Romance Off the Mat: Lessons About Yoga & Love

Only ten percent of yoga happens on the mat. The other ninety percent happens out in the world, and what we do on the mat helps prepares us. That’s how my favorite yoga instructor explained it to me, anyway, and it’s how the yoga instructor explains it in Where We Left Off.

The idea is that if I learn how to sit with discomfort in a pose that challenges my body, then I’m also learning how to sit with, say, conversational discomfort. If I practice identifying when I should push my body and when I should ease off in a pose, then I’m training myself to tell the difference between when I should push through something and when I should retreat from it in the rest of my life as well.

When Leo Ware is dragged to a yoga class by one of his friends at the beginning of Where We Left Off, his expectations are … low. But as he continues to go, he comes to love it. And not only for what he learns on the mat (though his newfound flexibility certainly has, er, advantages in his intimacies with Will …). He also begins to realize that so many of the things he learns in class are also applicable to relationships. Leo is a romantic, through and through, whereas Will is allergic to romance. The lessons Leo learns in yoga help bridge the distance between their disparate views of romance.

So, here are Leo Ware’s Lessons of Yoga + Love.

(Yeah, Leo knows they’re a little bit woo, but he’s okay with it *wink*)

  1. There is no right way. Do we point our fingers straight ahead in downward dog, or angle them out? In? Which is the right way? There is no right way—there is only the way our choices change the outcome, the effect. There is no right way to have a relationship. There are only many, many different ways. As many different ways as there are relationships. We are the only ones who can answer the question “what happens” when we make different choices about our relationships.
  1. We are different every time we practice. Some days we’re able to do a pose easily and others it feels incredibly difficult. Similarly, what we desire, or need, or are able to offer a lover changes from day to day because our bodies and minds and feelings change from day to day. To best serve ourselves and our partners, we need to pay attention to the state of things in the moment, acknowledging that they might be different than they were a day or an hour before.
  1. Become comfortable with discomfort. Our muscles burn as we hold the lunge, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It just means it’s uncomfortable. The more we acclimate ourselves to being alright with being a little bit uncomfortable, the more we are able to lean into discomfort. Since so much of relationships is having hard conversations, making ourselves vulnerable to each other, and dealing with challenges, the more comfortable we are with discomfort, the less likely we are to shy away from the work that needs to be done in our relationships.
  1. Always start with an effortful effort (Abhyāsa). No matter what kind of relationship we’re working toward, we have to make an effort to work toward it every time. This effort is the jumpstart, the momentum that propels us forward and keeps us from stalling out. The efforts might be small, and they will surely encounter opposition, but we must keep putting forth effort.
  1. But also be willing to give up attachment (Vairāgya). Sometimes, in order to learn something essential about ourselves or the world, we have to be willing to give up what we think we know, what we think we want, what we are working toward. This might mean letting go of something we believe to be true about a partner in order to learn something about them that is more true, or also true. It might mean opening ourselves up to ideas of ourselves that we are averse to in order to grow. Sometimes we must let go of the outcome we desire in order to allow another to come into being.

What do you think, lovely readers? What’s the best love lesson you’ve ever learned? Tell me in the comments!

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bw-author-picRoan Parrish is currently wandering between Philadelphia and New Orleans. When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.