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.


Sarah Jamieson

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

Fierceness, Courage and Faith

Ahimsa Living Yoga Love Yoga


Photo Credit: Jump for Love

I love exploring and analyzing words, but love is a word with such depth and complexity that it seems beyond the grasp of other words; such a vast range of experiences, actions, and feelings are captured by the word love.

Love is a common theme in yoga classes around Valentine’s Day, but I had no plans to bring it into my classes until I went to a class with Marita Wieser at Sol Yoga and she offered:

What the Hallmark cards don’t often tell us is that deep love requires much fierceness, courage and faith.

And, with those words a passion for speaking about the practice of love was stirred.

Valentine’s Day tends to be associated with what I describe as drunk love. An experience of love that is largely about feeling loved, feeling fabulous, and finding it hard not to smile; usually a deep, consuming, romantic love characterized by a sometimes-reckless indulgence in passion and impulsivity. In a nutshell, the love of fairy tales and Hollywood films.

But, Marita’s words shifted my Valentine’s Day focus to the love of action. The kind of love that isn’t necessarily a reflection of my immediate feelings, but rather a reflection of my deep commitment to cultivate love in my heart, in my relationships, and in the world around me.

Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” strikes at the heart of this practice of love. We won’t find more love, compassion or peace in this world unless we first cultivate these qualities within our self. And then, move forward with the courage and determination to act accordingly towards others.

In learning to practice love, to move with love, consider this question: Are my thoughts, words and actions fostering love, compassion and acceptance for myself and for those around me?