There is a natural consequence of yoga that you may or may not have signed up for: the yoga community! If you choose to practice in any kind of group setting you have probably noticed that the other people practicing with you quickly become friends, or at least acquaintances.
Maybe you've noticed this phenomenon, you show up at the studio after a particularly grueling day at the office and your teacher or the woman who practices near you smiles at you and you feel better! This is your safe space where everyone accepts you and you really can leave the day at the door and spend the next hour or two in your body. Or, maybe you show up after that same day and you need to cry and either you have a friends shoulder or you're able to let it out a little during savasana. You may make close friends with whom you share your life, or you may just find comfort in the consistency of the routine of class with people who are also looking to live healthier, more whole lives. Either way, these people quickly become important to you.
Beyond the social aspect of the yoga community, you may also find that these people, your fellow students and your teachers are genuinely interested in your yoga experience. They rejoice in your successes (you did headstand for the first time!? way to go!), and they feel for you when you're hurting (oh man, I had a wrist injury last year, it was rough, I'm so sorry!). And it isn't really about the physical nature of the postures, but the communal experience of doing something so transformative with other people.
Home and solo practice have their place and importance, but I hope you have a community too! And if you don't, I hope you'll open yourself up to the possibility of one. If you feel shy, try connecting with your teacher! He or she is very interested in making sure everyone feels welcome. Or try saying hello to your mat neighbor (hey, I like the color of your yoga mat!) is enough to start a yoga friendship. Whether or not you have anything in common outside of yoga with the people around you, they are your peers on this journey that is yoga.
Not everyone wants a social experience from yoga, and that's OK too. Maybe you never talk to anyone besides the sign in person at your studio. But hopefully you can still feel the camaraderie and know that you are a part of something wonderful.
If you find that your current community isn't welcoming or loving (for a group that professes non-judgment, some of us can sure get on our high horses), see if you can change the culture! (or find a new community). Try befriending someone else who doesn't seem to care what brand of yoga clothes everyone is wearing or say something positive about someone's choice to continue to eat gluten or even meat (gasp!). Although we are a group trying to live healthier, ethical lives, more important in my mind is for everyone, regardless of life choices, race, shape, sexuality, gender, etc. to feel welcome and accepted in the yoga community!
And if you happen to be a part of my current yoga community, I hope you'll say hello and connect with me! :)