In partner yoga, we get to laugh and confess and collaborate at the same time.
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Related post Focus On Each Other: Partner Yoga To Do At Home
Just about the best description of partner yoga I ever read was a reader comment on an article about sharing housework with your spouse.
A woman wrote something to the effect that when your husband does housework he is going to do it his way and that’s not for you to correct. Both of you are doing housework, she wrote, so snap out of it. He doesn’t work for you. You are working together.
Exploring openness and the permission to draw the line
Partner yoga brings breath into our patterns of relating and working things out together. Also, fortunately, it’s a fun way to mix fresh awareness and a sense of humor into our intimate life.
In a class of people you normally take yoga with, or even in a group of people you don’t know, partner asana can be giddy or earnest. Sometimes it is interesting to trust another person in this random situation, learning to balance honoring boundaries with investigating the attitudes that make us squirm with other people.
Among classmates whom we know in a specific setting and who go away at the end of class, the experience has some welcome limitations. But partner yoga with someone you are in a relationship with – friend, family or spouse – is a unique opportunity to bring yourself into more direct appreciation of the reality of the other person in a way that can have important repercussions in your life with them.
You, your sig O and what you give life to between you
In relationships it’s comically easy (or destructively so, if you don’t catch on) to fall into forgetting all about the fullness of self and the complex humanness of your partner. Your partner may love you, but he or she doesn’t exist for you alone. Other people have aspirations, a past, a present and a future, they have doubts and perspectives, and their own intelligence.
The unpredictability of partner yoga gives it an edge that can be dicey or can be softened by playfulness, communication and compassionate interest in each other. There is a saying that 1+1=3. There’s me, there’s you and there’s the interaction or space between us that has a powerful effect of its own.
Sometimes the deliberate engagement of that interaction or space can demonstrate its qualities in ways that echo for days after a practice.
Love me the way I would love you if you were me
The message we give our partners about how we feel about them is often as complicated as the one about sharing housework. I want you to help me, and I want you to help me as though you were me. I want you to love me, and I want you to love me just the way I tell you to.
Inadvertent as it may be, what comes across is I want love and I want you to give it to me, but I don’t necessarily want your love.
You can have the best practice in the world, a life-long yogi colleague once commented to me, but if you’re practicing in isolation, you are missing the true rigor of self observation. A marriage he told me, is the most intensive practice there is. No matter how much you have convinced yourself that you are doing your best, that you are trying, that you are always the good person, over time your partner is going to see right through you.
She or he is going to be there long after the yoga class is over and the studio quiet to suggest perhaps you are more self absorbed than you realize – yoga mat and all.
It may be most difficult aspect of a long term relationship to accept that we are loved not because we’re so great or we earned it, but simply because we are who we are. In spite of our practice it may be the case that while others accept the consequences of who we are without flinching, we are busy self-improving so that we won’t end up having to accept the person we really are, the person we deep down feel isn’t worth it.
It takes two to tango
Learning to recognize our needs as legitimate and some of our demands as childish and immature is a pretty rough road if we don’t also have faith in our inherent human development, and if we don’t ease up on everyone – including ourselves. We didn’t plan to be selfish and petty, just as we didn’t plan on being disappointed and then trying to hide our feelings by calling them something else.
We’re always claiming we’re not bothered, angry or worried when we are, we are, we are bothered, angry and worried. It can be surprising and disconcerting to realize how badly we behave as a result of all this denial and shame, how often we’re actually scared, or how little we understand about how much our partner is putting up with.
In partner yoga, we get to laugh and confess and collaborate at the same time. We can say “go easy on me” and we can experience, as well, the soulful pleasure of meeting our partner’s need for stability to relax into.
Building interpersonal capacity for a life view that tones down the drama and highlights inventive cooperation is an invaluable gift to our mental and emotional health. Partner yoga is a great reminder that to be fun and to be profound are not mutually exclusive qualities.
Studios and teachers: send us your schedule of partner yoga and we’ll post it on The Magazine of Yoga.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.