The other day Greg and I were stuck in some mood-ruining slow-and-go traffic. Instead of picking a fight we picked a mantra (sacred syllable) and started chanting. Somewhere between the opening om and the closing swaha, the air cleared and we were in it together again.
And that’s when I remembered the billboard.
It was years ago, but the oversized picture of Earth from space under this phrase, The Couple That Prays Together Stays Together, still rattles around my mind. At the time it conjured up images of self-righteous Sunday sermons and I was dismissive. Besides, I’ve never been very good at praying per se and staying together seemed like a limited end game. I thought a couple should more than stay together. They should grow together. Or transform together. Or even consciously evolve together. But I do love a rhyme and the billboard stuck.
Then I started practicing Yoga. I loved it immediately. And I loved Greg. I knew they were going to love each other if only he would come to class with me.
I didn’t insist because you can’t hurry love. But you can definitely nudge it. So every day as I was suiting up, I’d casually ask Greg if he wanted to come with me. Not today he’d say. It became a running gag. I’d ask him at random times, like when we were on our way to a gig, or as I was walking out the door with my mat. I would ask not to hear a yes but for the laugh. And also to remind him I was, not so patiently, waiting for him to join me on the Yoga bandwagon.
I knew it would be good for our union because after all, Yoga, as almost everyone in America knows by now, means union. It comes from the word yug which translates literally to yoke. Mind/body, breath/movement, theory/action. Me/Greg. All of those unions. And others too. And the fact that it is not clearly about any one type of yoking, but all yoking, is one of the things that I love about it.
Yoga doesn’t oversimplify. And neither do we. We were going to have such a great three-way if only Greg would get his ass to class.
So I started pushing, familiar with but not yet embodying the yogic concepts of staying on my own mat and over-efforting. The phrase missionary position took on a whole new meaning for us. I would show him poses while we were taking a break from work. Explain what little philosophy I’d picked up while we were making dinner. Run down the health benefits when he wasn’t feeling well.
Then one day while I was I pushing, he pulled. His back that is. Something popped during the most strenuous part of his exercise regimen: getting up off the couch. How about today? he finally asked.
Before our first class together, I introduced Greg to my teacher. The couple that bends together mends together, my teacher said. Ha! Finally an answer to the billboard. The couple that inverts together squirts together, Greg said on the way home.
And he was immediately good at inversions. He wants me to point out that he could barely do a forward fold and still can’t comfortably sit in a cross-legged position. But his success in inverting gave him the sense of accomplishment he needed to keep going back to class. So inversions were, in a sense, for us becoming a Yoga couple.
In fact, years before we ever went upside down on our mats, on the very first morning we woke up in each others’ arms, we found our heads at the foot of the bed, feet in the clouds of the pillows. Upside down from day one. We should have known inversions would be in our future.
And though we’ve learned about ‘us’ in all sorts of partner poses, one of the most profound shifts in our relationship came during partner handstands. I was spotting Greg, holding his thighs. Don’t grip so hard our teacher said. You’re spotting, not tackling him!
Right. A lighter touch would give him more space. Be more fun. And require less energy on my part. On the mat. And off. Because, of course we’re always spotting each other in life. As a couple, as friends, as business partners. Always trying to keep each other from falling, we help each other stay afloat for a few extra breaths and break through to the next level.
And the deeper our practices become, the more Yoga becomes part of our relationship. If I’m beating myself up, Greg might remind me to practice ahimsa (nonviolence). We integrate svadyaya (self-study) into our writing workshops. We remind each other to stretch when we’ve been desk sitting. I encourage him to meditate, he runs his thumb over my creased third eye. And of course we are constantly reminding each other to breathe.
Yoga’s not bad for our relationship in the bedroom either. Without changing what we do it changes the experience of what we do. Sex is still sex but it’s also a root chakra energizer. And very healthy for a girl so much in her head as I am. Sometimes if my mind is distracted, I can focus on our sexual union as the union of Shiva and Shakti energy. The steadfast and the yielding. And sometimes I just remember to focus on the heavy breathing. Someday when we’re not so busy maybe we’ll even get into the exotic stuff because sure, tantric sex is hot, but it’s also quite time-consuming.
Lately we’ve been really into twists. Maybe because the world seems like it’s taking such a big one. And we’ve been saying the couple that revolves together evolves together. And then going upside-down for our beloved inversions. Letting blood rush towards our hearts. Where the real work of Yoga happens.
Beth Lapides and Greg Miller can be seen being mates on Yogamates.com talking about using comedy as a yoga teaching tool. More info on their work both as individuals and partners at uncabaret.com and bethlapides.com.
By Beth Lapides