I recently had an opportunity to speak with Master Yuan, our resident Shaolin Warrior Monk, who teaches Tai Chi, Kung Fu, and Qi Gong here at The Yoga Lounge. We spoke about the differences between individual practices and group practices. While individual practice is important to maintain mindfulness and balance on an ongoing basis, group practice, on the other hand, offers a very different energy and overall experience.
Growing up as a monk in a temple in China, Master Yuan was surrounded by other monks who were all working to find the same energy and to master the same forms. In moving to a city like Toronto, where we are very focused on our individual selves, are much busier, and have many different things to distract us, he told me he found a new challenge in terms of his practice.
In a community setting, such as the Shaolin Temple, there is more support; everyone, while still practicing individually, is there with a common purpose. Be it finding balance, strengthening muscles, mastering forms, practicing mindfulness, stretching, relaxing or getting a good workout, there is a shared energy within the group as they are guided by a single teacher or ‘Shifu’.
It is easy to feel this shared experience when in a class with Shifu Yuan, just as it also is in many yoga classes. We connect with our teacher and with our fellow students through movement and breath. We enter that class as an individual and leave as part of a community. And that’s a beautiful thing.