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The Value of Community

The Value of Community

 The Value of Community: Morning Mysore at Meadowlark

by Emma Isokivi

Having returned back to Edinburgh, after studying/ being on the road over the winter, I’m blessed to be back in the community both practicing and teaching. Going away has lots of value…

Hopefully during a period away, you have gained a little perspective, maybe you might notice the value (or not) of what you have around you and then go about attempting to settle back into new and/or healthy old patterns.

Stepping away, for me, highlighted the importance of having a community around you to support you.  This could be your friends, your family, your colleagues, people that you are lifted up and/or challenged by.

Here, I’m specifically interested in talking as an Ashtanga practitioner, I’m talking about the work that goes on in the mysore room, the relationship you have with a teacher and those others that I share that room with.  Most interestingly, those mystery people, that you may never exchange more than a word with, but you know exactly what their breath sounds like, possibly what colour their mat is.  You might know what their last posture is, you celebrate with them during their victories, and you hope that during the times they are struggling, that the collective presence of others will support them to continue mindfully.  On a side note- sometimes, if you are lucky, those mystery people, become dear friends too.

When in that room, yes, you are focusing on your own practice, your own breath, your dristi, but there are times where we lean on our community more, and other times that energetically you give back in abundance to that pool of energy.  There’s a saṃsāric (circular, repetitive) quality to this giving and receiving.

As a practitioner, I find I’m ‘better’, when there is accountability.  I find it easier to be accountable when I practice with others, a teacher, in a community.

I used to wish, that you could bottle up that collective energy and take it with you on the road, for those months of solo practice that we all have in our Ashtanga future.  But over time, I’ve started to learn that, the energy sits deeply within you, that the sense of community can come back to you each time you step on the mat.  I strongly feel that once you’ve been seeped in a community long enough that it stays somewhere deeply in you.  If you allow it to.

“sa tu dīrgha-kāla-nairantarya-satkāra-(ādara)-āsevito dṛḍha-bhūmiḥ”

Practice becomes firmly established when it has been cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion over a prolonged period of time. 1.14 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Edwin Byrant translation)

Often we can look at this sutra and we think about the action of asana- or of practice.  But it relates perfectly here, the concept of ‘seeping’ in a community and/or collective energy isn’t something that happens over night.  It happens slowly, little by little, uninterrupted over a long period of time.  That ‘amount’ of time for each practitioner is different, you have to find that bit out for yourself.

Over the years, I have found there are ways to extract it, but I’m still learning.  My teacher Sarah, invited me to think about the opening chant in a specific way a few years ago- that sits with me deeply still now:

vande gurūṇāṁ caraṇāravinde
sandarśita svātma sukhāva bodhe
I bow to the lotus feet of the gurus (teacher),

who uncovers our true self and awakens happiness.

When I’m practicing (especially on my own), I find chanting the opening invocation particularly potent.  It’s more than a collection of Sanskrit words, I use it as a tool to invite my teachers to join me, to honour the lineage and wisdom behind the practice and also my community that I’m accountable to.  This supports me on the mat, whether I do a big or small practice.  Everyone has different ways of doing this- I’m still learning- so research what works for you, and feel free to share it with those in your community.

For those practitioners, who are feeling lost in their way, and those who have access to a community somewhere not too far away.  Tap into it.  As regularly as you can.  It’s worth it. The lessons learnt in that room, go way beyond the physical practice of asana.  Tim Miller once said  “Practice with adjustments, progress is quick. Practice with no adjustments, progress is slow. Both are correct method and beneficial, just be aware there is a difference. 

But we can take these lessons off the mat- not just talking about a yoga community any more, but ask yourself:  Do you have a community around you to support you?  Do you support your community- could you do more for those around you?

Our sweet Mysore program runs Monday- Friday, 6.30-11.30am & Sunday 6:30-11:00. Sarah continues our free philosophy and chanting session on Wednesday (4pm) and Friday (9.15am).  Do come join us- you’ll find a community of others practicing deeply behind the sun studio door at Meadowlark.  For all Mysore membership enquiries please speak to the Meadowlark reception team 0131 2287581.

On Sunday the 5th of June– there will be a special moon day class, in place of morning mysore- fundraising for the Scottish charity Yogability.  Focusing on some simple philosophy, history and practice techniques to support your practice.  This will be a relaxed community event- everyone is welcome.  See booking link below.
Emma Isokivi