Applying the teachings of Yoga to our relationships can be a potent way to learn and grow on the spiritual path. Yoga teaches us that there is a natural, unchanging peace within us all. When we experience that internal source of deep contentment, we also feel our interconnection with all of life and a natural love and compassion for each other.

When we lose touch with that inner sense of fulfillment, we look outside, often to each other, as a source of happiness. At times, we all may discover that we are unconsciously depending on others to feel good about ourselves or to feel safe enough to open our hearts. Loving someone becomes contingent on feeling sure that she/he loves us. Swami Satchidananda would tease us about this form of love, calling it a business arrangement.

The love and support of others is not something we can control and count on to always be there. So the more we depend on what others think or feel, the more we set ourselves up for disappointment and suffering. Though we may have heard the teaching that nothing from outside ourselves can make us happy, we come face to face with that truth in our relationships.

Of course, we all enjoy the heart to heart connections we make with each other—deep friendship and intimate love are beautiful and powerful aspects of human life. What we must learn is to love without looking for something in return, experiencing the joy of giving love. When a parent loves their baby, they don’t expect anything—the experience of opening one’s heart fully to another is itself fulfilling. We are all learning, often from the pain of our unhealthy attachment to others, to love in this selfless way.

If we look deeply at ourselves, we may recognize that many of our interactions with each other are unconsciously based on protecting our self-image or winning the acceptance of others. We can practice having compassion for the ways that we all suffer from our attempts to arrange for happiness, reminding ourselves of the innate goodness within, like the light beneath a lampshade. We can also acknowledge the ways we may have hurt others when we’ve been preoccupied with our own safety and desires, and in this spirit of compassion, forgive ourselves for these mistakes.

About the Author:

Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.