For a shy, retiring sort like me, this has been quite a week. It began with last Sunday’s British Wheel of Yoga Northern Region AGM in Durham and ended yesterday with the North Yorkshire BWY Federation at Poppleton, York. I was the teacher at both these events. Much has happened in the intervening days – in addition to my regular classes and private sessions, I gave a yoga demonstration in a shop window and attended a tea party given by the Mayor of Harrogate, to celebrate a friend becoming a Freeman of the Borough.
I’ve definitely been beyond my comfort zone this week but I’ve noticed how good it feels to be part of a community. On Sunday the community was a yoga one. I met many warm, friendly North Eastern yoga folk for the first time and re-encountered friends from long ago. The yoga world is a small one – there seem to be connections wherever I go. (maybe practising yoga for 40 years has something to do with it!)
At the Mayor’s tea party on Thursday, my Freeman of the Borough friend talked about the importance his business had always placed in contributing to the community. He spoke of providing jobs and bringing tourists to the town but also that valuing community was part of their ethos. His reward for these laudable values was a gold medal, an illuminated certificate and the right to graze sheep on the Stray. (For those not familiar with the town of Harrogate, the Stray is a large park more commonly used for leisure pursuits such as jogging, football and dog walking)
The experience on Friday of demonstrating some yoga poses in Sweaty Betty Harrogate‘s shop window, was a little surreal. But it was a repeat performance – I’d done a similar demo when the shop opened – so it’s becoming a more familiar kind of surreality. This time the demo was to celebrate Sweaty Betty Harrogate‘s first birthday. During the past year I’ve got to know the lovely, friendly girls who work in the shop. I did a charity walk with them in August to raise funds for Hannah Hunt (a yoga teacher who was paralysed in a tragic accident). To me, the Sweaty Betty Girls feel like part of our yoga community in Harrogate.
But in any community there are always people who are lonely and isolated. They can be young or old, rich or poor. If we are a caring community we should be looking out for these people but it’s a common phenomenon for individuals to be excluded from social groups, whether consciously or unconsciously. A few weeks ago a friend, whilst speaking to me about her life, confided that she often felt an outsider. I’ve been pondering her words, because at times I’ve known the ‘outsider’ number too and it is a lonely place to be. It is much more comfortable to have a strong and continuous sense of belonging but I think that occasionally feeling, or being the outsider, can provide a clearer, braver perspective on life, with a greater ability to make changes.
I read an interview in Yoga Journal recently with psychologist, yoga teacher and long time meditator – Kelly McGonigal. She said, “People think that the way to make a change is that you wait for it to feel natural or easy. But transformation comes from being willing to be uncomfortable or uncertain. You have to dive right into not knowing. It’s hard at first but the process gets easier over time.”