Fighting Poverty with Passion
|Yoga as a community-building tool
Since January I have significantly amped up my personal yoga practice, attending a variety of classes across the city each week. I even had the exciting opportunity to start up a community class at the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center, originally taught by a 7th Ward resident. The class has been a really fun and important addition to my personal practice in more ways than one. Of course I think it is great to have a space to offer such a great wellness practice to a community who might not otherwise have access to yoga—the main sell of a community class. However, I’ve recently started to think critically about the ways in which a community class differs from the traditional in-studio and for-profit class. A community class is not just a free version of a regular class. Although it is offered free of charge, the class itself is inherently different: its focus is at its core community, where, generally speaking, the focus of a class in a studio is essentially personal and private.
For the last month and a half I’ve been attending a weekly Symbiotic Yoga class, a significantly new approach to my practice based on relationship-building. The class itself is NOT a community class in the sense that it is offered for free for members of a particular community. But it is completely focused on building community between yogis participating in the class. Sun salutations are done in a circle so that each person can see and communicate with everyone else. Following sun salutations are a series of partner poses ranging from partner-aided stretching to intense partner acrobatics. The class ends with partner Thai massage and a group meditation. What is so appealing to me about this class is its focus on relationships—it is both about the individual’s ability to give to others and to receive from others, and about the formulation of community within the group as a whole. The symbiotic class has sparked so much of my interest and I am thinking through ways to use the community focus of this class in the community class offered at the 7th Ward Neighborhood Center. It’s exciting to think about new ways to create relationships and develop a sense of community! -Laura Mellem, AmeriCorps VISTA
Visit the 7th Ward Neigborhood Center blog to learn more about the center!