March 26, 2009

Partner Yoga: a meditation on relationship: “It is through our intimate relationships with others that we come to know and love ourselves.”

When I met Elysabeth Williamson, she was so kind to sign and give me her book PARTNER YOGA: THE PLEASURES AND THE PRINCIPLES, and invited me to try it.  For one reason or the other, I have not done it yet; then in her book I read she thanks those who have “participated in a practice that requires such honesty and vulnerability.” and suddenly, I acknowledge my resistance to it.

Honesty…vulnerability scares me.

Scare is a pretty strong word to use. But since I started reading Pema Chödrön “The places that scare you”, I am becoming to understand fear from a different more compassionate enlightened point of view and I am paying attention to the things that I fear. I fear vulnerability, so I don’t even go there. Interesting.

One of the known reasons why we practice yoga is that  yoga brings to the surface the imbalances we are experiencing so we can use our awareness and clarity to bring some balance into whatever it is that we face through the practice…like in life.

I do yoga, I teach yoga, I try to live in a yoga state of mind and intention. Yoga is my passion and my friend. Yoga gives me an understanding of myself to the deepest level of the mind, through the observation of the breath and the gift of equanimity. And still, I have been not very motivated to practice Partner Yoga. It’s been on my path for a long time, I have  never been attracted to it.

As you know, my friend Charlie died recently and the realization of death woke me up to many of my beliefs in a different light; more than on a different light, a different timing. Present has become a constant appreciation of the many blessings in  life and the many reasons I have to be thankful at every moment. Smile and enjoy a deep mountain Boulder breath.

One of the beliefs I’ve been immersed in, maybe because of my realization of death, maybe because Venus is retrograde in Aries, or maybe because that is what is coming to the surface, has been relationship…

Partner Yoga “The Pleasures and Principles” speak of how Partner yoga is for everybody, and the writer Elysabeth Williamson, recommends that we  find a friend who is willing to experiment with these practices and begin to use this book. In a thinking moment, I think it might be fun to share it with somebody fun and somebody who I like spending time with. Somebody that feels comfortable with body contact and likes practicing asana with somebody else.

My surprise was to find out I don’t have too many people I would like to practice with. And… I am not sure I can connect at that level with somebody that I just met. To me, Yoga is such a personal practice. People like to practice in groups for the motivation, the room heat, the focus and the connection with others, but the practice I know is the practice of the observation of the self, so yoga is a me me me practice.

How can I pay attention to myself if I have to pay attention to another?

…then relationship comes into the picture and my question shapes clearer: How can I pay attention to myself while paying attention to another?…mmmm, now that is an interesting journey.

Relationship with others and relationship with the self are reflections of this time in space. People want connection without loosing freedom; or some people would say people want touch without commitment. Is it the fear of abandonment which creates this intense attachment to having somebody to relate to? Then when we have the opportunity to relate, why do we choose not to?

Elysabeth’s Partner Yoga book first chapter is UNION. She says:

Through the practice of partner Yoga, the duality of self/other begins
to dissolve and we experience directly the essence of Yoga – union.

How do we overcome separation and achieve union? Erich Fromm gets quoted. Through Chakra Visualization Meditation Elysabeth shares meditations that teach us how to let go of all preconceived ideas concerning yourself and your partner. A journey through the asanas begins and flows through the book, illustrated by beautiful pictures of Elysabeth and her partner practicing.

From Union we get to TOUCH and learn that

Though is a powerful form of communication. Through our sense of touch
we are able to express ourselves an listen to others without words.

Advice like “Sensing the space around your partner will help you become more sensitive to subtle energy.” make so much sense if we relate it to a lover, if you ask me.

GROUNDING comes next. “Grounding is our capacity to fully inhabit the physical body, awakening the intelligence of each cell to its full health and radiance.” Sounds like a beautiful way to describe Grounding, a beautiful feeling in my humble experience. As Elysabeth puts it in her book Partner Yoga “To be grounded is to feel held by life.”

Seems that relationship is what everybody is seeking but not embracing freely in a state of trust and love. According to Partner Yoga yogini Elysabeth Williamson, TRUST shows us that

Healing comes as we choose to release the pain of our past and cultivate the
trust that returns us to innocence – an innocence that is reborn in wisdom.

She quotes The Talmud saying; “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

True, don’t you think? She teaches us that “our commitment to stay with ourselves and with our experience is what engenders trust and openness in our partner.” Looking through the Trust asanas illustrating Elysabeth and Rex practicing together in the book, I start remembering how I used to do these poses with my sister and brother and then my nephews because it was fun and we all could fly.

And Trust was definitely the first shared vibration, then laughter. I also have enough years of yoga experience to tell you that the deep massage both partners give to each other during the interaction of the asanas with the body is delicious and sacredly erotic if you were to practice with your lover. More fun.

As it gets into passion, I turn the page and our next chapter is COMPASSION and Elysabeth’s words about it are:

The spiritual potential of humanity – perhaps the survival of humanity itself –
is intimately connected with our ability to develop true compassion.

Elysabeth writes that “compassion is the bridge to true understanding. When we really consider another’s reality and experience, we make an authentic connection with them.” More awesome poses, and as I keep going and I am about the stand up, I get to SURRENDER: “A conscious act of will. It takes courage and humility to align our will with divine will.” Or to relationship for that matter.

Elysabeth goes further saying that “letting go of control and surrendering to our moment-to-moment experience is the pathway to peace…The practice of surrender develops self-responsibility, especially in our relations with others.” And they’re talking about yoga, Partner Yoga. Elysabeth describes perfectly what a happy relationship would sound like, to me:

when in posture with our partner, we are neither passive or submissive, but actively holding our own form, not overly relying on our partner for strength or balance. At times our practice will be challenging, other times it will flow freely. We may react to challenging moments by judging or blaming our partners or ourselves – creating feelings of separation and frustration.

Even in challenging moments, we have a choice to either accept the situation as it is or try to control it.  Surrender is the acceptance that we are powerless to change anyone or anything but ourselves.

After so much, you can only desire but one thing, at least me; SILENCE. Silence could not be better related to relationship than Elysabeth’s description of it: “As we practice being receptive to silence together, our deeper natures are revealed and we come to know each other beyond our personalities.”

LAM VAM RAM YAM HAM AUM AUM. Healing sound exploration in the journey to silence is practiced and directed by Elysabeth in her book “Partner Yoga: The Pleasures and Principles”.

Breaking news, before reaching CREATIVITY, BALANCE is to be practiced and in order to get to Balance one must pass through INTIMACY. Read carefully.

Partner Yoga is a playground for intimacy. Through the practices we create
a context to explore intimate contact in ways that are safe and sacred.

Elysabeth brings some wisdom into this phase of practice by writing something that sounds very true:

It is through our intimate relationships with others
that we come to know and love ourselves.

Partner Pranayama is another topic that sounds very intimate. So if you manage to open up to Intimacy with yourself and other, Balance is the next stage in practice according to Elysabeth’s Partner Yoga, who reminds us that “Balance teaches us to accept all of our experience as necessary and valuable.”

After several warriors and balancing poses practiced with somebody else as a partner, I can imagine you end up so open and connected to the other…or not. But the last chapter in Partner Yoga: The Pleasures and Principles, is Creativity. Elysabeth teaches us that “Postures are prayers spoken through the body. When we open and offer ourselves as vehicle for inspiration, we invoke the creative spirit.” And quotes a great saying that once again makes me think about relationship.

Making the simple complicated is commonplace, making the
complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

The reward will show in the level of creativity we are left with after the practice. When we manage to tune in with our breath and focus in a clear intention, the practice of yoga becomes an open space for exploration of the self, getting to know thyself becomes natural to the poses that create this clear mind and opens up are positive vision to life and our relationship with others. Then we project, we share, we express, we become and embrace each other.

Being mirrors to each other, we learn through the reflection of the self into the reflection of the COMMUNITY.  “As our perception shifts toward compassion and aligns with our deepest desire for connection, our relationships and communities are transformed.” Elysabeth quotes Teilhard de Chardin saying

When humans finally learn to harness the power of love,
they will once again have discovered fire.

Isn’t that beautiful?

I’m still wondering whom will I practice with comfortably which makes me realize, that is my first lesson in Partner Yoga. Choose your company wisely, enrich your environment with the right chemistry of people.  Listen to yourself when your vibrations are telling you something about others and always trust what your sensations are telling you.

I am a beginner in Partner Yoga, I am still resisting Partner Yoga , which reminds me it is the first effect that yoga has in many, resistance. So, come back to read, I will go practice with somebody I don’t know at all, which is as recommended as practicing with somebody you know already.

I will write again about it. Maybe I’ll see you too in her next  Partner Yoga Teacher Training happening this August at Gold Lake. It will be an illuminating and nourishing experience for all participating. For further info- www.PartnerYogaTeacherTraining.com

Please write your meditations on relationship…let’s explore it together.



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