by Kathryn Budig: I’ve been in a serious relationship for 15 years. We started out pretty hot and heavy—there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t see each other…
It was passionate, sweaty, and always a fascinating challenge. Fast-forward to our current relationship, and it’s more of a partnership than a whirlwind romance—I know I’m in this for good and that we’ll always be there for each other.
Oh, right, I suppose I should introduce you to my partner: please meet yoga.
Yoga and I have been going steady for longer than any romantic relationship I’ve ever been in. I took this into consideration when I married my husband last October. We’ve been in a relationship for four years and have been married less than a year. I wondered how our love would compare to my long-term love for yoga. The impact each has had on the other is fascinating, and I am so grateful for the lessons yoga has offered me that I apply to all of the important relationship of my life. Here are a few that have definitely changed my marriage for the better.
A handstand practice doesn’t magically appear—it takes dedication and constant application to all aspects of the posture. It’s acknowledging when it’s time to step it up and work hard, but also knowing when it’s time to cool off, step down, and take a day of rest. All good things take time and ample amounts of effort.
I never thought I’d compare my yoga or handstand practice to my marriage, but they have so much in common. I can’t occasionally show up in my marriage—I have to be present in it every day. Marriage isn’t the golden ticket to a flawless relationship—it’s the beginning of the hardest (and most rewarding) work for the rest of your life. If I want it to thrive, I have to pay attention to when we both need work and attention as well as when we both need to cool off, step back and recollect our thoughts before we speak.
Some days, I balance effortlessly in my handstand, while others I can’t even properly kick up. My marriage has days of sheer bliss, while others can make you wonder if you even know the person sitting across from you. It’s all normal and part of the journey. Take the good days with the bad, knowing that you’ve dedicated your life to this practice/person and that there is plenty of space to grow and always step back to exhale. It’s through this mix of repetition and patience that we are able to grow together.
I had decent body awareness when I first came to yoga, but it was nothing compared to where I now stand after 15 years of treating my body like a pristine racecar. It’s been cared for, crashed into, and lovingly repaired. I understand the mechanics of my body through the constant movement and occasional injuries that I’ve endured. Each event expands my mind on how this amazing vessel works and how I can best care for it.
In marriage, we each come to the table with our own physical needs, desires, and insecurities. We know our own bodies, but not necessarily how they interact best with others. Yoga has taught me to honor my partner’s body and needs by taking the time to learn his as well as mine. I have to treat my husband’s body like a temple and remind him constantly that he is adored, knowing that I desire the same. Marriage is a two-way street where it’s crucial to evenly give and receive.
There are poses and styles of yoga I don’t care for. There are times where the last thing I want to do is unroll my mat and apply myself. I even struggle with accepting that certain poses aren’t for me or letting my ego get the best of me when I’m tackling challenging poses.
These events transfer over into my ability to communicate when the going gets rough. In the same way that it’s easy to skip your practice when you’re tired, it’s easier to avoid topics that you know may start conflicts in your relationship. I never regret doing a yoga practice even when it’s the last thing in the world I want to do. I also never regret saying exactly what needs to be said to my partner, even though I know it may result in an argument or uncomfortable situation. The truth always needs to be told because breaking through barriers is the only way to get to the next level together. The avoidance dance only leads to resentment and confusion. Voicing concerns or talking about things that bother me lets my husband know how much I care, even if it isn’t always pretty.
When I let my ego get in the way during my practice, I often hurt myself. When I let my ego get in the way of my relationship, it creates damaging fire. Speak your truth in the most thoughtful way possible, and be okay with conflict—it means you both are invested in your relationship! Just remember as you step into the arena that you’re not fighting each other—you’re on the same team.
Kathryn Budig is a jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the contributing yoga expert for Women’s Health magazine, a Yoga Journal contributor, yogi-foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws, and author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or on her site.