Today is my 26th wedding anniversary.
That’s a lot of years, especially in our quick fix, instant gratification world—two things that do not help a marriage thrive.
What does help a marriage thrive? Well, I can only to speak what helps my marriage and there is one specific thing that comes to mind: yoga.
My husband doesn’t even practice yoga so how can it help our marriage? It’s my practice of trying to live my yoga on and off the mat.
I’ve only been seriously immersed in it for the last two years but I can see that it has had a positive impact on our relationship which is funny because when I stepped on this path my main fear was that it would lead me away from it.
In fact, it has done the opposite.
Here are five gifts yoga brings to my marriage:
I’m more aware of the stories I get stuck in—the stories we tell ourselves about our spouses, what we are sure they are thinking, why they are acting the way they are, what he really meant when he said that thing. None of it is true. They are just stories my mind makes up and I am beginning to realize that I don’t have to believe everything I think.
I’m also more aware of my triggers—those things he says or does that send me over the edge of reason. Now I realize that a deep, old emotional wound is being tapped into. Does this mean that I don’t get triggered?
But, I am more aware of it so it gives me some distance and that distance makes it easier to let it go.
On the mat I try to accept each moment, each breath, each pose as it is—not trying to change it, chase it or grasp at it. Just letting it all be as it is.
This helps tremendously in a marriage—accepting who he is, how he is in each moment, trying not to cling to the times he is acting how I want, letting go when he bugs the crap out of me.
Do I always succeed at this?
But I know the choice is always there, ready for me to choose it…or not.
Ahimsa is the first Yamas, one of the limbs of the 8-fold path of yoga. Literally translated, it means nonviolence and it is the foundation on which the rest of yoga is based. There can be no yoga where there is violence.
Beyond the obvious cases of violence—verbal, physical and mental abuse—there are other spaces where violence can creep into the nooks and crannies of a marriage. Spaces that contaminate a relationship like: rolling our eyes at what our partner is saying or doing, complaining about our partners to others, snapping at them, ignoring them.
Ahimsa reminds us to practice kindness from the most basic courtesy of saying please and thank you to offering to help cut the grass. One of the best things my husband ever said to me was, “How can I help you today?”
Ahimsa also applies to how we treat ourselves. Since I’ve begun living my yoga, I find that I am being kinder to myself. Not judging or berating myself so harshly. I can then take that same kindness and share it with my husband.
It is so easy to judge myself on the mat either by comparing myself to others in the room or to how I last did the current pose or even how deep I went on the previous side of the same pose.
Comparison only sets me up for judging which is a dark, sticky space. When I find myself there, I try to find compassion. Compassion shines a light into that darkness. It softens the harsh, jagged edges of judgement.
Judging my spouse puts us both in a dark space. The fastest way I’ve found to shift away from that is to look at a photo of him as a boy. Seeing that sweet face softens my heart every time.
5. Yoga as Oxygen Mask
Yoga is the thing I do for me that allows me to be there for others. It’s like when they tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first before helping others on an airplane. We must take care of ourselves in order to be there to take care of others. Yoga is that thing for me. I am so much happier and focused now that I have this path, this community, this passion. And all of that happiness, focus and passion spills into my marriage.
Fears of my life and/or marriage being being capsized were very real back when I started practicing and living my yoga. Joel Kramer touches on this fear perfectly when he writes, “You might think that changing deeply could make you so different that you’d lose touch with those you love and even yourself. Actually, the transformation that yoga brings makes you more yourself, and opens you up to loving with greater depth.”
And that is exactly how I feel. I have become more of who I am, allowing me to love myself and my husband, with greater depth—a depth that will carry us through and beyond the next 26 years.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Miikka H. via Flickr