Is dating as easy as breathing? Hardly. Dr. Kristen Hick discusses how in order to date well and create healthy relationships, one must master Pranayama.
In yoga, an almost 2000-year-old physical, emotional and spiritual health practice, breathing is an essential component. In fact, it is one of eight essential sutras of yoga.
In past blogs, I have made use of the first three sutras of yoga—involving how to treat others (yama), how to treat oneself (niyama), and how to practice the postures (asana)—to demonstrate how these same philosophies and disciplines can be extremely helpful in navigating the potentially loaded minefield we call modern dating.
Yoga & Dating
Dating can be hard. Let’s face it: for an activity that’s supposed to lead to romance, leading to love then leading to blissful lifelong companionship and a person to die with (like in The Notebook), dating can seem unfairly excruciating. You feel nervous, vulnerable and uncomfortable at first, and that’s when you’re lucky enough to meet somebody who seems like a real contender.
Then once you have gotten to know the person a little better, you feel more comfortable in your own skin, and next to their skin. You start to let down your defenses. You can take off your social mask and let down your hair as you become more and more vulnerable with this special someone. You let them into your world.
The same is true for yoga postures. When you first attempt a posture, you feel uncomfortable, unsteady and often, strangely vulnerable. (“Really? You want me to put my legs where??“) With practice and guidance, you become steadier in your practice, more comfortable and you begin to stretch your physical boundaries of your practice.
Once (and while) you master the postures, you begin also to focus on your breath.
Pranayama (Control of Breathing)
In yoga, like in life, breath is the life force. It allows you to survive. I’m going to assume for a moment that if you are reading this, you are interested in going a step beyond surviving. You want to thrive.
To thrive, yoga teaches us that we must learn the art of controlling this vital force. Learning to control your breath (called Pranayama) deepens your yoga practice. But (and here’s the cool part) this simple, often overlooked skill can also help you thrive in your dating practice.
Pranayama and Dating
Letting In & Letting Go
Your relationship journey has likely been full of love, trust, playfulness, laughter, friendship and passion. And if you are human like the rest of us (if not, you need to read a different blog as this one is human-oriented) your journey has also been intertwined with experiences such as disappointment, frustration, hurt, guilt, mistrust and sadness. Recall what I said in Part III about dualities in relationships? Dualities exist everywhere, and there is space for them in every situation. Acceptance of these dualities will become the strength of your breath.
Breathing in dating (as my insightful yoga teacher Anders Tremont-Nelson described) requires inhaling all that is around you, all of your relationship experiences, without judgment and with a sense of peace. Your past is as important as the present and the future. Each moment in your history has taught you something about yourself. Each moment has created the “you” you are now. As you begin a new relationship, take it all in.
Once you have filled up your lungs with all that is behind, around and in front of you, exhale. Just as mindfully as you allowed yourself to take in the air, your life force, your relationships and your past, exhale and let go. Letting go will allow you to prepare to take new, fresh air in.
Truly, there is nothing in the future that has to be the same as the past. There is only open space for whatever we choose to create in the moment.
Giving & Receiving
Just as your inhalation and exhalation go together (try skipping one for a couple of minutes and then get back to me), satisfying relationships involve a reciprocal process of giving of oneself to another and also receiving what your partner is giving you. This exchange of time, gifts, emotions and energy can be difficult for some.
A common issue for my clients is giving too much of themselves to others, especially their significant other, without receiving much in return. Many have trouble receiving from others even when their partner is trying to give. Still others repeatedly attract partners who pay little attention to their needs.
Healthy relationships are born out of a relatively equal give and take between two people. Yes, there will be times where the pendulum shifts to either side a little more, but overall both people must give and receive.
Slow & Steady
“When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Practicing control of your breathing, involves a purposeful, mindful inhalation and exhalation. One cannot merely breathe in and out. Yoga breathing is deliberately slow and steady. With this steadiness comes the ability to hold a posture, pushing a little beyond one’s comfort zone.
Steadiness of breath also allows one to reach an internal stillness. We can slow down our thoughts and emotions in order to be more mindfully present in the moment with that new special someone, rather than lurking in the past or racing to the future.
When things get a little fuzzy, fast or discombobulated, return to your breath. Learning how to maintain focus on your breath (or return to it if your gaze has drifted elsewhere) will make your dating experiences less of a romantic roller coaster. Focusing on pranayama in dating will help slow and center the mind while your heart enjoys the process.
[image via Joel Nilsson Nelson on flickr]