I remember being surprised by how I felt at a family reunion many years ago, sitting in a room with 25 blood relatives, many of whom I hadn’t seen in decades.  I could feel the bond with them so tangibly, so physically.  It’s like my DNA recognized their DNA.  Thus while we were getting caught up, essentially getting to know each other all over again, there was a wordless bond that made the words almost unnecessary.  That bond spans from birth to death.  It’s earthy.  It’s real.

You have a similar bond with your yoga family.  The people who share your interest in yoga also end up sharing your deep experiences — both because you tell them what’s happening for you as well as because they are having similar deep experiences.  That’s the reason you both practice yoga.  The bond you share is physical, it’s real, it’s earthy.  It’s like your spiritual DNA.

The iconographic image of the skeletal yogi is a myth.  The yogis through the last 10-20 thousand years lived and practiced together.  They built their lives around yoga; they built their homes in close proximity to each other; they shared their cooking, shared their child-rearing and shared their lives.  They called themselves a kula, meaning family or clan.  You belong to the Svaroopa® kula when you decide you belong.  The price of admission is easy — simply your choice to belong.

So many times I’ve sat in a yoga room, waiting for the moment to begin teaching, and watched a student arrive.  Sometimes that student is a returning yogi and they come over with a gleam in their eye.  When I realize who they are, or they remind me, we often laugh and cry, both of us doing both all at the same time.  What a reunion!  It’s family.

When I talk to a yogi facing a crisis, or hear of what’s going on in their lives or attend a funeral for a yogi who has preceded me into the next step of life, it’s family.  When I encounter someone that I knew during my years with Baba, it’s family.  When I lead a retreat or step into a classroom with Svaroopis from all over the globe, it’s family.

Yoga’s texts clearly describe how your yoga family supports and enriches your practice as well as your life.  The living masters intentionally foster their students, like a foster parent raises a child — not as a substitute for the real thing, but serving as a true parent in ways that the child’s biological parents simply couldn’t manage.   Similarly there were things in you that your parents didn’t understand, didn’t know how to nurture, didn’t know how to guide you through — and yoga does.  When you find your yoga, it’s like coming home.  You may know the floor of the yoga classroom more intimately than you know the floor in your own home.  It’s family.

I came from a huge family!  I shared such amazing yoga experiences with thousands of yoga-sisters and yoga-brothers.  My Guru brought us together to open up something inside each one of us.  We have nurtured it through our practices, each in our own time and own way.  That inner opening grows into the one thing you cannot buy, earn or acquire — your own Self.  And there is only one Self.  That one Self is being all the selves that exist, including you and including me.  That makes us all family.

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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