Total shock and disbelief—those were the first waves of emotion I felt as a finalist in this year’s Live Be Yoga tour. An uncontainable excitement for the possibilities that six months of traveling and living my passion might provide was the second. Then the third wave struck like a bitter slap as I thought to myself, “Oh snap, what if my partner is a total pain in the ashtanga?!”
Fortunately, once I met the finalists for interviews in Boulder, CO, the thought evaporated quickly as I got to see the magic in each of them. Naturally, I felt a stronger vibe with some, and luckily for me, Aris was one of those people. Yet, long-term relationships aren’t all peaches and cream; relationships take work! In fact, yoga has taught me a lot about that. As I spend the next five months working with and getting to know a total stranger on the road, here are the two simple yet potent yogic lessons I’ve learned to maintain a healthy and supportive relationship.
1. Set your intention
The beginning of a yoga class—or a relationship—is a great time to pause and check in with the why, the reason for showing up. We live in fast-paced world, and it’s easy to get caught up in moving quickly from one thing to another. Intention, the reason for doing something, gives it a heart, soul, and purpose. There will be a qualitative difference in my Navasana (boat pose) if I remember that I am choosing to be challenged so that I can build strength, fortitude, and steadfast concentration.
But it doesn’t always have to be something that specific. Often my intention is simply to be present, to practice not being so easily distracted, and to watch what happens as I cocreate the unfolding of something bigger than myself. What I find is that the more I hold an intention in mind and in heart, the less I sweat the small stuff that comes up or gets in the way, like the temporary burning sensation of working your abs in boat pose.
With Live Be Yoga, one of my many intentions is to understand the yoga landscape in the West so I can continue to be of service to the people who use this practice to uplift themselves and others.
Aris and I are in this working relationship because of a fundamental alignment and interest in the same things. So, if a disagreement comes up, it’s not about our greater mission but usually over something logistical.
In that moment, if we remember our intention of being of service to yoga, we’ll find that both of our viewpoints coexist in support of the bigger picture and that there is no wrong answer. And, thankfully, there’s always plenty of the Breathe Easy blend to go around.
Once I’ve set my intention, everything that happens next is seen through that purposeful lens, but there is still a choice of how to show up and respond. On the mat, breathing is paramount in keeping my intention aligned with how I’m actually responding. Not only does the breath keep me regulated and calm in the face of a challenge, but it gives a moment to reflect. In this reflection I often find that there is a layer of myself that is simply reactionary, an irrational response system operating from a complex and deeply rooted place of societal conditioning and cumulative experience.
If I want to learn and grow from my experiences and to break free from my samskaras (repeating patterns), I recognize profoundly the importance of stopping to breathe before reacting. As the neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is pause. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
And that sums up why I love this practice and how I take it off the mat. So whether I’m navigating a challenging shape with my body, or navigating another person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions throughout my day, the breath is the perfect opportunity to make sure that how I show up is aligned with my greater intentions—and not a hasty reaction. Of course, hasty reactions still happen all the time, but this is why we call it a practice. And practice makes…. well, practice.