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