It’s no secret that everyone needs a tribe. Our sangha. As humans, we thrive when we have support, help, and friendship. We tend to gravitate towards those people more like ourselves and grow our community from there. And that’s okay! However, it’s a good thing to build a tribe, not just join one. When we humans, of all backgrounds and interests, talents and knowledge, come together for one singular purpose, we assemble our collective differences to form a unique group. For our youngest members of society, our kids, having a community is crucial to their well-being as they get older and develop into their adult selves.
So what is a sangha? In the historical context, sangha originates with Buddhist monastic principles but is no longer confined to that specificity. It very literally means a group, assembly, or community. So while a sangha started as monks and nuns of a certain sect, the word has evolved as have we. Like the monks who came together for a similar purpose, so do we who practice yoga (or knit on Wednesdays!). In our modern world, we go to a yoga class, with all our differences, to practice together and train our minds and bodies to become more fit and relaxed. Because yoga helps us to develop empathy and appreciate every individual for who they are, we don’t have to seek those who are already like us! We build our sangha because of our shared passion of helping each other, supporting each other’s’ journey, and creating an atmosphere of acceptance. A child who feels accepted, who knows they have something to offer the world, and who can learn from friends of all colors and creeds is a child who has benefitted from the community in which they take part.
So how can one build a sangha? Well, that’s easy! What better way to build a lasting community that welcomes and embraces everyone than a yoga group/class? After all, the very principles of yoga are rooted in spreading compassion and mindfulness as well as seeking one’s truth. Children naturally enjoy sharing their experiences and learning about others. They know how to enjoy life and form meaningful relationships. In a kid’s yoga class, children not only have fun, they learn how to support each other by listening and simply offering their shoulder to their friends. They lift each other up. They do all of this through partner poses, mindfulness activities, games, and opportunities that encourage sharing their accomplishments and their struggles. Yoga helps them not only become more aware of themselves, but of their family, friends, and their community. Their sangha.
All of this is important because kids know they have a place. They know they belong. One of the greatest struggles for humans is having a sense of belonging. It’s sad, but true, that many people don’t find that sense of belonging until well after childhood. How great a gift to be able to help provide that safe space? When kids have a community, they are less likely to make poor choices that can be detrimental all the way into adulthood. When they have a sangha, they have purpose and direction. They begin to change the world-quite literally-through volunteerism and justice. It is an amazing thing to see how having a place in a tight-knit community shapes children as they grow. To watch them make friends, accept who they are, spread compassion, and stand up against injustice and to know that their supportive peers played a crucial role in that development is inspiring. A yoga class could be just the sangha that a 21st century kid needs!