher training classmates.  At first, I would happily (maybe overly happily) discuss the readings or yoga philosophy or my experiences in class.  A little later, and I was adding in more about my emotional reactions to the readings and my health challenges.  Recently, I find myself sharing more significant information (we haven’t reached that point where I barely seem to have a verbal governor at all and am apparently ready to bare my soul at the drop of a hat, but who knows).

In one way, I don’t love this, as the disclosure usually makes me feel anxious afterwards, when I’m worrying that I’ve said to much or created an uncomfortable environment for my peers.  But, in another way, I’m pretty stoked.  Clearly, for me, we have created a real community in our yoga teacher training class.  I feel close to my fellow students and like I can trust them – hence the disclosure.  I know that some of it is because talking about yoga philosophy tends to call for discussion and examination of self, but I also see that I could be picking much more “surface” issues to share, and the fact that I’m not says something about the culture of the group.

I could still stand to get over my worry about how I’m being judged, but as I said in my new years revolution post, that’s just an ongoing project for me.  But, that issue aside, this is a pretty cool/interesting phenomenon.  I’m not sure how it’s happening, exactly.  Maybe it’s something about the studio itself.  Maybe it’s this group of people.  Maybe it’s the intensity of being in the training program together.  Maybe it’s that we are all learning a new “language” of yoga/philosophy together and language creates community.  I don’t know (though as a communication studies scholar, I’m finding it all rather interesting), but it’s nifty in any case.

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6 Responses to The Creation of a Yoga Community

  1. yvonne says:

    I feel the same way about our group 🙂

    And, on your worry about being judged, I will say this. I recently in the last year opened up to two friends who I’ve only known for a short while about some pretty heavy stuff – and discovered that we had far too much in common, family-wise. My family life growing up was far from perfect and very dysfunctional. And I internalized a lot of that out of shame, or an Eastern family-honor mindset, or coping. Whatever. I carried it around inside for too many years, not sharing and therefore, not giving others a chance to support me when I needed it.

    But what I tell everyone now these days, is that there is no normal. There’s no normal family or normal shiny, happy people. Everyone has issues, and everyone can relate. And what I found out over the years as I shared more, is that I didn’t get critical looks or disbelieving glances or uncomfortable silences – I got head nodding emphatically and people who simply were spilling out words to share what they had in common, because they totally related.

    I am a believer that verbalizing things make them more real and that it is always, always better to share than carry something alone. So anything you ever want to talk about, I am always good for a cup of coffee 🙂 Hugs!

    • theveganasana says:

      Thanks, Yvonne. I don’t know that anyone has ever responded badly (in front of me) to a piece of sharing. So, yeah, it’s all about me putting my thoughts and judgments on them, huh? 🙂 We definitely should coffee some time, or maybe beer 😉

  2. Laura Jill says:

    I think it’s something about the nature of teacher training. Everything you’re learning and going through together is pretty deep–from the sutras to asana adjustments. That sort of a situation engenders a closeness and a realness.

    My teacher training was in 2005. I just took a class w/ one of my friends who trained w/ me and who I hadn’t seen in over 2 years. It was so beautiful to see her–she kept hugging me when she walked past and I was in tadasana. 🙂

    I did another teacher training in 2008–other than the friends I made, it was a complete disappointment. But the friends…they’re friends for life.


    • theveganasana says:

      Ah, true! Yoga does that anyway. I remember reading about how some poses release emotions and thinking “bah!” Then I took my first yin class and went into a really deep hip opener and suddenly was verging on tears – eye opener! Oh, that’s where I’ve been shoving those emotions 😉

      That’s a bummer that the 2008 training wasn’t good. I came into mine with such high hopes; I can’t imagine how I would have felt if it wasn’t “worth it.”

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Katie says:

    I can really sympathize with what you’re saying. Sometimes I leave teacher training feeling like I talk way too much! In addition, I suspect that some of my family members wouldn’t be happy that I share some of the family issues we’ve been going through recently, but all of these struggles just seem tailor-made to teach important lessons (all of which relate to yoga). Also, I reject the notion of feeling ashamed of psychological issues, which are of course stigmatized in our society. Therefore, I really feel compelled to share these things with all of you in teacher training. I also REALLY love to talk about yoga, life, psychology, why people do the things we do, etc. So all this translates into me not holding back too much when I share with the group.

    I agree that there is a real sense of community and trust in our class, and I’m very thankful for that. Throughout this process so far, I’ve strived to not be afraid to share things with you all. Like you, I’ve also been working on not being concerned with how I’m perceived by others (which has not been easy), so this is all part of the process. Perhaps it’s ultimately about shedding ego and just being authentic.

    So, my point is–it’s all good! I agree with Yvonne that sharing is better than keeping things inside. I always seem to gain insight on things when I talk about them with others. To me, it’s an honor to have this much trust with each other.

    • theveganasana says:

      : D I agree about the stigmatization of psychological or emotional struggles. I think we (US culture) treat any sort of mental/emotional issue as a sign of weakness. And we totally disregard the non-dualistic nature of things (i.e. people have a whole variety of relationships to body and food – it’s not just eating disordered or not). I can talk about things like that or other personal issues in the abstract all day. But, getting around the worry about judging – which probably really means getting around judging the self – that’s harder, huh?

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