I've decided to get yogic on dating by applying the Niyamas (the yogic do’s) and the Yamas (the yogic don’ts) to the topic. This is a bit of an experiment, so I hope it works out.
A primer on the Yamas and Niyamas are that they’re “the ethical precepts set forth in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as the first and second of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga.” That’s a fancy way of saying that they’re a bit like the Yogic Ten Commandments—and no matter how flexible you are, you’re not really a yogi if you don’t at least appear to follow them. To us, they’re now known as Patanjali’s 10 Rules of Dating:
Rule 1: Ahimsa (Non-violence)
Don’t hurt people. As in, try to not do harmful things to your partner…we get that. Of course, that’s easier said than done. A part of dating is getting REALLY emotional and making bad decisions, especially when we’re drunk. That’s why I say try. That’s as much commitment as I’m going to get from you.
Rule 2: Satya (Truthfulness)
Look, it’s pretty common not to tell the truth in the early stages of dating—we present ourselves in the best light and make ourselves appear more attractive than we often feel. That’s pretty standard, but as we begin to forge a bond with a partner, can I propose one deal-point for you and me to shake on? Here it is. It’s being truthful about the intentions we have for the relationship…where we want it to go. It’s not always simple or easy to pull off, but it might just be doable and it’s hugely important. Be honest about what you want. “I just want to keep it physical…”
Rule 3: Asteya (Non-stealing)
I heard about a guy who would often leaves a few dollars out on the table when he has a girl over, to see if she swipes the cash. But no, I don’t mean that kind of theft, although if you encounter it, you don't need Patanjali to tell you what to do. I actually mean don’t be an energy vampire, or suffer one. When you’re in a relationship, there ought to be an open exchange of ideas, time, and emotion that has some level of parity. If one person is taking everything, that’s a kind of theft, in my book. If you find yourself being that person, maybe it’s time to take a time-out.
Rule 4: Brahmacarya (Sexual responsibility)
This is always a popular topic in yoga teacher training. Give up WHAT?? Nahhhh, Patanjali wouldn’t do that to you (or would he?). In these rules, I’m translating the Sanskrit as a directive to contain your sexual energy, let’s say between two partners. The objective is not to let it drain out in meaningless directions, so you can use it for productive endeavors. That makes sense, right?? Just don’t be wasteful and spend your sexual energy on frivolous activities.
Rule 5: Aparigraha (Abstention from greed)
This one is kind of similar to the theft rule. Don’t simply take, or take more than you need, or hoard your energy. It’s never going to work if you do. A relationship is like your breath, if you take take take take, your face will turn red and you might explode. Giving is the corollary to taking, and is a part of the natural cycle.
Rule 6: Sauca (Cleanliness)
I have a rule in my life…I don’t let people with dirty feet into my clean white-carpeted house. You shouldn’t either. Keep it clean when you’re getting close to someone—don’t overwhelm them with all the crazy stories about your past, or your commitment phobias. And as you settle deeper into a relationship, consider not dragging home all the grime from the world into your private space. Sharing is a fundamental component of partnership, but loading your shit up on someone else is not ok, and it wont help you to build a healthy relationship.
Rule 7: Santosa (Contentment)
I live in Miami, and grew up in LA. These are tough markets for dating. There’s always a prettier girl and always some dude with a bigger boat. If you find yourself thinking about trading up, or how the grass is greener elsewhere, check in and see if this might be a fantasy you’ve built in your head. If you’re prone to many partners, this is a challenging rule to navigate. But itchiness and true dissatisfaction really are quite different from each other—the subtle practice is to distinguish between the two. I'm still working on this one.
Rule 8: Tapas (Discipline)
This is a one that we’ve all heard. Relationships require tons of hard work. And just like going to the gym, or working for years to graduate to the Second Series of Ashtanga, it is through the effort that we actually go deeper and become stronger. We'll all encounter problems and challenges, even with the right partner—so be prepared to do the work before you can achieve the next level of intimacy. No one said relationships are easy, and Patanjali is no exception.
Rule 9: Svadhyaya (Self-study)
Keep learning about yourself and growing. Spend time alone, read good books, do some kind of spiritual practice. If you don’t pursue your own interests and walk your own path, one day you’ll wake up and find yourself deeply dissatisfied (that’s a fact I just made up). This will not be good news for you or for your partner.
Rule 10: Isvara pranidhana (Surrender of the self)
If your desire is to forge a life bond with your partner, you will at some point have to surrender control, expectations, and that piece of your ego that says “Me/mine/I.” This is tough to call a rule, because it's kind of all or nothing, and I'm not a fan of black and white scenarios. Maybe I'll call it an aspiration. For sure though, if you hold back parts of yourself, you’ll never sink into that deep union that I know you want. I know you want it, because that’s what I want too.
How about that?? Patanjali doesn't mess around—he gets right into some deep but relevant issues. But now, I have a minor confession to make. I didn't actually get Patanjali's permission to quote him...he's been busy teaching at Kirpalu all week. These might be more like Patanjali-Inspired Rules on Dating, kind of like when you take an Anusara-Inspired class. It's almost as good as the real thing. Hope that's OK :)
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