August: Kula

The path of Yoga is a journey of returning to our natural sense of unity and therefore to wholeness. We learn that the greatest separation to overcome is the one within ourselves and our yoga practice becomes a tool to conquer exactly that. We become aware of feelings and sensations we might have been cut off from before by tuning into breathing. We might also discover muscles in places we never imagined some to be during difficult poses and eventually we will connect to the observer within us by simply acknowledging our thoughts but by stopping to engage with them during meditation. Nevertheless, we are not experiencing the full meaning of Yoga, if our work on and off the mat is solely focused on our self-discovery. Yoga is not only about connecting with ourselves but also with others.

Yoga is about community, Kula, in Sanskrit. Even though we might venture deep into our own consciousness through our individual practice, we are still in this together. Just like on a real journey where there are many obstacles to overcome – delayed planes, busses and trains, not speaking the language of the country you are going to, unexpected detours, rocky paths and steep hills – this occasinal bumpiness can also be found in the journey to self-discovery. Therefore, being part of a Kula of like-minded people who have embarked on the same voyage like oneself, allows us to find understanding, companionship, compassion and support from each other throughout the way. This in turn enables each one of us to move deeper and go beyond the boundaries of what one thought is possible.

Simply think about how much easier it is to sit in a group of people and meditate for twenty minutes than to sit at home by yourself. Or how much deeper we sometimes seem to get into the asana when we are practicing with others instead of alone. Or how the rhythm of the teacher’s breath or the person’s next to us helps us to find the evenness in our own breath and enables us to connect with our self. Whether we consciously feel and know it or not, practicing together connects us to those around us. We do not need to know what is going on in their lives and any superficial facts, such as profession, relationship status, age, background and upbringing. These completely fall away and all that matters is that the person sharing our practice is on a similar journey as we are. And because we are in this together, there is no need and space for judgement, just simple and pure compassion connected with a sense of belonging.

And just like every other aspect of our yoga practice, also the notion of Kula can be taken off the mat and be lived in our everyday lives. The next time you step out of your yoga studio and away from like-minded ‘Yogis’, you can remember that it does not matter what the next person you encounter does for a living, what they wear, who they are dating or where they are from, but all which matters is that just like oneself, they feel pain and also joy. They probably have experienced losses, they might feel afraid sometimes but also courageous, they might struggle and they might look for ways to overcome those struggles and just like you, they want to love and be loved and feel a sense of belonging. Can we remember that we are all part of one big community, one Kula, and that on some level we are all connected? Our wellbeing depends and is deeply connected to the wellbeing of others. Together we can make space for each other, we can lift each other up, strengthen each other, shine the light of hope and love to those who feel as if all is lost and for that be given the same in return when we need it. Together we transcend suffering and thus join in unity to bring about harmony, love and understanding.

In this spirit….

Lokha Samastah Sukhino Bavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and to the freedom for all.

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