You sweat together, cry together, and support each other physically during asana practice, but do you and your yoga classmates support each other outside the studio? If your yoga home is a safe space for growth with friends who inspire you, count yourself lucky. If you’re longing to create a yoga family, here are nine simple ideas for starters. Though most are geared toward teachers or studios, students can pitch in to launch ideas and build momentum.
1) Introduce a new teacher, attract new students, and generate good will by adding a low-cost or donation-based community class to the schedule. A loyal crowd of locals and university students pack the $5 YogaHour classes at Yoga Oasis, creating an exciting, positive vibe.
2) Play together with a recurring event that has the flavor of celebration or reward, perhaps a Thank-God-It’s-Friday restorative practice. West Asheville Yoga hosts a Winter Solstice celebration and a monthly kirtan among other community events.
3) Share a cup of herbal tea after class to encourage lingering and conversation. Many yoga studios offer this as a transition time before students dash back out into the world, but it’s also a good way to get to know each other outside of class.
4) Invite feedback and participation during the post-class tea, or add a bulletin board, allowing students to promote services and events of their own. Even easier, keep a suggestion box at the reception desk. When you implement their suggestions, students become co-creators.
5) Reach out to underserved populations in your community with bilingual yoga classes, therapeutic yoga, or teen yoga. In Ana Hansen’s Mom and Baby class and family classes, parents can bring their children. Asheville Yoga Center recently hosted an addiction recovery class. Studios offering childcare or work-trade opportunities help make attending classes regularly more affordable.
6) Give back to the greater community with fundraising events to benefit local nonprofits like the food bank. Be there for other communities in need, offering assistance or sanctuary, as Yoga Space of Connecticut did after the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school.
7) Celebrate special dates (Diwali, Earth Day, your studio’s anniversary, etc.) with a potluck dinner, kirtan, seed exchange, or an open house with free classes, like 7 Centers Yoga Arts’ annual New Year’s Day gala.
8) Unite around a common goal on an annual karma yoga day, when students pitch in to tidy the studio or grounds (or better yet, clean up a local park or neighborhood).
9) Show you care about students’ wellbeing by rounding out asana classes with holistic teachings that reinforce a yogic lifestyle, such as Ayurvedic cooking classes, neti pot lessons, japa mala, Sanskrit classes, or sutra study. At Tucson Yoga, Frank Jude Boccio hosts Cinema Nirvana, when yogis and Buddhists gather to watch a (sometimes unlikely) film, eat popcorn, and join in a dharma talk.
Keep a watchful eye out for the flip side to a yoga family. A bonded group of students and teachers can appear cliquish and unwelcoming to outsiders. Remember to reach out, and always return to the yamas and niyamas: Be kind and truthful. Share your gifts. Cultivate contentment and equanimity. Be inspired by others. Remember your higher self. If you’re a studio owner, it’s not only good business to be accessible and inclusive, it’s also a form of seva (selfless service), which some gurus consider the highest sadhana (practice) of all.
What are some things your yoga home does to create a sense of community?