You've heard the line before: you can take everything you learn from yoga off the mat. The mindfulness we bring to our bodies and breath in yoga can transform how we act at work, in our relationships, with family members and more.
If you're anything like me, you've got the calm, contented yogi vibe down most of the time. Until, that is, your partner is impossible, your friends are unreliable, and your kids are unreasonable. Then you may feel just as frustrated and angry as everyone else. Where did my yoga wisdom go? you may find yourself asking during these tense times ...
Luckily there are tools to help you confront most conflicts mindfully. When we bring greater attention and emotional space to conflicts, we prevent ourselves from adding more negative energy to our karmic plates just because we may have a bone to pick.
Try this simple, five step process the next time you need to clear the air with a loved one:
1. Connect through breath.
Spend 60-seconds breathing alongside the person you're arguing with — be it a partner, child, parent and so on. This is a great way to ground yourself and discharge emotional energy.
You can stand back-to-back with the person, hug each other, place a hand on each other's heart, or sit with your knees and hands touching. Feel the breath moving through both of your bodies until your breathing softens and slows.
2. Name your assumptions and fears.
Get very clear with yourself about what assumptions and fears you're feeling. Why? You are likely bringing these into the discussion and allowing them to affect how you're perceiving the actions and attitudes of others. It will help you, even if it feels difficult, to be straight with yourself. Be very honest with yourself first. And then name those assumptions out loud. Make yourself vulnerable.
For example, consider these assumptions: "I assume you're not willing to give in the relationship, which makes me feel afraid of being hurt". Or: "I assume, if we both want to continue our relationship, that communicating openly can resolve our misunderstandings".
When you're feeling defensive and angry, the last thing you may want to do is acknowledge and show your vulnerability. But, by showing your cards, you ground the argument in the truth of your experience and allow both of you to show up honestly and with compassion.
3. Ask for what you want.
Be straightforward and ask for exactly what you want based on what you need.
For example, you might say "I would feel more valued if you called me when you're running late." Then follow it up with this critical question: "Is that something you're willing to do?"
By asking your friend, partner, or child if they are willing to meet your request, you allow them to stand in their own power and choose to honor you and your needs. You also give them the opportunity to express their own needs and/or offer an alternative solution that might serve you both.
4. Summarize what happened.
End your discussion with a quick summary of what you understand you agreed to and make sure the other person shares your understanding. This will save you from those infuriating we-just-had-this-conversation arguments down the road.
Finally, end as you began, by connecting on a physical level through the breath. I love heart hugs, in which you hug to the right and line up heart-to-heart. Try checking out this cool video to learn how different and powerful they are ...
Make sure to hold your hug for 60-seconds until your breathing slows and you feel calm and soft again.
Disagreements and the accompanying emotions are a part of life. Yogis don't try to avoid arguments, they use them as another way to explore riding the waves of emotion and moving with awareness to the other side.
These five steps may feel awkward at first, but with practice, they hold the key to resolving conflicts with respect, empathy and grace.