By Heather Kellogg –
Community = Attitudes + Interests + Goals
It’s Wednesday, my alarm went off at 5:30 am. As I was getting ready for work, I laid down on my hardwood bedroom floor. “UGH, my back” I pulled myself back up and finished getting ready for my day. Out the door and onto the tollway I go, with each delay in traffic, I feel my upper back tense up. I walk into my 9 am team meeting with my eventually dehydrating cup of coffee and make a sarcastic comment in hopes of getting a laugh. A laugh. In hopes of getting a laugh, just one. I’d argue even the most antisocial of us all need to feel recognized, supported and validated.
At 3 p.m. my phone goes off. It’s a fellow yogi, “Yoga?” YES. YOGA. I put my phone down and power through another two hours and rough commute back west. I run into my house, change my clothes, “bun up” my hair and jump back into my car. I could have spent another 15 minutes at home, but I chose to go straight to the studio. The second my car door opens, I hear my name and get a big hug. The tension in my body begins to release.
Let’s circle back. I’ve always been an active person. I took dance lessons growing up; I was a cheerleader through junior-high; I ran track; and I played a lot of softball. When I got out of college in the early 00’s, I fell into the whole kickboxing phase. I joined gyms; I ran laps around my neighborhood. Later I found Pilates, which I THOUGHT was my jam. All of these memberships led to the same outcome, me online trying to cancel. By now I was 31. I was stressed out. My back was in knots, and I frankly did not need more challenge in my life.
In May 2012 I spotted a Groupon for a new yoga studio in Yorkville, Ill. I assumed yoga was “like Pilates”, so I signed up. The class was full; the teacher was good; and the room was HOT. I was definitely challenged, but I wasn’t JUST challenged. I was also calmed. I found ease. The messages, the quotes, they were all things I NEEDED to hear. I kept coming back.
The owner of my home studio, Tairi Grace of Sense of Samadhi, did virtually everything in her power to make yoga accessible to EVERYONE in the community. Every Friday, she offered a Free Community class. Tairi and her team made everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
After five years of practicing, and eventually completing Yoga Teacher Training at Sense of Samadhi, I moved away. I began my search almost immediately for local community yoga. I missed those classes.
I researched the local park district policy concerning offering a “Free Yoga in the Park” event, and my free class, Moody Monday, was born. I offered six free yoga classes between August 7 and September 25 this year. Each week on average 25 yogis walked across Moody Park and unrolled their mats. They came from their long commutes, from their desk jobs, from their family lives to take 60 minutes to fill themselves back up.
It’s funny because if you talk to a long-term yogi, one of the first things they will tell you about yoga is how it creates this sense of “community”. I think community is the new word for what our culture once identified as “fellowship”. But how is community created?
- Social Scene.
Yoga CAN BE social. Even if you aren’t the type to chat on the mat, you will still begin to recognize the familiar faces in the room, and they will recognize you. This is your scene, these are your people. As a teacher, I allow my students to engage in open conversation before each class. I encourage you to check-in with each other, and I try to check-in with you too.
- United through a Similar Interest.
It’s not one single interest. It’s a multitude of the same interests and feelings that bring you back to this room and this same mat. You come to yoga to “feel better,” and so do they. You will always have that in common.
- Feel Supported, Validated, and Loved.
The greeting of the teacher, the smile of a fellow yogi as you fall out of Tree Pose, the random foot on your mat in Supine Twist… These are all the moments that when combined create a supportive atmosphere, where we feel at home. We realize we are all the same. We sweat; we release tension; we center our energy. We rise up from Savasana as a newly calmed soul. We are accepted, just as we are in this space.
- The desire to Share this Feeling.
Being a part of this type of community feels huge and will make you want to BE THE LOVE. You will innately want to share this feeling with others. Sharing studio events, inviting everyone you know to yoga … it comes with the territory!
- Social Responsibility.
It’s likely your circle of friends will become sprinkled with yogis. When you begin to surround yourself with well-intended company outside of the studio, you begin to spread your light and love into the surrounding world. Fundraisers, Food Bank Donations, Natural Disaster Relief and Giveback Yoga Classes are all socially responsible #thingsyogisliketodo!
Yoga is the foundation of true community. Namaste, my friends.
Heather Kellogg is the owner of the upcoming Yellow Aura Yoga, which will be opening at the corner of Second and Hamilton in Downtown Geneva, Ill. December2017, www.yellowaurayoga.com. See more about Heather at Yellow Aura Yoga on Facebook.