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What does it mean to belong, now?

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in many ways and how we navigate our individual journey will differ greatly. I feel that the sense of belonging is likely to have shifted for many of us since the pandemic compared to who or what we had felt a sense of belonging to.

A study of employees revealed that pre-pandemic, the predictors of a high level of belonging were Social Connection, Emotional Regulation and Authenticity. Unsurprisingly, with many employees working remotely due to the pandemic the predictors of belonging have shifted to; Relationship Building, Social Connection and Self-compassion.

Having changed careers just before the pandemic my sense of belonging has been fluid as I knew it was time to leave HR and pursue what I felt was – and is – my calling: yoga. I absolutely feel an affinity with being able to offer the practice of yoga and have varying levels of connection with the spaces in which I offer practice. I know this is likely to change over time as I build deeper relationships with studios.

 Belonging n. “An affinity for a place or a situation”.

I fully resonate with the report findings that  revealed a change to Relationship Building and Social Connection creating belonging; during the pandemic as yoga studios closed I lost the interaction with both studio staff and students and had to find ways to build relationships with new studios as timetables understandably had to change. Social Connection was a key part of the pandemic for me and albeit virtually it was both important and deeply rewarding for me to be able to speak to friends during lockdown. Having a fortnightly video call with two fellow yoga teacher friends to look forward to definitely helped me create a sense of belonging. There was genuine understanding, empathy and support of each other’s situations which was truly valuable.

Why is belonging important?

“Establishing a sense of belonging for all employees is crucial for organisations to get the best out of their teams. Having a sense of belonging is one the most important psychological needs that must to be met for employees to feel connected with their organisations and the foundation of building an effective team,” says Ricky Somal, Deputy Director of Organisational Development and Inclusion at Isle of Wight NHS Trust.

The majority of yoga teachers are self-employed and often work in multiple studios not having the firm base of one location as an employee where you see the same colleagues regularly throughout the week. But for both corporate employees and the self-employed, that sense of belonging as we emerge from Covid-19 restrictions starts to look different as both groups navigate a post-pandemic world. This may be further complicated by how confident people feel that they as individuals are truly seen.

What creates a sense of belonging?

“There is mounting evidence that exclusion hurts people and hurts business results. On the flipside, belonging promotes performance, teamwork and wellbeing” BetterUp consultancy

  • Employers/business owners need to ensure they have the created an atmosphere where their teams genuinely feel they can speak freely and are heard, this starts to create a sense of belonging which its reported decreases teams leaving organisations, can increase productivity and reduce sickness absence
  • Feeling included and being able to make suggestions where folks do not feel a sense of belonging can have a positive effect. Networks of like minded groups can foster belonging
  • Contribution and connection are reported to build a sense of belonging. If people resonate with the aims and objectives of organisations this has positive effect on their engagement with said organisation/business

How to navigate a shift in belonging?

Yoga practice can play a key part in helping us to navigate changes of belonging, but yoga spaces need to ensure that they have continued to follow recommendations to ensure spaces are inclusive which contributes to a sense of belonging rather than exclusion

  • Practice self -kindness: The past 15 months have been a lot for us all to contend with, so find practices that help you to relax and feel better equipped to navigate your sense of belonging and to help understand where this has shifted or where it’s lacking. Colleagues, friends and businesses that you were connected to may well have moved away during the pandemic given the impacts on business, not to mention personal decisions made for well being (mental/financial or both)
  • Creating good habits: As mentioned above, self-kindness is important as we navigate a world that is constantly in flux. Consider some of the following mindfulness practices to help manage anxiety and emotions around this change and build on your self-care routines:
    • Walking in nature – find a local green space and perhaps leave your phone at home
    • Taking a bubble bath with your favourite products or essential oils 
    • Yoga or meditation practice – Either practice could be as short as 10 or 15 minutes, one yoga posture counts as yoga practice. This is helpful if you’re time poor or have a busy schedule. You don’t have to feel any pressure that practice needs to be an hour (if you have the time great, if not whatever time you have can work)

Take your time to identify or re-establish your sense of belonging, it’s understandable that your affinity to a place may well have changed given the past 15 months and our experience of the pandemic. Practice self -kindness as you navigate the belonging journey.

Yogamatters Recommends:

These supportive self-care products are sure to keep you feeling relaxed and restful.

Stay grounded

I love the connection I feel to the Earth when I use this cork mat – plus, no slipping!
Yogamatters Eco Cork Yoga Mat – Black

DIY physiotherapy

Releasing tense muscles made easy! Use this sustainable tool to help rejuvenate: use it against the wall or let gravity take control and relax by rolling on the floor. Yogamatters Cork Peanut Massage Roller

Make time for bath-time

Being able to relax in a bubble bath is great for self care: Soapsmith Hand and Body Wash – Lavender Hill – Yogamatters. For meditation or relaxing in that bubble bath a candle is always welcomed Yogamatters Restore Soy Wax Candle – Lavender & Neroli

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