Love as a Life Practice

Living Yoga Love Tapas

Sarah Jamieson Yoga

Falling in love, finding your true love, meeting your soul mate. In many ways, our culture’s idea of romantic love aligns with a fated, pleasure soaked experience of enviable bliss. Romantic movies consistently reaffirm this image with stories of “meant to be” couples finally overcoming the obstacles that were keeping them apart.

And, then, just as their relationship starts, the movie ends.

I always thought I knew that love wasn’t like it was in the movies. I knew that relationships took work. But I have come to realize that I didn’t know what I thought I knew. I was holding beliefs about romantic love that were more reflective of the movies than I thought.

I thought love was certain. I thought it was hard work, but the kind of hard that doesn’t feel too hard. I thought that when you met the person you would commit to spending your life with that there would be no doubts. I thought deep love was about doing crazy and impulsive things and feeling big, powerful, earthshaking feelings.

The yogic practice of tapas can be defined as learning to live with our most compelling priorities in mind. As I have learned to hold my yoga practice as a constant priority, my understanding of love has slowly shifted alongside. I have come to see love as a practice that requires the same disciplined approach.

In meditation practice, we develop our ability to bring our awareness back to a point of focus. We can also use this skill in the practice of love by consistently committing to bring our attention back to how to best love and respect our partner or friend. The focus of the relationship shifts from, “How I am I feeling about this person?” to “How am I treating this person?” The experience of love shifts from an internal feeling to an external offering. Love becomes a choice, an action, and a way of life. Love becomes less what you feel or don’t feel and more about what you do.

I now think that love is less about certainty and more about commitment, that it can feel unbearably hard, and that this difficultly can fuel doubt. I see more love in the daily commitment to support another person in the messiness of life than in grandiose gestures, and I believe the greatest acts of love are not fueled by the feeling of love but rather a commitment to act with love even in the absence of feeling it.

Love is a choice we face each and every day. To act from a place of love in the face of emotions like fear, anger or jealousy requires a deep commitment to holding love as a priority – but like anything else, choosing love gets easier with practice.

Photo Credit: David R MacKenzie

Bring Yoga to Your Resolutions

Awareness Living Yoga Svadhyaya Yoga

Post originally written for YYoga blog –

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali presents the practice of Svadhyaya, or self-study, as a primary component of the yoga practice. This practice of deepening self-awareness can be a valuable tool in the process of setting – and keeping – New Year’s Resolutions.

Here is one framework for setting New Year’s Resolutions with awareness and intention:

Get Honest

Write down every resolution that crosses your mind. Ideas you don’t write down may linger in the back of your mind and eventually steal your focus.

Get Realistic

From your list, pick one resolution that most aligns with the direction you want to move in the New Year. Change is hard to make, and the more changes you try to make, the less likely you are to follow through with any of them.

Get Self-Reflective

Remember the 5 W’s (and 1 H) from high school English? Use them to generate questions that will help cultivate awareness around your patterns, habits and current situation, and then determine the steps you need to take to implement this shift in your life.

Questions you might ask yourself include:


Who will be your support in making this change?

Who might make this resolution more challenging?


What intentions does this resolution reflect?

What will be your obstacles?


Where do you see yourself after making this resolution?

Where will you turn for support?


When will you make time for this commitment?

When will you reassess your progress with this resolution?


Why are you making this change?

Why haven’t you done this in the past?


How will you stay accountable?

How do you define success with this resolution?

Get Realistic – Again

After working through the 5 W’s (and 1 H), does your chosen resolution feel realistic or do you need to explore other possibilities?

Sometimes meaningful change “just happens,” but often it requires effort and a change in approach. By bringing more self awareness into the pursuit of change, I believe we can profoundly and positively affect our ability to make meaningful changes happen in our lives.

Meditation: Training Your Puppy-Mind



I was thirteen years old when I discovered that my synchronized swimming coach actively practiced meditation. I remember feeling awkward when I found out. My limited exposure to meditation at the time had left me believing that it was something only strange people did. I resisted the urge to jokingly touch my pointer finger and thumb together (in chin mudra) but I didn’t understand why this “normal” person was doing something so strange.

In the days to follow, my respect for my coach led me to start considering that there might be something to this meditation thing – and thus began my first explorations of a meditation practice. I remember sitting at home on my couch trying to quiet my mind completely, but it didn’t take long for me to determine that I could not meditate. My mind wasn’t even close to quiet. I was lucky if I went five seconds without a thought!

Many years later, I have learned that I was more than capable of meditating at that time. Meditation is not about stopping thoughts or completely clearing the mind, nor is it a strange esoteric exercise. Rather, meditation is a practice of noticing when your thoughts wander, and committing to bringing them back to your focus. The focus of a meditation practice could be your breath or your body, a posture, a mantra, or a form of music or art. Whatever your focus of choice, having thoughts does not mean you can’t meditate – or that you are bad at meditation. Thoughts simply present the opportunity to continue to practice.

I find it helpful to imagine that the mind is like a little puppy. It is excitable and distractible and eager to be a part of everything. The mind solves problems. It analyzes, assesses and judges. It remembers and reminds. But sometimes it also broods, fixates and catastrophizes. It means well, but sometimes it pees on the carpet.

When we practice meditation, we are training our mind just like we would train a puppy. We learn to recognize that many of our thoughts don’t serve us and we train and empower ourselves to move away from those thoughts. While scientific studies continue to provide an increasing amount of evidence for the benefits of a meditation practice (including improved memory and concentration, stress-reduction, relief from chronic pain, relaxation, and an increase in qualities such as love and empathy), one of the greatest benefits I have experienced through meditation is a freedom from thought. I’ve learned to recognize how and when my thoughts are perpetuating negative feelings, and that I have the choice – and the ability – to move away from those thoughts. I still feel those challenging emotions, but I am less likely to unintentionally magnify them. Simply put, I am less likely to make things harder on myself.

Practicing meditation has been a source of ease in my life, and with that experience, it has shifted from something I once thought was strange to something I consider to be incredibly practical and empowering.

Photo credit: Chris Yakimov,