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Kula = Community. That is simplest of definitions of the ancient Sanskrit word. Kula is used by many to describe their circle, their surrounding support network, their community.  It could be the family you adore but drive you up the wall (sometimes…). It could be the girls you’ve known since high school that could write a book about the secrets of your teenage years.  Maybe it’s the guys in your running group that you secretly want to be like when you ‘grow up’.
One of the most widespread definitions is ‘Community of the heart’.  It has also been used to describe ‘a group coming together of its own free will.  An intentional clan, tribe or family.’
Surrounding ourselves with our kula is a healthy part of our everyday life.  For most of us our kula would be a melting pot of our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.  In a world where digital media is blurring the social lines you may have an online kula that adds another dimension to your social interaction.
And this is where heated discussions begin regarding the place of social media in the development of relationships in our lives. Many believe that the social media phenomenon has reduced our need for face to face community contact and has had a negative result on our social lives.
“There’s no substitute for meeting with your friends and family in person and spending quality time together,” my traditionalist friend Bec believes.  And she has a point.  Whether it be catching up at a family reunion, volunteering at your child’s school, or going out for Friday night drinks after another long week at work, it is hard to find someone willing to agree that social media has surpassed the importance of connecting to those around them in the traditional sense.  Clicking to ‘poke’ your friend or to send them a virtual ‘hug’ just isn’t the same as seeing them smile as you walk in the door and give them a proper bear hug. Face to face contact and communication is still regarded as the key to building lasting relationships.
But I have some interesting news for you.  What if I told you there’s been an in depth research study that’s shown that social media is actually helping us lead more satisfying social lives in the real world?  Well, Ta-da!
A recent survey by Alicia Iriberri and Gondy Leroy, of Claremont Graduate University in California, shows these sites actually improve our social interaction in the physical world.  The survey groups the benefits of social media into three categories:
The benefits of forming a group including the exchange of information, developing friendships, emotional support and having fun.
Advantages of technology including the world-wide convenience, 24-7 availability and permanent storage of messages and images.
People finding self satisfaction and pride in fulfilling their altruistic goals of helping others out within their community”, Iriberri and Leroy state.
People with an established circle of friends, family and colleagues are expanding their kula into the digital world.  “I’ve travelled the world and met some incredible people on my travels.  Without Facebook I would have lost touch with most of them,” another friend Mark tells me.
By providing more opportunities to connect with people around the world we are leading more satisfying social lives.  And this is translating into the physical world.  Those with active social media accounts are more likely to have an active social life when the computer is turned off.
Most of us have dabbled with social media to different extents.  Even those with a traditionalist point of view, who resist the world of technology, are giving in to the temptation as its popularity continues to soar. Sure you may come across a friend on your Facebook newsfeed that’s over sharing their personal woes but generally people are enjoying the convenience of keeping up to date with loved ones at the press of a button.
Just remember that spending time with your loved ones isn’t a dying art.  Face to face contact with those that are important to you nourishes the soul. Pick up the phone (no, not a text message) and call someone in your kula.  Make a plan to catch up, and give them that smile and bear hug when you do.
Stretch and smile,
Kula Corporate Yoga provides Melbourne workplaces with group yoga programs to build employee health, fitness and wellbeing. Kula Yoga offers staff a unique yoga experience to strengthen their minds and bodies. Find out more about our beneficial group yoga programs on our website www.kulayoga.com.au.