Focus of the Month - November

Sangha - Community - संघ 

by Nora 


Meaning: The Sangha generally stands for an association of people with a common vision. The Sanskrit word Sangha also means spiritual community. In the Buddhist context the Sangha is one of the three possibilities to take refuge (next to Buddha as teacher and the Dharma as the teachings). In Yoga, the fellow students are in a Sangha. All yoga practitioners of any tradition, whether they know it or not, form a Sangha.

In these challenging times it is so important to embrace a sense of togetherness within the context of social distancing and fear. In our Yoga on the Move Shala we offer the context of yoga practice in Community Refuge. The Shala is the context for our Sadhana (=that which can be done).

Becoming a Sangha and not just a group of people who happen to practice Yoga in the same (virtual) room means to embrace everyone as an equal on their own journey, to embrace the possibility of learning from each other. It means also to question the fake hierarchy in the teacher-student relationship that often leads to an illusion of separateness. 


The Sangha is:

practicing the good way.

practicing the upright way.

practicing the knowledgeable way.

practicing the proper way.

The Sangha is:

worthy of gifts (Āhuneyyo)

worthy of hospitality (Pāhuneyyo)

worthy of offerings (Dakkhiṇeyyo)

worthy of reverential salutation (Añjalikaraṇīyo).


The Sangha was originally established in order to provide a means for those who wish to practice full-time in a direct and highly disciplined way, free from the restrictions and responsibilities of the household life.

The Sangha also fulfils the function of preserving the teachings and of providing spiritual support for the community.


The evaluation of a Sangha also has something to do with context, degree of identification and reference system. Sometimes one gets lost in small-mindedness, in identifications and still boasts of the spiritual path. It is beautiful to join a group of practitioners. Yet all people on this planet are a community. Especially in days of globalization, but also in days of unspeakable terrorism, environmental destruction, wars, crises that affect everyone, it becomes only too clear that we are all one Sangha.

Plato describes his ideal society in such a way that all people should see themselves as brothers and sisters. The children are therefore the children of everyone. In some communities and societies this is still practiced today. In such societies hospitality plays a much greater role than in Western culture. A stranger is a friend whom one does not know so well just yet.


To live in a sangha means to quickly transform the ego. Karma Yoga in an ashram is therefore so useful. You grow with others. You can also develop a more compassionate heart towards others. From Buddhism we can learn that the refuge to like-minded people is very beneficial.

As a human being, one lives in many forms of a sangha at the same time: family, spiritual community, circle of friends and with one's accepted teachings. The unifying elements of each Sangha are its goals and values.


Quotes: 

A community of equals on a shared journey: 

“The teacher is no more than a friend and no less than a friend, the force of nurturing in local community—not a social identity, not a personal identity, not a status or position” - Mark Whitwell

“A stranger is a friend whom one does not know so well just yet.”

“Teaching yoga itself is great karma yoga, because it reconnects people to the source.”

“There is a community of the spirit . . . Open your hands if you want to be held . . . Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking . . . Flow down and down in always widening rings of being.” - Rumi


In Practice: Setting an Intention that our yoga practice may not only benefit yourself, but also those around you. Maybe think of a person that needs your energy, help right now and dedicate your practice to them. It can also be a cause. At the same time we emphasize that your practice is your refuge, and the Shala is your refuge. We hold the space for you to practice truthfully and safely. 


Breath: The breath is something that is so intimate to your own body and yet something that you share with everyone around you. Especially at times where we are scared of the breath (as a possible contaminator) and at times where breath is taken from members of the global community (“I can’t breathe!”). It is important to reappropriate the breath as life-affirming, as prana, as the all connecting intimacy with life. Spirit literally means Breath. And Breath is life.

Explore the Principles of Breath (from Mark Whitwell, Desikachar, Krishnamacharya):

  1. Breath is movement. The body movement IS the breath movement.

The movement of the body is consciously linked to the movement of the breath and felt to be the same movement.

  1. The breath envelops the movement. 

Breath starts slightly before and finishes slightly after the movement. The breath initiates the body movement.

  1. The inhalation is from above as receptivity, the exhalation is from below as strength.

Inhale into the upper chest, allowing the relaxed belly to expand naturally. Exhale by gently drawing the abdominals in and up, allowing the chest to settle naturally.


Mantra: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु). “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May our thoughts, our words, and our actions, contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.” This mantra may be chanted or sung as an offering of loving-kindness to all beings, including yourself.


Asanas: In our Asana practice we want to cultivate compassion for the self and others. 

Asanas for the Heart Chakra: Backbends & Twists.

Half Moon. Dancer. Camel. Wheel.

Nourishing Asanas - Nourish yourself and let go for being able to nourish others: 

Butterfly.

Let go in Pigeon.

Forward folds (The Sangha is worthy of offerings.) Sun Salutations (The Sangha is worthy of reverential salutations.)


Meditation: Meditate on the heart. Imagine a small light shining in the center of your chest. 

Inhale - nourish that light, exhale - let the light expand from the heart through the whole body.

With every inhale you fill the light of the chest up and with every exhale you send it through the whole body eventually transcending the body and expanding into the whole room to everyone around you.

Also explore: Tonglen Meditation


Integration in everyday life: Explore the Communities around you - Family, Kiez, Friends, Online Community. Notice your Support System and also check in with the people you love to see if you can support them. In which way can you help your community? 


More inspiration: 

Tip: Yoga for Activists (a donation based online course)

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