I spend much of my time helping teams and individuals have a good look their health, then guiding them towards manageable and effective changes for optimal vitality and wellness. The impact this has on their work and home life can be profound. What strikes me about all the meaningful work I’m involved with is that it is in fact ALL about RELATIONSHIPS. Every one of these wonderful workshops and masterclasses, and 1:1 coaching, changes people and changes people’s lives - for the better.
For me, this really is significant because the word YOGA actually means RELATIONSHIP. Of course, Yoga is about consciously working the breath and moving the body with the ultimate goal of stilling the activity of the mind. Yoga is a philosophy, one of the six major schools of orthodox Indian philosophies. But it has a much wider meaning and connotation than that.
Yoga comes from the Indo-European word yuj which means to yoke or join or unite. However, that doesn’t mean to enmesh or bind, it is not about two things becoming one, it is about the relationship between two or more principles. Think of a plough being pulled by two oxen - the wooden yoke which connects them helps them pull the plough forwards in a good relationship. Without the yoke, or if the oxen were tied together, the oxen would go off in different directions or tread on each other, and plough would become ineffective! It is the considered space between the two animals - their effective relationship - that is the key to the plough’s success. This principle can be applied to all relationships, and not just family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, but also our relationships with food, money, exercise, and technology. The first yoga we develop as a beginner in a yoga class is the relationship between the breath and the body. We deepen and develop the breath and then match the movement to it. This is applied to the relationship between the arms and the head for example in certain postures, and ultimately the body and mind.
My teacher Ranju has always taught me that what we do on our yoga mat is a metaphor for life. If you think about it, almost all our interactions and actions are in some sort of relationship – the yoga mat can actually be a good place to contemplate this. When relationships are compromised, when there is no longer any space between the principles, or there is too much of a void, we get into trouble. Much of the time we cannot see that it’s happened, let alone work out how or why. Finding a solution, if you have identified a problem, can be challenging.
So how do we repair or improve relationships when we don’t know what or how it’s gone wrong? Try involving a third party – a consultant or a yoga teacher – someone you trust, who has a good reputation, and be prepared to observe, lean in and be brave. We need to learn and know how to develop GOOD SPACE. In Yoga this is called sukha (su = good, kha = space), it is the opposite of duhkha, bad space, or suffering.
I’ll finish with another beautiful illustration of the importance of good space in relationships from Kahlil Gibran’s On Marriage:
‘But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.’ ‘And stand together yet not too near together;
For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.’