You’ve been doing yoga long enough that you’ve noticed its effects rippling out into your whole life: who you are at the grocery store, at work and in the voting booth. How can you expect yoga to effect your relationships, your family and the people in your life who don’t do yoga?
While the word yoga means “union” and ideally helps us to see the humanity in others and the underlying unity of all things, this doesn’t mean that boundaries become meaningless. In fact, in order for us to fully appreciate the depth of what unites people and situations, we have to see clearly and fully the boundaries and choices that allow us to use our energy wisely. Doing yoga doesn’t always mean that every relationship gets better. Sometimes the clarity that comes from your practice may lead you to set boundaries and clarify consequences. You may choose to change or end some relationships, just as you will choose to deepen and start others.
Going to class with your friends or significant other can be a great way to solidify your mutual interest and create shared passion. Sharing an interest in the same style of yoga or liking the same studio are strong indicators of compatibility. And having a partner you meet for yoga on a regular basis can help you maintain the regularity of your practice. You can celebrate this friendship by planning for these shared activities.
But the opposite isn’t necessarily the case: just because you and your friend or partner don’t share an interest in the same style or studio isn’t a commentary on your relationship. In fact, listening and sharing what you each value in your disparate practices can itself deepen your knowledge and appreciation for your differences, which are also crucial to your relationship.
Often, partners who don’t practice yoga begin to take an interest because they notice the beneficial effects in your life, and this itself can be instructive. How do you react when your partner expresses interest in joining you? Does it make you feel complimented, happy for the company, or possessive of your practice? Use your practice to reflect on how you feel about your partner’s interest or lack of interest in yoga and how you interpret their engagement. Study your reactions and expectations, stay present with the feelings it brings up, and be honest about what those feelings are rooted in. Whether the feelings are difficult or pleasant, approach your reflection with the same investigative mind.
But what if you have a partner who sees the good yoga has done for you, even acknowledges it, but refuses to participate themselves? This can bring up any number of feelings from helplessness to anger to abandonment or frustration. Always begin from self-study and observe your reactions and feelings; consider what parts of your reactions and feelings are directly from this situation and what parts are left over from others. See your own interpretations with clarity and practice discipline by taking responsibility for your expectations and feelings. Remember that ownership and judgment are different and set aside feelings of blame and merit. This might also be useful situation for the practice of surrender. Just because we’re all one at some very deep level doesn’t mean we’re all at the same place on the journey or even on the same trip at the same time. What can you find to appreciate about your partner’s different interest?
If you and your partner are both practitioners of yoga, Partner yoga can be a satisfying and enjoyable practice. Partner yoga enhances communication, can deepen poses and helps emphasize complementary actions in poses. While some people eschew partner poses with strangers, those same people may find they’re more comfortable if the partner is their own. A connection as simple as sitting in wide legged forward bend with your feet pressed into your partner’s feet and taking one another’s forearms can help you both find the pose, maybe go deeper all as you enhance your communication, breathe together and spend time together. You might even find you make up a few poses of your own!
Whether your partner does yoga or not, your practice can deepen your appreciation and understanding, and therefor your ability to love.