Over the last several months, the Yogamatters Community classes have been thriving and full of wonderful yogis joining us to practice. From vinyasa flow to sound healing, restorative yoga and specialised classes, there’s something for everyone. Hundreds of you have signed up and joined in, and we’ve been thrilled to hear how much you’ve enjoyed the classes. What’s perhaps even more important than logging on to practice yoga however, is the sense of community that has grown between yourselves, Yogamatters, and everyone who has been involved. Community is something Yogamatters holds dear to our hearts, and it seems we’re not alone, because humans are wired to be in community with each other. For our physical, mental and emotional health, community matters. To highlight just how important community is to all of us, we’ve delved into three reasons we all need community. Not feeling part of a community right now? We’ve also got plenty of ideas on how to join and create your own community too. Read on!
We Need Community For Our Physical Health
In the midst of the pandemic, sleep issues sky-rocketed, as did anxiety and depression. Whilst it’s no surprise a total upheaval of our lives could cause insomnia and disturbed sleep, it turns out there’s a deeper and more evolutionary reason sleep suffered when we were separated and isolated from each other. Thousands of years ago when we were living in caveman-like hunter-gatherer groups, having people around us was vital for survival. During the night, we were more vulnerable to attack from predators or a rival tribe, so there would always be a few reliable members of the group around to keep watch. We’d also be surrounded by our family and friends as we slept, both for warmth and safety. Ever since that time, our brains have associated community with safety, especially when it comes to feeling safe enough to sleep.
During the pandemic, those who were most isolated and reported strong feelings of loneliness often also suffered from sleep issues, simply because their brains detected the lack of community as a threat, and wouldn’t allow them to wind down and drift into a deep sleep. Today, we don’t have to be surrounded by family and friends in order to get to sleep, but knowing we’re supported by others and feeling that we’re part of a community can all help send powerful safety signals to the brain, encouraging deeper and more restful sleep.
Enhance your sense of community by:
- Making plans to meet with friends face-to-face on a weekly basis. It can be all too easy to text or call, when what our bodies and brains really need is true human connection. The School of Life Meeting Friends card deck contains 52 cards with questions and exercises for deeper and more meaningful conversations with friends to make your meetups more memorable, and strengthen your community.
- Joining a local yoga class – grab the Yogamatters Beginner’s Eco Yoga Kit and head down to your local yoga studio to sign up.
- Creating a women’s circle with intention, purpose and meaning with the help of The Women’s Circle by Anoushka Florence. Women’s circles can be healing and empowering experiences of gathering community, full of sharing and relishing in each other’s company. They’re the ultimate ‘safe space’ where women can commune, open up and feel seen and heard.
We Need Community For Our Mental Health
Humans are social creatures; some of us may be more sociable and extroverted than others, but at our hearts, we all need a sense of community. Research from health foundations shows that when we feel part of a community and have stable and supportive relationships, we’re more likely to make healthy choices that lead to better outcomes. Those who are part of a community are also more likely to feel positive and optimistic about life, and have a sense of purpose, which in itself is beneficial for mental health and longevity too. When we feel part of a supportive community, we’re also able to share our thoughts and worries, but also our triumphs and dreams – doing so can help normalise those worries (so you’ll know you’re not the only one who feels like that!) and give you an extra boost and accountability when it comes to chasing your dreams.
Strengthen your sense of community for your mental health by:
- Joining the Yogamatters Community Yoga Classes
- Expressing your emotions to others. If you find it difficult to open up, practice first by journaling in the Kartotek Guided Reflections Journal, which can help you offload what’s been on your mind, and understand the thoughts that have been bothering you most, then you may be able to speak more easily to others about what’s on your mind.
- Listening to others. As well as speaking, it’s vital to listen in order to form a strong sense of community. Tell friends you’re always there for them, even if they may not need the support right at that moment.
We Need Community For Our Longevity
Research shows that those we surround ourselves with have a profound impact upon our life expectancy. If our community makes conscious, healthy and wise decisions, we’re more likely to do so too, and thus reap the benefits. However, if our community indulges in unhealthy behaviours, we’re also more likely to engage in those behaviours too…
Understanding the powerful influence community has on us can go a long way to improving our physical, mental and emotional health. A community that is supportive, open-minded, ready to listen and help helps us feel safe and secure in a world that today can seem all too scary. A community that makes healthy choices around diet, exercise and lifestyle supports us to live a healthier life too, and can increase our life expectancy significantly. Research into the Blue Zones (areas of the world that have unusually high life expectancies) shows that these areas all share a strong sense of community in common. In Sardinia, strong ties to family, friends, maintaining cultural traditions, and regular physical activity seems to contribute to their longevity, and the longer the Sardinian community continues to maintain these healthy and community-orientated choices, the longer they’ll thrive for.
Help your community make healthy choices by:
- Inviting them round for a healthy meal. Choose recipes from The Immunity Cookbook by Kate Llwellyn-Waters, or The Ayurveda Kitchen by Anne Heigham.
- Starting a regular group exercise routine; a weekly walk or jog can help you stay healthy whilst supporting each other in the process.
- Be an example to family and friends. What do you value the most about health, and how can you demonstrate that to others? For parents, spending less time on phones and social media can be great way to demonstrate to young children that phones aren’t a necessary part of enjoyment in life. Instead of spending hours immersed in screentime, take inspiration from The Self-Care Year by Alison Davies, revealing how to re-connect with your body and mind and engage with your surroundings to become more present.
Now you know how important community is for us on every level, how will you start connecting with yours?