5 things that practicing yoga taught me about relationships.
It was time to let go of these old tapes…
I just finished a bit of spring cleaning, and I stumbled onto my old yoga VHS tapes. For those of you born after the 1990’s, VHS cassettes are the big plastic boxes that we used for movies back when we rented movies from Blockbuster. The good old days, when we had to get out of our house to rent a movie because we felt alone. Therefore because we had to get our butt out of the house and go to the movie rental place, we increased our chances for human interaction and the possibility of meeting someone who likes the same movies… You ask me, I miss those days, way healthier way to meet people than online dating, but I digress…
As I stood there holding a torso length stack of VHS tapes I reflected on my journey. I started yoga twenty years ago with these very tapes, but my valuable lessons were not recorded in a simple easy to follow video format. My lessons came from my teachers, and from practicing on my mat every day for two decades.
The most rewarding and also the most hurtful part of the human experience lies within our relationships. Having a daily practice of yoga is a relationship; it is a journey into the relationship between you, your practice, and how you perceive yourself through the practice. Here are a few lessons from practicing yoga that enriched my life, made my character stronger and shaped my being to be more loving and forgiving.
1.) If you never try, you will never know! You may never be able to do a complex arm balance. You will never find out what is possible if you are not willing to try.
Every new relationship is a risk. Every relationship is learning opportunity, and an opportunity to reflect on how you see the universe. You may go into that arm balance and fail, but that is not a bad thing. We learn something valuable from the journey, make sure to hold your imperfections, stumblings, and unfulfilled goals gently in your heart. Give yourself grace for walking down a road even if you don’t reach your goal. And if you find conflict on your journey, if your feelings get hurt, don’t retreat. Don’t give up trying that arm balance. Don’t avoid the person or change the topic when it gets too close to the subject of sensitivity. Conflicts are like a wound in the flesh. The longer you let it sit unattended, the worse it gets. You may not be able to resolve the conflict, but if you don’t give it an opportunity with a conversation, you guarantee none-resolution and grief. It is often said that sitting on anger is like drinking poison and wishing for the other person to get sick.
2.) Let go of expectations. You cannot force the outcome. You may never ‘nail’ that arm balance.
Starting a conversation will open the door to possibilities, but you cannot control people. Starting a conversation with a preconceived result in mind will make you deaf to any other lessons and possibilities along the way. If you have an agenda, you will not hear what your friend or family member is saying because your mind is so stuck on the goal. Instead of focusing on your goal, focus on the conversation, listen, observe. The journey to arm balance may teach you humility, and respect for limitations. It may be a perfect teacher to guide you towards a different direction. Perhaps you are supposed to fall in love with pigeon, not arm balances. Get the parallel? :- )
3.) OK now that you are in an arm balance, what if things get shaky? How will you exit this pose? Most injuries happen not as we enter the pose but when we exit. Often once we arrive, we don’t know what to do, we lose control, have a jerk reaction and mindlessly fall.
In a yoga pose like arm balance or handstand, if things get shaky, we may react out of defense and pull a muscle, as we fall, but if you take your time to understand the situation, you may just learn a better way to balance. When in a difficult conversation with a loved one, make sure to notice your own emotions. Sit in awareness so you can catch yourself as your anger rises, or sadness shocks. Watch your emotions and don’t react to them with the first defensive jerk. Breathe, notice what have been said and share how you feel. Often when you honestly share your emotions, you will find a solution. Never speak from an emotional reaction. In a relationship, all we can do is breathe, take time, listen and speak honestly, lovingly and calmly. Remember point #2, you cannot control people, sometimes that handstand is just not ready for you… How people react is out of your hand, but at least you tried (point #1 : – ) ) and you can feel a moment of lightness that you did everything possible. Nothing is worst in life than living with the memory of possibilities that were never explored.
4.) Keep practicing no matter what kind of day you are having. Someday poses feel good, another day we feel like an old clunky engine without oil. Some days we crawl onto our mat for everyone to see…
Same in our relationships, people’s feelings, energy levels even interests ebb and flow. Keep an open, loving relationship with friends and relatives no matter rain or shine comes into their life. When you are there from love and humility, then you see the beauty of the whole process, not just the moments that make you feel good. Chasing feel-good moments is a symptom of addiction, it is not sustainable and not fulfilling long-term. A deep relationship can only form when you are willing to be there on the “off days” when you are willing to show up no matter how you feel. You cannot grow a yoga practice if you only do poses that you perfected. Yoga practice is sitting with the unknown, sitting with discomfort, and exploring internal space honestly. Yoga is not a performance. If you only let your friends see you with make-up on while everything is perfect, you will quickly feel lonely and isolated, life is not perfect. Be willing to be real. Yes, being real may mean that you have to give up on a pose or a friend because they cannot take your real, but you will be left with a practice that supports your whole being.
5.) Stay for savasana. Transformation happens in the quiet moments when the soul can rest and absorb all the lessons of the journey. Reflection and non-action are just as necessary as asana. Don’t be addicted to asana or action.
Being friends means more than just hanging out when there is something fun to do. As we get older we have busier and busier lives and the possibilities to get away with friends lessens. If we reduce friendship to action such as let’s go out to do ‘whatever’, we may find ourselves without friends. Welcome the moment to just be with each other. Often when I go over to my friend’s house with lots of children, I end up helping with dishes or playing with her kids. We may not exchange a single word but spending time with her is being with her. I honor our relationship with simply being not doing… There is so much to share in moments when nothing in particular happens. We are simply there holding space and being. Make time for savasana, make time to just be with each other, hold space for people in your life. Nothing can be more important.