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

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,