Your Relationship is Your Yoga

Ahimsa Living Yoga Love Satya Svadhyaya

“For one person to love another, this is the most difficult of all our tasks.” – Rilke

Sarah Jamieson Yoga

I write a monthly piece for the YYoga blog, and every month I receive an email with a list of suggested writing topics. With Valentine’s Day – and now Family Day – falling in February, it was no surprise that there was a general theme of love and relationship amongst the suggested topics. At the very top of the recent list was the topic: How yoga helps relationships

In my own personal practice and in my teaching, I am primarily interested in using yoga as a tool to facilitate ease and joy in life. I see meditation as a tool to help people to stay present in a traffic jam or sit with uncomfortable emotions. I am less interested in teaching you how to stand on your head than I am in teaching you how to stand on your own two feet. But if facing the fear of standing on your head helps you get there, I will teach you.

In a nutshell, I am passionate about pushing the conception of yoga as something that is done in a cave or on a mat or on a cushion towards a more integrated practice that is lived, breathed, felt, experienced and wrestled with in every moment. So I picked the topic “How yoga helps relationships,” because I wanted to jump at the opportunity to say this:

It is not that yoga helps your relationship; it is that your relationship is your yoga.

The practice of compassion or loving kindness is one thing when you are sitting on a meditation cushion, but it is quite another in the face of conflict or dissatisfaction from a loved one.

I remember a less-than-shining moment of my own. Back before my partner and I lived together, I was making these delicious warm goat cheese, beet and arugula sandwiches at his place. I had encountered a few obstacles in terms of missing cooking tools and ingredients, but when I realized there was nothing to brush olive oil on the bread with, I emphatically stated: “I am never making these here again!”

Obviously, not my most present or mature moment. How could practicing yoga help me move through that situation with more grace?

Sure, I could have thrown down a few chaturanga dandasanas to blow off steam, but I also could have turned to:

Ahimsa – Could a comment like the one I am about to make hurt my partner? Could it cause my partner to pull away from me and ultimately come back and hurt me?

Satya – Is there any truth at all to the statement “I am never making these here again!” or is there something else I want to say?

Svadhyaya – What is really going on for me here? Because we all know it is not really about the olive oil brush.

In every moment of human interaction, we have an opportunity to tune into our yoga practice, to become more present and aware of ourselves and the human being standing in front of us. Yoga is a practice of connecting, of uniting, and of acknowledging our common humanity. There is, perhaps, no deeper yoga practice than the practice of relationship.

Namaste,

Sarah Jamieson


The Summer Day

Class Readings Poetry

I came across a copy of this poem by Mary Oliver in a stack of papers I was sorting through. Even though it is called The Summer Day, it feels fitting for this January day.

The Summer Day
By Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean– the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

 


How to Keep Your Resolutions

Svadhyaya Tapas Yoga

Sarah Jamieson Yoga

I feel like I am being bombarded with the message that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. I even shared an article on my Facebook page recently titled “10 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep.” I shared it because I liked the sentiment behind the resolutions the writer suggested, but in reflection I push back against the title of the article because it implies that there are resolutions you can’t keep. I believe any resolution can be kept, and I want to begin explaining why by looking at the definition of the word resolution.

In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, there is a long list of different definitions for resolutions, but the ones that are applicable to the way we use it in the New Year include:

  • The act or process of resolving
  • The act of determining
  • Something that is resolved

To dig deeper, there are also a number of definitions for the word resolve but the relevant one is:

  • To reach a firm decision about

Thus, a resolution, whether it is made in January or June, is simply the act of reaching a firm decision. So what is all the fuss about? How can a firm decision not work? Something is firmly decided and it is done. Right?

Not always, but does that have anything to do with the resolution – or does it have more to do with the people making the resolution?

January hits and we suddenly feel empowered to change everything we don’t like about our lives. We embark upon ridiculous and unsustainable diets and fitness routines, and two months later, when we’ve fallen back into our usual ways, we say, “Ah well, resolutions never last…” And, then the next time we resolve to eat healthy and exercise (whether in January or June), we do the exact same thing.

You’ve heard it before, but it’s very relevant here: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

The key to keeping your resolutions is doing things differently. The yogic practice of svadhyaya, which is commonly translated as “self-study,” offers a great place to start. Begin by asking yourself important questions like these ones:

  • When have I been unsuccessful in holding to firm decisions I have made in the past? And, why?
  • When have I been successful in holding to firm decisions I have made in the past? And, why?
  • How much change is it realistic for me to take on at this point in my life?
  • What are the most important changes I want to make?
  • Am I able to see the value in taking small steps towards where I want to be?
  • Who are the people in my life that I can ask to support me in the changes I want to make?

Humans are creatures of habit, and breaking your habits requires more than the excitement and sense of renewal that comes with the New Year. It requires reflection, honesty and patience.

A decision – whether to eat well, exercise regularly or spend more time with family and friends – is never made only once. And, being honest with yourself about how challenging it is to make the same decision day-in and day-out will allow you to recognize and better prepare to face the challenge ahead.

The tradition of sharing our hopes for the New Year is a beautiful one and I would hate to see it lost to the propagation of the idea that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. Instead, let’s collectively acknowledge the reflection, honesty and patience required to keep New Year’s Resolutions and deeply celebrate the human instinct to make change in times of renewal.

As an addendum to this post, I have written quite a bit in the past about how the more regularly and consistently you commit to a decision, the less frequently you have to make it. If you are interested in learning more about the idea of consistency building commitment, please read my blog posts that address the yogic practice of tapas:

Namaste,

Sarah Jamieson


Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov