The Support of Sangha


As I settle back in at home after my 10-day road trip of visiting many members of my yoga community in the Midwest and beyond, I am reminded how important it is to have peers around you that share your love of a subject and study. Yoga is a subject that requires deep and individual study. And, this study of your Self has to begin and end through your own eyes and practice. However, to truly “see” or understand aspects of yourself outside of habitual thought and action (which we all hold), external eyes are important. That’s what sangha, or community, is for.

A sangha is a community of friends practicing the dharma together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness. The essence of a sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love.” Thich Nhat Hanh (

Though many know sangha as a term referring to Buddhist thought and communities, it is also a term used in yoga communities to describe the same ideas. Recently, Prashant Iyengar has shared his thoughts on the importance of sangha in his Saturday morning philosophy sessions through IYNAUS (The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States).

As I traveled and practiced city to city and state to state, I was reminded of the strength, power and support of a true sangha. Each one of us have different viewpoints and experiences within the same practice, so when we share this information freely, we are all enriched. In my own space, in my own practice, I might get stuck around something I “see” as my “need to practice”, but when others are looking from the outside, something completely different might show itself. Of course our teacher on the path is a wealth of knowledge and guidance, but the greater sangha of friends and peers and colleagues is where our understanding of yoga may broaden and widen even more.

Moving as much as I have, I can sometimes feel disappointed that I have yet to “settle down” in any conventional way. However, this recent trip reminds me that my moves have created a yoga sangha that is vast. It continues to be a web of love and support I turn to when needed, and it is always there, full of joy, and willing to participate in the practice and discussion of this yoga we are all so passionate about.

Here are some things I gathered from my sangha on this most recent road trip. Physically, I found possible new poses, pathways and props to experiment with that may someday wake up long dead connections in my hips and legs. Mentally, I found new and old readings to enrich my svadhyaya (self study) while on sabbatical. Emotionally, I was reminded that all those with whom I have crossed paths in my life/study have been key to some formulation of my self knowledge. And Spiritually, I remain convinced of the power of yoga to heal and harmonize our true self despite what might be happening on our external plane of existence.

Look to your left, look to your right, even look behind you or underneath you. Find your class, your practice buddy, your avenues to explore and discover more. Talk about your yoga with those around you. Freely express any of the awareness or obstacles that have come through your own experience and practice on or off the mat. The more we share, the more we learn, the more our sangha grows in “understanding, acceptance, harmony, and love”.

From The Yoga Place and beyond, the Iyengar Yoga sangha is vast and varied! And don’t forget that this year holds an amazing opportunity to tap into the source; Abhijata and Prashant Iyengar presenting at the 2023 IYNAUS Convention in San Diego! Abhijata will be there in person, Prashant will present online. This year, for the first time, you can attend in person or online! More information can be found here…and registration is open to any interested student!

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.