The day after Christmas my boyfriend, Gary, and I went to stay in Miami while my parents came to stay with my son and my two new puppies in Alexandria. We arrived in South Beach at Hotel Victor and shared a magical sea-side lunch, then headed to the beach. The weather was idyllic. Our hotel gave us chairs and towels and we set ourselves up near the shoreline to read. Within an hour Gary had a fever and an upset stomach, the same symptoms my son had a week earlier when he was hit with the flu. By evening, Gary had it full blown and was laid up in bed. That night, I slept a good distance from him on my side of the bed and popped out of bed the next morning feeling great. I went to Walgreens, brought him back some sundries, blew him a kiss, and left so he could get some sleep and I could get some sun. By lunch time, I felt like crap, and that’s pretty much where the story ends. We didn’t leave the hotel room again until four days later when it was time to head back to the airport. What was meant to be our romantic getaway, turned out with us sick together in bed.
I had big plans for that trip: candlelit meals, talking, salsa dancing, and walks on the beach holding hands. I was most looking forward to our plan to sit on the beach and map out our shared goals, dreams, and travel for 2020. None of that happened, and I have to admit once we returned home to Alexandria my romance tank was not only on empty, but our relationship car was stalled by the side of the road.
By mid-January I was deflated. We were both pulled away by work, and kids and other obligations. I caught myself thinking things like, “I love Gary and I know he loves me, but I feel numb.” I have been through enough relationship turmoil in my life, including divorce, to know not to react to numbness by blaming or considering break up. I know now that numbness is a sign that I have to get creative. I told him how I was feeling, and we decided to create a shared Apple calendar just for our plans with each other. I highly recommend it! On it we committed to the following items to do together: one weekly yoga class, one home cooked meal that we make together each week, a weekly “check in” conversation about how we are doing in our relationship, one date night, and a trip to Paris in September. In the process, I felt positive energy infuse our relationship once again.
It sounds like the end to a great fairy tale, right? Nope, romance for us is a constant labor of love, and sometimes it feels a lot more like labor than love. Sometimes the voices in my head that say, “why do I always have to be the one coming up with the ideas?” or “why does he always make jokes when I need to talk about something serious?” or “why is he so task oriented, can’t he just chill out and cuddle?” The truth is that, at least in my relationship, we often miss each other and misunderstand each other, like ships passing in the night.
Here’s where yoga comes in for me. Yoga in Sanskrit means union. Many lineages of yoga believe that creativity springs from the union of masculine and feminine energy and that both masculine and feminine energies exist within us all and between us all. Masculine energy is focus, force, logic, completion, goals, compartmentalization, and strategy. Feminine energy is open, spontaneous, unpredictable, emotional, intuitive, wild, connected, nurturing, and empathic. Attraction is born through polarity – opposites attract. If attraction is one side of the coin, tension is the other side. Tension is a good thing. For me it’s a call to action. In a relationship, one person in the partnership may have more developed masculine qualities and the other more developed feminine qualities. When I am experiencing tension with Gary, first I get frustrated and then I remember what yoga has taught me, which is to find flow, to find a way for our energies to work together in harmony and peace, rather than conflict. There is a model of communication Gary and I practice that I learned when I trained to become a yoga teacher. Gary and I use this model for our weekly check-ins if there is an issue around which we have had tension.
Ultimately, this process is about having the courage to tell your partner how you feel and what you need for the sake and health of the relationship. It’s also about having the courage to be fully present as a listener to your partner so you can understand and empathize with them and attempt to meet the needs they request. When these two things happen on both sides, there is balance. Interestingly, the Latin root of the word courage is cor, which means heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Join Gary and I this Saturday, February 15, from 3-5pm at Mind the Mat in Del Ray, Alexandria for a special workshop: Valentine’s Partner Thai Yoga Massage
Open Your Heart: Valentine’s Day Yoga February 14, 6:30-8:00pm at Mind the Mat Clarendon with Stephanie Meyer
Prenatal Partner’s Massage: Prepare for Labor & Delivery February 22, 3-5pm at Mind the Mat in Del Ray, Alexandria
Spring Restorative Yoga with Essential Oils March 28, 2-4pm at Mind the Mat in Del Ray, Alexandria
Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.
Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.