Yoga: Solitary or Social?

For almost two years, I’ve been writing about how to do more yoga on your own.  Even online classes have you doing yoga on your own mostly.  It’s different than being in the room with other yogis and your teacher — the group energy clearly contributes to your physical prowess and yogic state.  But the pandemic required a more solitary practice, with in-person classes just getting going again.

It’s a fallacy that yogis practiced alone.  The iconic image of the skeletal yogi sitting alone in a cave in the Himalayas is incorrect.  While there were yogis who ventured into the frozen wastes, they each had a teacher and a supply chain, with a nearby villager bringing them food and other supplies.  Yoga has been a community-based process for thousands and thousands of years.  Better yet, no one had to make it up on their own.  They had Gurus.  In fact, without Gurus, these ancient teachings would never have made it to us, here in the West today.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika documents the community base needed by a yogi.

The yogi should practice in a small room situated… in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully. – verse 1.12

In such a peaceful environment, the yogi could rely on the generosity of those around them.  Such a yogi devoted full time to their practices.  Those living around the yogi supported him, making him able to dedicate himself to such an elevated lifestyle, pursuing enlightenment.

In the West, we shoehorn our practices into a busy life, managing family and work responsibilities.  You already know that creating time for your own personal practice improves your ability to manage things while it improves your health and mental and emotional state.

Yet when you get together with those who share your practice, they contribute to your ability to continue and deepen into it.  You’re working on enlightenment even when you don’t realize it!  And it’s easier when we work on it together.

Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati leads Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram in Downingtown PA.  An American yogi, she is an inspiring teacher with a loving manner and a great sense of humor.  Before becoming a swami (yoga monk), as Rama Berch, she served the yoga community as the founding president of Yoga Alliance.  Traveling and teaching nationally and internationally, she is authorized to initiate people into deep meditation through Shaktipat, as did Swami Muktananda, her own Guru.  The Ashram website features extensive Freebies, including articles and audio recordings on the principles of consciousness as taught by the sages of India, as well as how to apply them in your life today.

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