This week, my yoga teacher asked an interesting question. “When you hear the word vulnerability, do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?” she asked.
Before I go on, let me say it was one of those mornings when I knew in my yogi core that the dharma talk I’d hear that morning was going to be an example of why I started the Yoga Circles project. I even told my husband as much before I left for class.
So, back to the question. The first word that came to mind when I heard the word vulnerability was opportunity. One of my classmates immediately said, “It’s a bad thing.”
“It’s a trick question,” I said. I’m not sure why I didn’t just say it’s good!
“That’s because you’re a writer,” my teacher responded.
That may be true. It’s because I do creative work that I know vulnerability is necessary. It’s an opportunity to grow, expand, and create. To be clear, though, this doesn’t mean I enjoy being vulnerable!
The Research on Vulnerability and Connection
What’s interesting is that someone spent years researching why we shouldn’t run from vulnerability! That someone is Brené Brown. If you’re an “organize the messiness of life” kind of person (as I tend to be), you’ll love this research. You can hear Brené talk about it here.
According to the research, the difference between folks who feel connected and those who don’t is that folks who feel connected believe they are worthy of love and connection.
When I heard this, I thought about it. A lot. It sounded right, but something seemed to be missing.
You see, while I think I’m worthy of love and connection (thank you, yoga), I often (too often) feel disconnected. And now I think I know why.
Vulnerability and The Yoga Community
As our yoga class continued, my teacher mentioned a comment someone made about how so many people are self-absorbed. If you know self-absorbed people, you know how difficult it is to feel connected when you’re with them.
I’m not talking about self-esteem or self-love. We all need to pay attention to ourselves—or our Selves, as I prefer to think of it—but self-absorption is a corruption of healthy self-love. It’s that “all about me” way of being in the world that stems from an insatiable need for attention. (And yes, it’s another form of hiding from vulnerability.)
Interestingly, rather than agree with the observation, my teacher said, “I don’t really know a lot of self-absorbed people. I’m part of the yoga community.”
Why Community Is Important
Community, at least the way I’m thinking of it, is not the same thing as social circles. Socializing is not synonymous with connecting. In other words, even if you’re surrounded by lots of people—maybe even having lots of fun with those people—you can still feel disconnected.
As I see it, once you do the work of learning to believe you are worthy of love and connection—the reason we’re here, Brown says (and I agree)—you need to be among others who believe it too. Sometimes that means finding a new tribe. It’s likely you had to do all that work learning to believe you’re worthy because the people you’ve spent most of your time with are doing their own form of hiding and will continue to do so.
The Power of Vulnerability
To be creative and alive and connected, we need to be among others who have the courage to be vulnerable without making it all about their own pain and issues. And we need to be among others who won’t shame us for what makes us vulnerable. And it must all be authentic.
That’s the yoga community I love (at least it is on most days).
Of course, not all yoga communities are ideal, and healthy vulnerability combined with love and connection is not exclusive to good yoga communities. But I was fortunate to find connection among fellow yogis when I needed it most more than a decade ago.
Creating communities of vulnerable, creative yogis is the best way I can think of to thank the Universe for the gift of yoga! I know it won’t be easy—true connection is rare—but it starts with the willingness to step out there and be vulnerable.
Will you join us?
I’m Maria, devoted yogi and author of Yoga Circles. I’m a writer, editor, and digital marketing specialist. I help wellness brands, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and communicate effectively in writing. Visit my website (link below) to learn how I can help you connect with more readers, clients, and students!