Yoga: The Art of Relationship
written by Charlotte Mabry
Chant: Om Ram Ramaya Swaha
“Om and Salutations to that perfection in the physical realm which is Lord Rama, whose attributes exist in me. Kindly manifest.”
Bhagavad Gita, Book 2 vs. 12, na tv evaham jatu nasam / na tvm neme janadhipah / sarve vayam atah param
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the above cited text that there is nothing but connection. He reassures that our connection with the Universe has existed, exists now, and will always exist. When we look inside of ourselves for this connection, we will always find it. We are a reflection of it.
Eddie Stern, published author, lecturer, well known New York yoga asana teacher has written a book titled: One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How it Can Transform Your Life. He begins as so many yoga teachers do in defining yoga by the Sanskrit root word yuj. Yuj meaning to join, unite, the body, mind, and spirit of you into Oneness. Ultimately through this lifelong practice, desire, and discipline you can achieve the merging of your individual consciousness with that of the Universal Divine Consciousness, Rama. Perfect harmony? Right?
Is that why we practice yoga? Stern says that your inner journey practice of yoga continually asks three important questions. 1) Who am I? 2) What am I doing here? 3) What should I do next? Isn’t it the harmony, peace within ourselves, that we are all seeking in our human imperfection? OR is it the search for that one special person who will understand us? Our lover, best friend, family member, however we define the “other” in whom we are in relationship. Who am I in this relationship, what am I doing, and what should I do next? All questions of growth. BUT can growth and relationship happen with another without answering these questions within ourselves FIRST?
The art of relationship, my personal yoga practice keeps me on the mat, focused within my own heart, answering honest difficult questions to become more of me, so that I can be more for others. Building that relationship with myself first, leads me to having more meaningful loving relationships. If I can be this, I can attract that. I am that. Faith in choosing to live this way. Bill Mahoney in his book, Exquisite Love: Reflections on the Spiritual Life based on Narada’s Bhakti Sutra, teaches that the more you put your deepest trust in Love the more you become open to it and One with it. Krishna taught Arjuna, “Whatever faith a person has, thus that person becomes.”
As I continue to move through life and be in relationship, to be honest I don’t find this easy. Any relationship of a true intimate nature will involve conflict. As the relationship deepens there is more opportunity for conflict resulting in imbalance. The effort and decision to bring forth true feelings involve risk. This act of risking can bring more intimacy, growth, understanding and closeness or it will simply dissolve. Over my years, I have lost and gained relationships. Many feelings arise as I transition through relationships of deep connection, gaining, losing, and changing within my close relationships. Ultimately, I realize that through these changes I am the one confronting my own inner changes. I share, reflect and write.
If and when a relationship dissolves, then that is my growth opportunity that I want to “jump on”. Difficult questions arise within me first, what was my part? Have I repeated this same scenario in any of my other relationships? Am I doing this again? What is it within me that I need? Can I give this to myself? What am I worth and/or deserve in asking for what I need? Can I listen to what the other has to say, truly understand and hear them? Am I expecting too much from “the other”? Can I be compassionate with the limitations of the other as well as myself?
A choice arises. The questions again; who am I in this relationship? What am I doing in it? What am I going to do next to grow, change, nurture and create a healthier relationship? NOT what the other person has to do. That is a hard question. We can choose to keep communicating, dig in, “come to the mat” to fight for our relationship. OR a peace and acceptance that the other is growing in a different direction, one or both people have outgrown the other. This is painful and a part of the life path I choose to travel. My therapist, Beth who in many ways surrogate mothered me said “You choose to grow, if you’re looking for intimate love, it will cost you something. Risk. In the long run, you get more of you and that is what you will attract. Trust the process of self-inquiry; it’s your choice, Charlotte.”
We are created to be in relationship; we already are connected to everything. We are already perfect. Well, why is it that I don’t feel that way all of the time? That is the faith that I place in my yoga practice. This word relationship, we read about it in love stories and poems, we listen to music written about it, we long for it. Is it the “other person” relationship we long for OR is it the intimacy within my deepest self that I choose to be in relationship with? To know myself, and to thine own self be true.
I want depth, sharing, and the willingness to grow and change in a dynamic connection. This is work. This is why I practice yoga. This is why I learn to give myself self-empathy when some relationships reach a point where there is a divide and the inevitable dissolve is coming in spite of numerous attempts to problem solve and identify areas that need changing. A loss. A time for self-inquiry, what happened, what caused this break, what is my part? The space in my heart where real growth can occur; can I face that? I am willing to note change, observe, and see patterns and choices that were not enabling my relationships to be in balance. I have become aware of that feeling of “filled up” when I am with that person and listen to my gut of how I feel when I leave that person. I pay attention, what am I doing here?
Tian Dayton author of Forgiving and Moving On: Powerful Inspiration for Personal Change says that “If I am not experiencing discomfort in my feelings, then I am not really changing. Deep meaningful change is hard won; it is not easy. When I only choose to stay safe, my life progressively becomes more narrow. When I am not willing to risk being hurt, my relationships become more shallow.”
Living your yoga practice on and off the mat, choosing to practice asana and study the dharma with others, heals and builds a foundation within ourselves. Peace, love and connection then easily emerge, because we choose to unblock that which is open heartedness. We shine on. I choose to take the tough lessons and move on a bit of painful growth from confrontation to myself. I love Dave Mason’s lyrics and music to the song “We Just Disagree”. “So, let’s leave it alone, cause we can’t see eye to eye; that there ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there is only you and me and we just disagree. We were friends, but it’s the end of our love song.”
Communication, Conflict and Anger
Feldman, MSW, LCSW of Conscious Relationships Institute email@example.com in her article “The Yoga of Relationships” comments that the path to relational oneness is strewn with land mines. Once the newness of a new relationship wears off real work begins in a relationship. Conflict arises, with that many people want to avoid conflict. According to Feldman the number one reason of failure in relationships is the habitual avoidance of conflict. When conflict arises so do the questions, what am I doing? It is a call to face oneself, decide to speak, hold a space of silence to “let things unfold” or confront, risk, and listen? This is the uncomfortable space and invitation for growth.
How does anger fit into relationships? Anger is a human common emotion. It is part of relationships; the question is how to maintain balance when anger shows its head? Do I understand my own anger and its original sources? How can I work with it in my most intimate relationships? Judith Hanson Lasater and Ike Lasater authors of “What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication” say we have to deal with anger; as it is an expression in our speech, and is a daily experience for most of us. If we truly sit with our anger you will find that there are many other feelings lurking underneath the anger, such as shame, guilt, depression. All of these feelings arise out of “judging of how the world should be”. These hidden feelings manifest in the body as physical hurt, fear, or frustration deep in the gut.
Oren Jay Sofer, of Spirit Rock Teachers Council and author of “Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication” discusses this concept further. He uses the term “emotional agility”. He says that human life is a tapestry of changing emotions. Maturity is knowing your own emotions, when they change, and giving a voice to them. How we handle emotions, our own and others, can make or break a relationship. If you can’t acknowledge your own emotions, it is difficult for you to hear another person. Isn’t that fully participating, engaging, and “being” in life; to know, read and process our own emotions? When one party does not feel heard this leads to confusion and mistrust in the relationship between the two.
Michael Formica, MS, MA, EdM, in his article “The Yoga of Relationship: Partnership as a Catalyst for Personal and Spiritual Growth”, distinguishes between being in a relationship of convenience vs a conscious relationship. When emotions, conflict show up, it is time to make a deliberate choice, to stay conscious and ask the questions, What am I doing, What do I do next and most importantly, Who am I in this relationship? It is this examination of acknowledging, processing, and unpacking your emotions, that enlightens and directs you in the dynamic change of your feelings and energy in motion. Long term friendships, marriages, etc. will eventually meet the inevitable crossroads of change and growth. It is my choice to stand still and accept the realization of the path that I “should” put up with this as I have been in this so long. Or I can step off the path of “should” and follow the path of “this is what I deserve”. This is what I want. I find the courage to use my voice.
Azriel ReShel in his article on Relationship from www.upliftconnect.com pulls all of the above together so clearly. “The greatest area of transformation and self-growth lies in the “mirror of intimate relationships”. It is here that the shadow self-arises most inopportunely and spectacularly. The muddy pot of our subconscious mind is voraciously stirred and all of the rejected aspects of ourselves begin to rise to the surface. These could be our negative disowned qualities but also other aspects that are wonderful, such as a theatrical nature squashed down by parental criticism at a young age which we then criticize when we see it in our partner”. “Too many relationships end in this place of projection and warring shadows, where one or both of the partners don’t have the capacity to be present with their wounding. It requires turning the spotlight into our inner baggage and disowned self.”
Yoga teaches us to be with the contradictions of ourselves. My personal yoga practice empowers me to be my own healer. Through the practice you can deepen the intimacy with yourself and find that level of intimacy with others. Life partners, authors, and psychologists, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad teach that humanity needs better forms of attachment. They state that perhaps we expect the excavation of our soul through an intimate relationship should be an easy process scattered with roses and sexy and interludes. They call for a realistic, open willingness to do the work required for an authentic relationship which will allow for a better success rate. Healthy relationships maintain balance between attachment, individuation, and detachment.
Visuddha Chakra: Where is Your Voice?
Be in your body now to feel the sound of your voice; the physical vibration of the sound of you. In your body, can you go to the center of your soul, and hear the “unstruck” sound of your own inner voice in silence? What do you hear? Take this pause now after reading all above? What true wisdom are you giving yourself now? Can you listen? Are you not ready to “hear” what you already know? Breathe and make the sounds of Aaah, Ommm, Eeee, Ooooh. What and where are the vibrations you are feeling in your body now? Pause a minute, speak to yourself in a kind loving voice. What do you want to tell yourself?
Anoeda Judith, author of Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to Self, says that your voice is the “touchstone” for the health and balance of the Visuddha chakra. The sign of a healthy Visuddha “throat” chakra is one that is connected to both mind and body. A resonate rhythmic voice that speaks truthfully, clearly, and concisely. Conversations with others is balanced, with an ability to listen and respond. If the ego and will are strong, you are able to express truth in the face of opposition. You have the courage to be different; as the inner conflict is resolved by acknowledging even conflicting truths. You gather enough information, answer your questions of yoga Who am I? What am I doing here? What will I do next? Through your practice you put balance in sound and confidence in your voice to speak and listen. With your voice you can carve out yourself in healthy boundary to be fully whole and present in an intimate relationship through yoga.
Your voice is self-expression, it is a gateway between the inner and outer world. Your voice allows the outer world to get to know what is inside of you. The throat chakra is the internal gateway between your mind and body. The vissudha chakra is a bottleneck for a passage of energy to share with the outer world, when you know your inner voice. Only when mind and body are connected do you have true resonance. This inner gateway is where the unconscious becomes conscious, energy is unblocked and you find your higher self. Trust your energy flow in your body by taking time to be still, rest, practice meditative restorative yoga. Breathe. Taking time to empty out the mind, get deep into your body. You will be able to hear your inner truthful loving voice. In rest, you will find the courage to speak with balance; trusting who you are to choose the path to resolve conflict in worthwhile relationships. You will also find in this empty space of silence the acceptance and peace when the other begins to walk a different path and views conflict differently than you do. “People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” Author unknown
Jalandhara Bandha, Chin Lock
Lateral shoulder stretch and neck stretch, left and right
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bridge
Salamba Sarvangasana, Shoulder Stand
*the warm up poses stimulate thyroid, release and cleanses throat chakra, open shoulders, calms mind
*the asana poses all stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid, when released rejuvenation. Some open the front of the throat, outward energy, others lengthen the back of the neck, turning inward, ultimately creating balance within the mind body. Freeing the voice, and clearing the passage between the conscious and unconscious mind
Poses cited from www.Blog.anaheart.co.uk/Can Yoga Improve Communication?
Who Said This?
Something whispered something
that was not even a word.
It was more like a silence
that was understandable.
I was standing
at the edge of the pond.
Nothing living, what we call living,
was in sight.
And yet, the voice entered me,
with so much happiness.
And there was nothing there
but the water, the sky, the grass. Mary Oliver
One Simple Thing: A New look at the Science of Yoga and How it Can Transform Your Life, Eddie Stern
Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships, Harriet Lerner, Ph.D
Dance of Intimacy: A Woman’s Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships, Harriet Lerner, Ph.D
The Yoga of Relationships: A Practical Guide for Loving Yourself and Others, Yogi Amrit Desai
Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication, Oren Jay Sofer
What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication, Judith Hanson Lasater, Ike K. Lasater
Red Bird, Poems by Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver
Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, Anodea Judith, Ph.D
Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith, Ph.D
Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga, Anodea Judith, Ph.D
Beauty: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope, John O’Donohue
Forgiving and Moving On: Powerful Inspiration for Personal Change, Tian Dayton
Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life, Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph. D, P.T
“If you really want to look at love from the spiritual side, you can make your relationship your yoga, but it is the hardest yoga you will ever do.” Ram Dass
“Our body is an instrument played by divine breath. It is our job to keep the instrument well-tuned and listen to the voice of truth moving through us.” Anodea Judith
“The key to the mastery is always silence, at all levels, because in the silence we discern the vibrations and to discern them is to be able to capture them.” Sri Aurobindo
“It is not the traumas we suffer in childhood that make us emotionally ill but the inability to express the trauma.” Alice Miller
“Breakage, whatever its cause, is the dark complement to the act of making; the one implies the other. The thing that is broken has particular authority over the act of change.” Louise Gluck
Following Quotes from blog.sivanaspirit.com Sivana East, “How Yoga Can Teach Us to Communicate with Clarity: Finding My Voice Through Yoga”
“Yoga taught me that I could let go of wanting a particular outcome.”
“Yoga taught me that my walking away from negative situations does not signify defeat or loss.”
“If we speak when we are upset or angry, without taking time to find an inner state of calm, we can easily say the wrong thing or escalate a confrontation.”
“The person we are confronting might also be tense, perhaps even anticipating a negative response from us.”
“Speaking up with honesty is very important. I strive to make sure I do not remain silent at critical moments. I am also aware that words might not solve a problem and others might not be ready to truly listen or engage in a discussion.”
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