Photo By: Alan Aclid

Better Together

4 Reasons to Embrace the Power of Community

Human beings, by nature, are social animals. Even the most introverted among us—those of us who prefer a personal practice to a room of sweaty yogis, or curling up with a good book to a glamorous cocktail party—ultimately need some kind of human contact in order to truly thrive. In fact, one study conducted by UCLA found that threats to one’s sense of belonging elicit a physiological response that felt very much like physical pain. In short: isolation hurts.

So, with our eighth annual conference literally right around the corner, your friends at Sedona Yoga Festival wanted to *reiterate* our ever-so-compelling case for practicing alongside a group of aum-azing like-minded beings. Here are four solid reasons to embrace the power of community—and immerse yourself in the high-vibe wonders of this unforgettable weekend. 

1) Community Promotes Consistency.

We definitely don’t dispute the benefits of a regular home yoga practice. Practicing at home is free, it’s convenient—and your dog doesn’t care when you last showered, or whether or not you snore in savasana. But practicing in a group certainly has its merits, too. For starters, studies show that people who exercise in a group enjoy enhanced duration, motivation, conversation and inspiration, as compared to those who do the same activities alone. 

And, while it’s true that a solo practice will release endorphins, moving your body in a room full of other bodies gives ALL of you access to the group’s good vibes. Smiles release additional happy juice (bonus!) and practicing in a group has been proven to help get you through any particularly long holds (Yin yogis, we’re looking at you). Beginners can take posture and form cues from more experienced practitioners—and hopefully there’s some juicy dharma, too. 

2) Community Heals Trauma.

Holding space for survivors of trauma has become a foundational part of Sedona Yoga Festival; if you haven’t read our founder Marc’s story, take a peek here. With each year that our Yoga for PTSD Training flourishes and evolves, we continue to be humbled by the beauty and resilience of the human spirit. But did you know: almost any member of society—trained or not—can be an integral part of the healing process? 

One of the most damaging things about trauma is our shattered sense of belonging. The experience removes us from the perceived safety of everything that came before, and places us in a foreign environment; we’re suddenly the sole inhabitant of our own lonely and terrifying planet. “Trauma shatters the construction of the self that is formed and sustained in relation to others,” says Judith Herman, best-selling author of Trauma and Recovery.

This sense of isolation prevents healing, Herman (and her contemporaries) insist. So it’s critical that trauma survivors connect with others with similar experience. Studies suggest that sitting in a group therapy session, even without contributing, can begin to lay the groundwork for addressing the shame and confusion that’s making them feel so alone. In feeling non-judgmental empathy for others, we begin to turn that compassion inward.

3) Community Supports Happiness.

For as long as we’ve been on this beautiful planet, humans have been chasing happiness. We’ve attributed it to health, love, money, environment, experience and even our pets. We’ve heard that happiness is a practice…or a choice…or that it’s not even a noble goal. Chances are, the real truth will continue to elude us. But we did find Harvard’s recent research—the longest study of adult life yet to be conducted—verrrry interesting. 

The most significant finding of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which started in 1938, is that solid relationships are the most predictive element of a happy life. The study’s author, psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor Robert Waldinger, says, “It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier—they’re physically healthier and they live longer.” 

By contrast, Waldinger found that people who feel isolated experience dramatic health declines and brain function issues in mid-to-later life—ultimately living shorter and less happy lives than those who are grounded in and supported by their communities. 

4) Supporting Community Creates MORE Happiness.

If you read our December post, you already know that giving is good for you. But we thought we’d provide a little more detail about giving back to your community. Studies have shown that regularly volunteering within one’s community can boost your resilience to stress, illness and loneliness—three societal evils that Waldinger’s study warns against. 

Another study found that altruism is contagious; those who witness acts of kindness are more likely to perform their own. Still more studies found that regular volunteers enjoy lower blood pressure and reduced chronic pain, along with a higher sense of purpose and…you guessed it…our old friend HAPPINESS! Kind of a win-win-win, if you will.

In summary—where and when should we be waiting with your welcome hug? In these challenging and polarizing times, it’s more critical than ever that we FIND OUR PEOPLE and spend quality time in their company. Here at Sedona Yoga Festival, we’ve spent nearly a decade creating one of the most vibrant, innovative and welcoming yoga communities on the planet. Together, we are building the future of yoga, brick by brick. We invite you to work…and play, and celebrate, and rejoice…alongside us next week. Hope to see you there!

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