When I was young, living on a farm in Iowa, I remember lying on my back in the tall brome grass with my eyes closed, allowing my body to feel the vibrations of the ground shaking from the Sioux Indians riding, and opening my ears to their cries of excitement and exhilaration as their horses galloped across the rolling hills. I loved stories of Red Cloud, Sacajawea, Harriet Tubman—all people who were leaders in their tribes.
Kula is a Sanskrit word for community, clan or tribe. At BambooMoves, we often talk about community but sometimes I feel we lose touch with the deep-rooted connection we have with one another through the soul and our energy. Tribes have rituals, similar beliefs that go beyond words but connect them energetically and emotionally. When we use this word as a yogi, it doesn’t refer to family traits, but to the deep-rooted beliefs we know as truth.
The ritual at the studio is to remove shoes before entering, say a silent prayer to prepare us for walking into a spiritual space and then dedicate our practice to the greater good. I recently heard of the concept of mirror neurons—brain cells that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. I started looking into this because I noticed that before class, as I sit and feel out the room, I often feel overwhelmed with joy and love. Or when I visit a temple, church or mosque, I often have tears in my eyes before I even start praying. These are mirror neurons, that help us empathize and be lifted by those around us.
Claudia Pinkola Estes talks in one of her audio shows about the importance of tribe, the feeling of belonging to help your soul thrive. In yoga, we speak of a false sense of self (Asmita), and our tendency to believe those voices of, I am not good, I can’t do this/that. As we connect to others in our tribe, these voices minimize. We might initially come to yoga to lose weight or because our back hurts, but then we blossom and something far greater takes hold. This is the letting go of the grip of ignorance and celebrating your earthly tribe or Kula. We all have a tribe that lifts us up to be our better self.
Suggested Practice: Take time out of your day and feel your practice space, say your prayer before going into the studio and mentally give thanks to the space and the teacher. Be receptive to what you are putting out into the space of practice and watch how you can help lift your tribe, those around you, with your intention.
By Suzanne Scholten (Owner of BambooMoves Forest Hills)