Guest Post By Yoga and Wellness Expert, Lauren Eckstrom
When you hear the word “yoga” you probably see an image of a person bending their body in an inspiring, aspirational shape to assume a yoga pose. The media often portrays yoga with people placed in sweaty, sexually alluring positions. While that visual stimulation might get you feeling physically stimulated, there is an ancient philosophy behind this practice that can be applied to greatly support and help sustain a healthy, compassionate relationship that is much deeper.
Thousands of years ago Patanjali outlined The Eight Limbs of Yoga. By applying each limb to your relationship in partner yoga you’ll deepen connection, communication, and intimacy.
1. Yamas (Awakened Qualities)
The 5 Yamas encompass ethics, integrity and how you practice yoga in relation to others, which makes the Yamas an ideal place to begin a relationship reflection.
Embody the first Yama, Ahimsa or non-violence, by practicing compassion. Intimate relationships will trigger challenges and frustrations, which can result in harmful, reactive behavior. Practice carefully witnessing the moments when upset arises and mindfully practice compassion—in your thoughts, words and actions toward your partner. Take a deep breath, a step back, and align with the perspective that’s for the highest good of all involved.
Practicing Satya or truthfulness provides a quality of strength and integrity to your relationship, especially when intimacy is involved. Make a commitment to being honest, even if you must risk discomfort, to elevate the relationship’s foundation of trust and goodness.
Asteya or non-stealing can be applied to how you spend time together. Practice being fully present with your partner and not stealing time away from each other by being distracted by phones, computers or other devices. Leave smartphones at home on date night, ban computers from the bedroom, and enhance the quality of your time together. Remove distractions and cultivate sacred times in your day for giving gratitude and sharing love.
Brahmacharya signifies a respectful and pure use of sexual energy. As a couple, create an intention for making love so that sexual intimacy becomes a powerful, form of communication within your relationship. The wise use of your sexual energy is a practice for deepening your intimacy, communication and connection.
Aparigraha or non-grasping encourages you to establish faith that space apart is a safe, healthy habit to co-create within your relationship. Whether going on a meditation retreat, meeting up with friends, going back to school, or even going to a yoga class, it’s healthy and normal to spend time apart. A balanced amount of space will bring more happiness and joy to your relationship. You’ll return to each other feeling excited and ready to connect.
2. Niyama (Codes for Noble Living)
The 5 Niyamas involve self-discipline and practices in relationship to yourself. Establishing a healthy, well-rounded relationship with yourself will give depth and longevity to your intimate relationship.
Everyone thrives in a clean space. A clean home helps alleviate stress and anxiety. The first Niyama, Saucha or purity, can be practiced by taking care of your home and other personal spaces. Cleanliness allows energy to flow, increasing productivity, creativity and even happiness so that both you and your relationship can thrive.
Contentment, or what is also known as Santosha, empowers you to maintain personal equanimity through the normal ups and downs of life and intimacy. Contentment should not be confused with complacency. If you are in a harmful or hurtful situation, act to move out of it as quickly as possible. But, if you are navigating the usual disruptions of life, you have a choice as to how you move through them. Practicing contentment will enhance your personal equilibrium and will inevitably permeate your interactions with your partner for the better.
Explore how you might purify or create a positive burn within yourself to practice the third Niyama, Tapas. When you are self-disciplined you possess a vigor and clarity that is pure and appealing. Consider different ways you might purify your life. For example, try eliminating complaining for 30 days or try a clean, whole food eating plan. This internal fire will help invigorate both you and your relationship.
This naturally ties into your continued self-study or Svadhyaya. The moment you stop growing you stop living. As you continue to learn and expand you maintain an inner passion that will inevitably feed the passion of your intimate relationship.
Lastly, carve out sacred time for your own personal form of devotion, Ishvaraprandihana. Celebration of the divine can be interpreted simply as a celebration of spirit. This personal time for reflection keeps you in tune with your most sacred, personal rhythms, fills your personal cup back up, and allows you to re-enter your relationship with energy and dedication.
3. Asana (Pose)
Practice together! Create an at-home ritual. Light candles, dim the lights, and carve time out to move together. If you don’t have a personal yoga practice, use an online streaming platform such as IDM TV and find a yoga class to flow along with at home. Physically moving together builds endorphins, enhances your mood, improves your ability to tune into your feelings and bodily sensations, and increases vitality. Practicing physical yoga together is a wonderful way to establish health and intimacy in your relationship journey.
4. Pranayama (Breath Control)
A key component to the physical practice of yoga is the breath. Breath is life! Take your breath with you into the bedroom. As you make love, breathe. Breathe deeply, fully and audibly. As you breathe, energy flows through the body and will help you connect more precisely with each other’s most intimate needs. At times, try closing your eyes or gazing deeply into each other’s eyes (Pratyahara) to develop a specific felt sense of intimacy.
5. Dharana (Focus), Dhyana (Meditation), and Samadhi (Absolute Oneness)
Your time together is sacred. Beyond removing distractions, treat your time together wisely. By focusing on each other and practicing true presence in partner yoga, you will experience a fulfilling intimacy that gives you security, stability, and strength to flow through life together.
Yoga, in its many forms, is here to support you in your intimate relationship. For the next 5 weeks choose one limb per week and apply it to your relationship. Watch your relationship beautifully evolve and transform.