Tymi Howard is a Wanderlust Mentor. Join us at an event near you! We can’t wait to see you there.
As yogis we try to see through our fearful thoughts, to cultivate a calm and accepting mind and spirit. But it is not easy. We can be knocked off-center by personal challenges, by community or world events, and sometimes what we really need is not to meditate, not to take to our mat in physical practice, but rather, to hear some wise words, or just be able to sit with our tribe. What we need is satsang.
Satsang literally means ‘truth company’ and is a spiritual gathering focused on Truth—whether it is to hear wisdom teachings on current or perennial topics, to share chanting or meditation, or to ask advice from a teacher. But sadly very few yoga studios offer this opportunity to students.
Tymi Howard opened Guruv Yoga Studios in central Florida nine years ago for precisely this reason. “When one or more are gathered together miracles occur,” says Tymi. “And satsang, or a dharma talk, is a chance for people of all backgrounds and walks of life to discuss with love the things that are happening in our community and our world in a safe and truth-seeking environment. I wanted to bring that along with the physical practice to my community.”
“Every time I step onto the yoga mat is an opportunity to come back into alignment. To remember why I am in this world, what I am made of. This is my church.”
Tymi’s journey to become a yoga teacher began solely because she wanted to have a deeper conversation about yoga and its teachings. “I yearned to sit with my yoga teacher and to ask questions that I just didn’t feel comfortable asking after class, so I decided I would have to take a yoga teacher training to get that access,” she says.
Spirituality, Not Religion
It’s true. We often feel as if we are impinging on our teacher’s time if we ask questions at the end of class. Or it seems inappropriate to ask for guidance on a personal issue—even if it is a yogic answer from a yoga teacher we seek. If we are religious, then we can hopefully listen to uplifting talks once a week in a church or a temple that can bring clarity to our life situations, but for the spiritual yet non-religious among us, where do we turn?
“What a satsang or dharma talk does is take away the element of exclusivity or the rigid belief system that people associate with religion. Yet it gives people that same weekly chance to be sat with wisdom,” says Tymi.
She says that, once religious herself, it is now yoga that has become her path. “As a child we grew up knowing that Sundays we went to church and got ourselves ‘filled up’. Then slowly over the week the tank would run out and we would need filling up again by the following Sunday. For me that is the yoga mat. Every time I step onto the yoga mat is an opportunity to come back into alignment. To remember why I am in this world, what I am made of. This is my church.”
But she adds that meeting with our teacher independent from a physical practice is something we all need to do more of—to sit in their presence or to listen to them in our own silence. “It’s often less about the words they say, but rather just being there we receive a sort of divine transmission,” says Tymi. We can’t do that when we’re moving through postures.
Yoga in its Entirety
So why don’t more studios introduce satsang or dharma talks?
It could be as simple as a business choice. “Satsang is usually offered as a donation, and the reality is that, as a studio owner or teacher we have to pay the bills to exist,” says Tymi. That time could be used for a more lucrative and popular physical class.
But it may also be that studio owners are fearful of turning students off. Most students come to yoga for a physical practice—and that is very unthreatening. Not everyone is as comfortable with stepping into a kirtan or satsang.
“It’s often less about the words they say, but rather just being there we receive a sort of divine transmission.”
As studio owners and teachers, however, Tymi says there is a responsibility to cultivate greater awareness of yoga as a whole, and to share all the practices of yoga. It’s also about being authentic and honest. “I want my students and my community to know me, and that means all of the parts of yoga that I embrace. Hopefully they feel the love from my heart and feel safe.”
Furthermore, by thinking that our community isn’t ready to embrace yoga’s non-physical side, we could be doing our tribe a disservice. Satsang or dharma talks are needed more now than ever as the world’s challenges appear evermore insurmountable. If we want to create a conscious society, says Tymi, “then it pays to expect great things from our community and to trust that they will come.”
Helen Avery is a senior writer for Wanderlust Media. She is also a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, minister, and full-time dog walker of Millie, residing in Brooklyn, New York. You can find out more about her on her website, Life as Love.