I attended my first Zumba class and here’s what surprised me: people gathered around after the class was over, chatted for a good 10 minutes, and I was told that they have regular get-togethers. It makes sense. The class encouraged interaction, there’s eye contact, and we even danced in a circle. The group energy during class carried over after class.
Corporate-Owned Yoga Studios
Yoga studios attempt this type of community building with lounge areas and having teachers stay after class, but rarely have I experienced a group of strangers stay after class and chat in a large yoga studio. Talking to the teacher after class also gets awkward, since people are checking in on the front desk or other students have questions.
This experience is probably more pronounced in corporate-owned studios. Unlike small-business owned ones, where the owner teaches classes, have smaller class sizes, and higher teacher retention, corporate-owned yoga studios are not meant to be a place to gather after class. The only time the lounge is full is when students are waiting for a class to leave, and nowadays, most are on their phones.
There’s also the nature of yoga itself. Before and during class, everyone is in their own space, and after savasana, we all quietly scurry out, making sure not to disturb anyone that is still resting. It’s an internal practice. I find it hard to break away from it even after the class is over, and I don’t think I’m alone.
A Time to Reach Out
Studies after studies show that social connection increases happiness and improves health. Eye contact, a smile–simple gestures can make us feel a part of a community. So the other day I decided to be more social. There are a couple of regulars I see a few times a week and when I realized that a woman I have practiced with countless times was there, I walked up to her after class and introduced myself. We started saying “hi” and “good bye” to each other after that, and the other day, we stayed for 5 minutes after class so I can give her some tips on her inversions.
It feels nice to have someone to say hi to besides my teachers at the studio after so many years.
Yoga studios provide a venue for people with the same interest to gather. Studios are in charge of delivering classes, but practitioners have the opportunity to use these spaces as a way to make microconnections. It’s an added bonus when practicing with a group IRL compared to online videos.
What we learn from studies is that these small interactions don’t have to be long drawn and we don’t even need to start conversations. This much I know: just a simple “hello”, a friendly nod of acknowledgement, can really make a difference when I receive it, or when I give it.