I am that crazy person who believes that this entire world would be a better place if only everyone would practice yoga. I come by this idea naturally. My mother was a yoga teacher and I grew up practicing. Now I am a teacher, too, and my daily practice has done more for my life than just about anything else I have ever done. I am more mindful, patient, loving, and happy. And that is to say nothing of the physical benefits. When I teach yoga, it is a truly humbling, moving experience. To be able to guide people through their asana and be part of their transformation is the ultimate human connection. In short, yoga is my life. Which is why I have always seen it as a bit of personal failure that my husband dislikes yoga so much.
For him, it is too slow. It is too spiritual. It isn’t enough of a workout and (since I tend to practice hot yoga), it is “too @$!$ hot!” In yoga, we practice non-attachment, so I have tried to not let it bother me that he dislikes something that matters so much to me. But when I see him stressed or focused too much on the future or the past and not enough on the present, I am very aware of how much a consistent practice could improve his life.
It started to become a problem in our marriage. His disdain for a practice that was so important to me started to feel like an insult.
“I am a sports guy,” he always told me me. I got it. Yoga is not everyone’s cup of tea. The asana (physical poses) part of the class may be OK, but the spiritual chanting and praying and mindfulness can make people uncomfortable. I get it. Most of my life, I didn’t love yoga that way either. I practiced for the physical benefit and for the boost my twice a week classes gave to my first love — running. But then I started to let the rest in. I started to enjoy the chanting and believe my teacher when she told me that yoga was a confrontation of the true self. With a daily practice, I have seen all the benefits and I want to share those with the most important person in my life.
My husband and I have the kind of marriage where everything is shared. I call him in the middle of the day just to tell him the last 10 things that crossed my mind. We are married, but we are also best friends who still treat just about every night like a slumber party. To not be sharing this major part of my life is a little lonely and I started feeling jealous of the married couples I saw in my classes. They seemed so happy together, smiling on their mats and chatting quietly before class. I wanted to share that, too.
It’s hardly as if my husband is inactive. He was an intense high school athlete who went on to become a college Division One athlete. His event was the decathlon and pole vaulting, running, and throwing have always been part of his life. He goes to the gym at least four times a week and skateboards, plays basketball, and swims. It’s not the activity that bothers him. It’s the “yoga.”
“It’s too woo-woo,” he would tell me. And it’s not just that. My husband tends to stick to things he is good at and yoga? Wasn’t one of them. He can’t even sit cross legged without discomfort due to height and inflexibility. How could I get my disdainful, inflexible husband to be more open minded to yoga?
I had to pull out the big guns. Lebron James. It turns out the basketball player has a pretty consistent practice that he credits with a lot of his success on the court. And it turns out he isn’t the only successful athlete who uses yoga in his downtime to recover and rejuvenate. Connecting breath to body movement is fantastic conditioning for any sport and the strength and flexibility gained in yoga is a game changer for many athletes.
For my husband, this was a game changer, too. He started asking when we can practice and if I could design specific flows that would help him target his trouble areas. We are starting to practice more. He is starting to get why so many people swear by it. He’ll get on his mat now. He’s still reluctant and I don’t expect him to love hip openers. Or meditation. Or chanting Om at the end of class. But helping him “discover” yoga has also taught me so much about our marriage and about relationships in general.
It’s not about loving the other person’s interests or always agreeing on every little thing. No couple does that. It’s about compromise. Always. He may never practice the way I do. I may never get why he loves LeBron. But the halfway point is where the magic happens. And what keeps us coming back for more and more.