They can feel like the most fulfilling thing in the world. They can be full of flaws but if the trust is there, there’s always a way to manage. They can also be an arena where the worst of human nature manifests. Relationships between people are as varied as the people themselves, and without applying a good dose of awareness and discrimination, they can be perhaps the most limiting and binding factor for anyone trying to evolve and be free.
Yet we are often unable to disentangle ourselves from even the most detrimental relationships, to create ones that are positive and constructive, let alone to somehow extricate ourselves from any relationship whatsoever, perhaps to live in a solitary cave like a wandering ascetic…
We may or may not be able to fully get to terms with how we resonate with different people and to adjust our relationships accordingly, but once the yogic awareness dawns, relationships of all kinds become very clear and efficient indicators of our current state, our situation in life, and of what parts of our personality we need to work on in order to evolve and grow.
In yoga, different methods have been devised to break down the hard shell of the ego which, just like the hard shell of a seed, needs to crack in order for the “sprout” of creativity and self-realisation to emerge and grow.
But how to find the ego and observe its behaviour? While the ego is essentially not even real – being just a huge bundle of past conditionings – it sure feels real as long as the mind remains unguarded and untamed, and is a master of disguises.
One of its main tricks is to distort how we see ourselves and others, always somehow justifying our own actions but often becoming a most uncompromising judge of others’ behaviour.
This becomes most apparent in our relationships, especially love relationships where lots of expectations are made consciously and unconsciously. Our self-centredness and lack of consideration can be easily hidden away when we brood over ourselves while in a private space, but are laid bare quickly and instantly whenever our egos clash with those of others.
For a person whose awareness is fully steeped in the material world, relationships can therefore be an unavoidable but ultimately restrictive and self-defeating undertaking, relying on little more than chance to find the right connections in life.
However, for a person whose yogic awareness has been developed to a necessary extent, the constant work required to maintain a functioning and supportive relationship becomes one of the best living practices for personal growth. The people we are connected with will always influence our experience of ourselves and life in general, whether we are aware of it or not.
Therefore, in the absence of a suitable partner, a yogi may even forgo all dependent relationships altogether, knowing that the preservation of inner peace, harmony, and mental and emotional integrity is superior to all else.
Conversely, one of the secrets to a truly great relationship is to get established in the attitude of “I can be alone, and find happiness anyway”. In this way, the level of expectations – those eternal foes of any relationship – is greatly reduced. Expectations lead to demands, and there is hardly a greater spoiler of happiness and love than unsatisfied expectations.
First and foremost, a yogi knows that there is far more to life than any amount or quality of worldly relationships, and tries their level best to remain independent of all external sources of happiness, instead always seeking and finding it within.
The process of harmonising and purifying our relationships begins, like so many other processes in yoga, with self-observation and a constant effort to become an objective witness of oneself. This is best achieved through regular practice of meditation in combination with other yogic approaches, as the mind does not exist isolated from the body, energy, and the environment we live in.
Then, as we progress on the path, we gradually find that most if not all of our relationships are being redefined and repurposed, the restrictive ones falling away and new, helpful and constructive ones, being created.
Ultimately, a yogi has to realise through experience that their self is the Self of all: only then the game of relationships and dependencies will be fully over, and an entirely different understanding of self will dawn… but reaching this stage usually takes more than one lifetime, we are told, so let us conclude by remembering that even a tiny step forward on this path will lead to great changes in life, both for ourselves and those around us.
With classical yoga, there is no need to look for different methods for the management of body, mind, and social interactions: the more you delve into the system, the more you will discover that the answers to all questions lie there already, waiting to be discovered. Check out the current selection of live and pre-recorded courses on the Living Yoga Project network and see what works best for you.