In this morning's post, I mentioned one of the benefits of yoga is the relief of loneliness. This is not often mentioned when people talk about yoga. Mostly, yoga is said to relieve back pain, insomnia, sluggish digestion and various other physical ailments. Those of us who practice yoga with any degree of seriousness know that the psychological and emotional benefits of a sustained yoga practice outweigh the physical gains. You see, as this article points out, loneliness can be as dangerous to a person's health as bad habits like late nights and too many fags. And yoga, when done in a group setting, ie: a class, helps relieve loneliness. Loneliness is the the illusion of separateness, of separation, and is a trick of the ego. What do I mean by that? I mean that the ego sets out to convince us that we are disconnected from one another. In the simplest sense, our ego sets us apart from other by comparing and judging. "I am more intelligent/worldly/attractive... than so-and-so." Or, we think that others are ignorant, "so-and-so has no common sense, can't they see that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, these people are all sheep". Those sorts of thoughts are so incredibly common that we often don't even realise that we are having them. But, their effect is devastating. If left too long, we can end up truly isolated. I have lost count of the number of students who at some point in their 50's realised that their old friends have fallen away and new friends are increasingly hard to find. Uh-oh and a big ouch if that happens to you. What to do? Tame the ego is the obvious thing. It is not easily done, but the cool thing about yoga is that it sets out a tried and tested path for taming the ego. The first step is defining the ego, knowing it is there but that the ego is not YOU. Then, once you know what to watch out for, you start to watch its tricks. You get used to that stupid, petty little judgemental voice steering you wrong and, eventually, you stop listening to it. Then, in the stillness, you get more and more used to listening to the quiet-voiced corrections of the heart. Yep, sounds a bit esoteric, I know. But it goes something like this: the ego says "look at the stuck-up prick holding court at the bar again. My goodness, what a loser. And all those people listening to him...I have nothing in common with these idiots." But, when you know that it is the nasty little voice of the ego slamming around in your head, you just say "shut up". And, in the silence you hear another voice saying "look at that fragile person in need of attention. And all those fairweather friends listening in for want of anything better to do, like real communication, or even blessed silence. Their suffering is my suffering. Let all creatures live happily." That, my friends, is the heart talking. Yoga teaches you to turn everyday situations around so that we can see the beauty, fragility, and love that is all around, all the time. THAT is what yoga does. And the group class is fun-da-mental for this process. In the group class, we fall out of postures. We suck at the forward bends. We fart (well, not me personally, but you get it, right?). In the group class our cracked heels are exposed and sometimes we turn up late. And sometimes we cry. And sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we spontaneously hug. All this happens in yoga because we still the fluctuations of the mind (Yoga citta vritti nirodhah) and insodoing discover that we are all a lot more alike than we originally thought. Out the door with the illusion of separateness, all hail connection. So, come on and do some yoga with me, with us. With anyone, because honestly, although I try to earn a living at this, if you take away from this post the desire to try yoga and you go with another teacher, or a YouTube video (but with a friend, natch!) then I am totally cool with that. You can let me know if I have inspired you, even a little bit, by leaving a comment. Because you know what? Even I am prone to the lonelies, even I need to feel the love. There, I said it. I shared a quote from Mike Lousada the other day, and it resonates here too: "Love is the deep truth of being. Anything else is an ego story designed to keep us feeling separate and alone. Surrender to that deeper field of Love and Life will open to you"