As a yoga teacher or coach, chances are you are often working with groups. And in other areas of your life, you are part of groups as well, such as your family or friends. How can you bring a new dimension to the groups and teams that you work with or just make part of, by using principles from yoga? How can yoga help to build a stronger connection with others?
First of all, yoga is a powerful way to cultivate a stronger connection to yourself. All yogic practices aim at ultimately connecting to a deeper sense of Self.
You might think of yoga as a purely individual practice. However, yoga is also about connection. ‘Yoga’ in Sanskrit can be translated as ‘yoking’, a synonym of ‘connecting’. It is also often translated as ‘union’, which reflects the core idea of yoga philosophy: all is connected, everything is one.
The ability to connect, to engage in relationships with others, requires the capacity to connect to yourself. We need to cultivate a stable sense of self and a feeling of safety. When we feel safe, we are relaxed and open. Therefore, we are able to communicate and share feelings. This is reflected in the state of our body and mind. It is a state that we can achieve by a regular yoga or meditation practice.
Most yogic exercises will help you to bring your awareness inward, thereby reconnecting to ourselves and calming the body and mind. These techniques are especially useful:
Not only the yoga practice on the mat but also the broader yoga philosophy can help build stronger relationships. The Yamas provide a framework of values and behavioral guidelines that you can translate to groups as well.
You can apply the Yamas to group relationships as follows:
1. Ahimsa: Non-violence in thoughts, words and actions is ahimsa. In a group relationship, you can introduce non-violence by setting rules for communication and behavior and practice these. For example:
Apply talking techniques such as
2. Satya (Truthfulness). Satya is violated when there is a lot of gossip in a group or lying in a relationship. When thinking about truth in different groups and settings it is important to acknowledge that different people have different views on a certain matter, their view is their truth. Below some technique on how to disentangle confusions and non-truths in communication, in order to establish a sense of satya and trust:
3. Asteya: Asteya means literally ‘non-stealing’ but can be also interpreted as not taking what you haven’t received, earned. This is a broad concept that applies to both professional and personal relationships. How to apply asteya in groups and relationships?
4. Brahmacharya: Brahmarchary is often misunderstood as meaning only sexual abstinence. However, it can be much more broadly defined as non-indulgence. You can think of brahmacharya as practicing self-awareness and self-regulation. It is all about moderation and balance. In a group relationship, you can find balance as follows:
5. Aparigraha: The principle of aparigraha, non-attachment, can be a somewhat confusing theme when talking about relationships, especially close ones. A close relationship, for example to your parents or your partner, involves safe attachment. However, safe attachment means that there is reciprocal and unconditional love and at the same time there is space for autonomy and realistic boundaries. In other words, you shouldn’t become too little nor too much attached to someone else. If you realize, from the yogic perspective, that you are at the core connected, there is no need to become overly attached or needy. You are all coming from the same source, the Supreme Self. Practice aparigraha in relationships by:
If you think about it, you are part of many different groups in your life. Each of these groups has their own unique dynamics and needs:
Yoga has become very popular as a relationship-building activity. When you get the opportunity to work in a team building setting, you can help the group to find a stronger connection to themselves. You can do a simple, yet effective, sequence to share the space and time with each other.
Connecting the body and breath has a strong healing effect, as it seems to enable people to more easily connect with their inner world. This easy yoga sequence mainly focuses on the breath and how it flows (and doesn’t flow) in the body. It also includes a few partner yoga exercises – please check with the group if everybody is comfortable with that. It is also possible to do the exercises individually. For the partner yoga setup, make two rows with the mats facing each other.
In short, yoga can provide a surprising number of tools to build stronger relationships. A strong and safe connection to others starts with a calm state of the individual. Moreover, yoga philosophy offers many values and principles to build group relationships. Examples of these principles are non-violence, truthfulness, and unconditional acceptance. These yogic ways of building stronger relationships apply to different types of groups, from families to organizations. Finally, yoga is also a great opportunity for team building as it can be practiced together in a fun and playful way. All of these yogic techniques will help to cultivate a stronger connection to yourself and others.
Kalyani Hauswirth-Jain is creative director & senior teacher at the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams since 2013. She teaches during the Arhanta 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training as well as a variety of 50-hour courses such as the Vinyasa Yoga teacher training, for more than nine years now. She is also the co-author of the book Hatha Yoga for Teachers & Practitioners – A Comprehensive Guide to Holistic Sequencing.