One thing we say quite frequently in our home is “What team are you on?” This question gets asked during times of bickering, but also general discontent. The correct answer is “I am on team Ruggieri.” We have teams in all areas of our life: family, friends, sports, school, neighborhood, work (when we are adult-ing), and more. Yoga principles can certainly provide guidance in team building; mindfulness, courtesy, edification, and accountability just to name a few.

The outcome of good teamwork is the reaching of a common goal. In our family, this equates to daily harmony, i.e. respecting each other, cleaning up, trying our best, loving each other. Do we succeed every day? No! But it is our goal, and when we find ourselves astray, the quick and easy reminder we give ourselves is “What team are we on?” For friendships, we establish teams by acknowledging commonalities and offering support. In sports we work toward the goal of winning games and growing skills. On our neighborhood street, we silently agree to take care of our properties, keep the noise down, and be available in an emergency. By attending school, kids develop teamwork skills in the classroom and beyond by agreeing to the rules. The elementary school in our neighborhood uses the GROWL system (Give your best, Respect your world, Own your choices, Work hard, Listen carefully). I was able to write that verbatim by memory because it’s ingrained!! Good job Chinook Trail Elementary!

The foundation of teamwork and relationship building is trust. How does this tie into a yoga principle? First we begin with self-trust which is a HUGE outcome of a solid yoga practice. We build self-trust by doing the hard work on the mat: asanas, meditation, breath work. A child may think they can’t do crow pose.  Over time, with practice and appropriate breath work, oh yes they can do crow pose! Self-trust directly relates to trusting others, and encouraging others. If you do something hard, aren’t you more inclined to encourage someone else to do something hard? Be there if they require help?

Truthfulness, Satya, the second Yama in the Yoga Sutras, is an intricate aspect of authenticity. Authenticity is essential to team building. Typically, kids and adults alike, we know our strengths and weaknesses. We know the traits we are building upon, and we know the traits we have been given inherently. In this knowing, we can usually be clear on our part in the team’s dynamics. The yoga mat helps us clarify that knowing. It helps us clarify what we have to offer. When we are truthful and authentic, we become empowered to serve. It is no longer “I am not good at that and can not be on the team,” it becomes “I know myself well enough to know that I can do this for the team.”

We come to communication! Probably the MOST important aspect of team building. We are told constantly “Use your words.” What words? Can I scream? What is appropriate in any given situation? I believe our voices can be discovered in the mediation and introspection of yoga. Our calm voices. In the quiet and in the work, we can comfortably learn how to speak what needs to be said. It does not happen overnight. It is a byproduct of a consistent practice.

Finally: edification and support. Lifting each other up, providing encouragement and listening. We typically do not practice yoga alone. It is a shared space of reflection and stretch. In this we connect with others. Some of us may be open to sharing a struggle, maybe even with a pose, that is when the real magic happens! We become vulnerable and open up to the opportunity of community, which is truly what team building is. By attending yoga class, kids get additional exposure to team building and do not even know the magic happening.

If you offered a team building themed yoga class, what would it look like? Perhaps an extended discussion of the elements above? Definitely partner poses (building trust). Activities requiring teamwork: I could see toe yoga being adapted into a team effort here. A guided meditation dedicated to introspection of personal strengths and affirmations?  Whether it’s a theme you choose to focus on, or not, the principles will be learned, and that is beautiful.

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