WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOGA COMMUNITIES FACING NOW AND HOW CAN THEY THRIVE
IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
Forced lock-downs, smaller classes and travel bans with or without quarantine combine in a recipe for financial hardship. Be it reduced teaching hours, studio closures or no work at all, and few alternatives, we need community support more than ever. But how do we hold or build community when there is a growing evidence of tribalism and a desperate need to “put your own oxygen mask on first”?
Whatever the answer is, part of the solution will include safe and open communication.
That’s part of the reason this newsletter was forged. Personally, it wasn’t the best time with looming deadlines, prior commitments and immediate challenges arising (more on that later), but in reality and being mindful, there was never going to be a better time!
A few weeks ago Donna and I watched “The Social Dilemma”, a recent film on Netflix that explores and exposes the dark side of the world’s largest human network, Facebook. The film dramatised how we have unwittingly sold ourselves to capitalism for the shiny lure of something for free and without understanding how our very thoughts are manipulated by what we are shown on our news-feeds. Both paid and unpaid content is delivered to us in a controlled fashion by algorithms, specific for each person. What you see on Facebook over any hour or day is unique. Ever wanted to see something you just looked at and couldn’t find it?
And every action, every scroll, every click is recorded and measured. You have a digital avatar, increasingly refined and detailed, and although it is not sold, access to it is, and by default that means access to you.
The film put forward the premise that Facebook and Google (through their platform You Tube) have responsibility for the fracturing of society that we see today. Riots are becoming more and more common place. Tribalism is growing because safe open debate where ideas are challenged is less common.
Echo chambers thrive when critical thinking is abandoned, often as a result of psychologically-derived click-bait rewarding the unwary. This is just one symptom of an increasingly individualistic world, neatly defined in the phrase “I’ve-Got-Mineism”, the first mention of which I can find is in a Humanifesto written by Destiny Kinal in 2008.
I’m not saying that social media is all bad, just that the bad is inseparable from the good and so for now Facebook and You Tube cannot be considered safe for the individual as the underlying driver is the forming our behaviour for money.
The film was long into the production house when the pandemic emerged and these two major global forces are behind the questions posed in the title. The threats and pressures today appear to be antagonistic to building a thriving yoga community. So how do we collectively change course?
A Healthy Yoga Community Is Essential
There’s been loads and loads of feedback to me from yogis in many different countries that I’ve engaged with over the last three years, both online (yes including Facebook) and in-person. The consistent thread arising is that yogis are thirsty for a global community, and perhaps now even more, because the current pressures run the risk of pushing people further and further away from that goal.
Yogis are stampeding to create an online presence, which by its very nature will create siloed mini communities. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you zoom out from the detail, some key ingredients of yoga are cooperation, mutual support, common interest and interdependence. There’s plenty of room for everyone and importantly there are many skills needed to support a thriving community. There are lots and lots of questions and to get the ball rolling …
- What’s changes have you noticed in your local yoga community and how is that affecting you?
- What concerns you most about the changes you’re experiencing?
- Do you belong to more than one yoga community now? If so what new challenges or benefits are you experiencing?
- What would you want from an online yoga community?
- Is this a discussion you even want to have?
Please add your comments and feedback below.
Thank you for these questions that land into the heart of what is emerging in my zoom yoga practice! In April I was the last to sign on to a 200 hour YTT offered by the local yoga studio here in Jefferson County, WV. Our last session is in 3 weeks. Reflecting on the experience it challenged all of us to co-create a new way of relating (mostly on zoom), experimenting, playing, communicating. What worked for me: small group out of class zoom gatherings, accountability partnerships, finding a zoom in class mix of doing, listening and discussing (asana labs in which we deeply explored an asana by doing and querying felt very engaging), readings that helped create a common language, and there is more. The group was roughly 20 practitioners and was led by one teacher who most often invited guest teachers and in the last few sessions taught with a partner. Teacher as someone who facilitates learning from each other was particularly alive. This on line community connected by our yoga practice offered a place for shared ritual, creation of new rituals, a body centered structure at a time of disintegration, a space for deepening discovery of the subtle body’s capacity to transmute and co-regulate with others, and, and, and. What is missing….we are predominantly white middle class women. If yoga means to unite, self within self within self until there is no self and other, then what does it mean that our community is not really that inclusive? One requirement on my final empowerment review is to create an aphorism that reveals my understanding of one part of the Bhagavad Gita. Mine is “this is not happening to us, this is us.” So when you say “the bad is inseparable from the good” on FB, I say the same about us. Like social media we script ourselves, we entrain, we adapt, we want and NEED to belong, to be safe. Before COVID an experience visited me, enfolding me, inviting me to prepare and with it a tool was offered. Embedded in the experience was an opportunity to practice creating safety for myself. Why? so that instead of collapsing or propping I could find that place of yield. What does yield feel and look like in our community? We are all bodies…we share a nervous system connection, a heart connection, a breath connection….I am listening for where and how I resist that connection. As an aside, I found my way to this page on the internet through Donna. My first experience of Donna was reading her post to the Iyengar community about abuses of power within the community (one of Donna’s books is on our TT reading list). Reading her clear requests drew me to wanting to learn more from her. Bought her books and participated in this year’s on-line workshops and happily embraced this concept of collapse, yield, prop among others. Been lovely holding simultaneously Donna’s presence with the presence of Sonya Renee Taylor’s teachings in “The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love.” There is so much safety in radical self love, and Donna’s courage in standing up to the forces that would in any way interfere with our capacity for radical self love is the kind of personal leadership I actively “yield” into. So I guess this is also my feedback on Donna’s summer series! That’s my offering…thank you for asking.
Thank you Beth for your thoughtful comment. Your aphorism “this is not happening to us, this is us.” is a helpful reminder that we are not powerless observers or static recipients of life. We can change, and that is the hope within the film, that a new course can be set and sailed.
Your response that we can be likened to social media is really important and at the same time startling to read. In effect FB and YouTube have built the AI calculations supporting machine learning of their computers sitting behind our screens. And it’s this mimicking and mining of our inclinations for profit that is a form of capitalism that’s objectionable.
Your question about what yield looks like in the community is one to take away and ponder. Thank you.