In a recent podcast on NPR’s Hidden Brain, I learned two terms from the field of sociology that describe different types of relationships we form: strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are bonds we have with close family members and friends; weak ties are with people we interact with more casually such as store clerks, waiters, the local librarian. The podcast featured psychologist Gillian Sandstrom whose research shows that weak ties are more important than we might think and are directly related to our social and emotional well-being. The more weak ties we have, the stronger our sense of joy and well-being. During the pandemic, I realized for the first time how much I missed those casual interactions. I didn’t know they were called weak ties, but I knew I missed them.
In my work around healthy aging, I’ve learned that one important aspect of healthy aging is staying socially engaged. My workshops are intentionally designed to enable people to interact, engage, have discussions, get to know each other, and form weak ties that potentially lead to stronger ties.
This design decision was influenced by an experience I had when I changed from the yoga studio where I completed my yoga teacher training to a studio in my neighborhood where I practice today. During my yoga teacher training, my cohorts, teachers and I came to know each other well through our shared love of yoga, meditation, and the thrill of learning. When I went that studio, I felt people knew me deeply and I knew them in kind. After I completed my training, I switched to a yoga studio closer to where I live. When I went to my first class there, I didn’t know a soul, and no one knew me. I desperately missed my old studio. It took me a while, but I eventually built ties at my new studio. I even participated in their work/study program where my job was to wash windows which I did for a while just to get to know people there.
In Chicago we are fortunate to have many wonderful yoga studios. I believe each studio serves as a community center where people can make casual acquaintances as well as enduring friendships. And of course, where people can practice yoga and meditation which are equally important for good health at any age.
So please get out, support your local yoga studio, and strike up a conversation with a kindred spirit while you’re there. Or wash windows if that’s what it takes. In the words of Thomas Merton, “We don't find the meaning of life by ourselves alone, we find it with one another.”
My upcoming offerings:
Bloom Yoga Studio
· Thursday, January 26th 6:30 - 8:30pm
Keep Sharp. Build a Better Brain at Any Age, by Sanjay Gupta (2021)
· Thursday, March 23rd 6:30 - 8:30pm
Being Mortal. Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande (2014)
· Thursday, May 25th 6:30 - 8:30pm
Wild card! The final book title will be selected by the group.
Saturday, February 11th 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Summer Retreat “Bloom at Beachwalk”
August 17-20, 2023
On beautiful Lake Michigan, Michigan City, IN
Information coming soon on Bloom’s website.