Our community is full of the most amazing human beings. Sophie Wohltjen shared her experience and work around synchrony. I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts.

As a Ph.D. student in social psychology, I’m fascinated by the different ways in which we align ourselves with one another. For example, we imitate the people we talk to, from their gestures and facial expressions down to things as tiny as their pupil dilations. And it’s good that we do this, because studies have shown that by unconsciously aligning with each other, we’re saying, “Hey, I’m with you. We’re in this together.”

We synchronize with one another on a larger scale, too. Have you ever been to a large concert, jumping and clapping in tandem with the rest of the audience? How about singing with your congregation, or yelling the lyrics to your favorite songs with your best friends? The sense of connection and unity that you feel in these instances is synchrony at work.

Synchrony is what originally attracted me to hot yoga in 2014. I had just moved to a new city, and I felt isolated and overwhelmed. Practicing hot yoga — breathing and stretching in harmony with my fellow classmates — was a reprieve from those feelings and a way to connect with others, even if I didn’t know them well. Now, I’m more formally studying interpersonal synchrony in graduate school, and I’ve learned that what I originally felt when practicing yoga in 2014 is bolstered by a wealth of scientific evidence. Social activities like hot yoga, when practiced with others, boost our mental health in ways that simply practicing the physical poses alone cannot.

The emotions I had when moving to a new city in 2014 are oddly similar to the emotions many of us are having now, in response to COVID-19. We are isolated in our own homes, away from friends and extended family, and we are overwhelmed by a never-ending parade of worrying news. We need a reprieve, and this is why we need hot yoga. When I breathe together with BYUV, I feel that sense of connection I’ve been missing while in quarantine. Even from a distance, even via zoom, BYUV can connect us. So, the next time Jules reminds you to focus on your breath — while you’re practicing from your living room, or your bedroom, or wherever you are — remember that this breath forms a physical bond between you and everyone else in the class. And as you breathe together, understand that this breath is affirmation that we’re not alone. It is, without words, our way of saying, “Hey, I’m with you. We’re in this together.” – Sophie Wohltjen