A few weeks ago Fay and I stumbled on The Relationship Skills Workbook, a new self-help book from Sounds True Publishing. We liked it immediately, have both read it, and are working through some of the exercises together.
You won’t find the word “yoga” anywhere in the book. But the book embodies the wisdom of yoga so thoroughly and demonstrates it so effectively, that I thought it’d be worth sharing with our yoga friends here in the studio blog.
Here’s its approach, in a nutshell. For kicks I’ll point out the parallels in the eight limbs of yoga, even though there isn’t a scintilla of Sanskrit on the pages of the book.
When relationship conflict occurs, look into your body before you do anything else. Tightness in your chest? Agita in your gut? Start by becoming sensitive to these reactions, whatever they are, and observing them closely. (Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga, the practice of turning our awareness inward. Asana – doing the poses – is the third limb, and we refine the skill of observing our body every time we get on the mat. The workbook takes this same skill off the mat and into relationships.)
Your physical experience is what the author calls an “unarguable truth.” When both partners communicate their physical experiences accurately, and carefully, they lay the foundation for resolving the conflict. (The yamas are the first and most important limb of yoga, ten ethical principles for living. They begin with ahmisa and satya – non-harming and truthfulness – which this step seems to embody.)
When it’s your turn to listen, be calm, breathe deeply, and don’t offer advice unless it’s requested. (It’s the practice of non-attachment, writ large. In yoga it’s called aparigraha, the fourth of the yamas and the principal teaching of the seminal yogic text, the Bhagavad Gita. When non-attachment comes hard, as it often does, breathing deeply can help. Pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga, may help prepare us for the challenge.)
Get the idea? The author may have never unrolled a yoga mat in her life, but her approach is infused with the kind of wisdom you find in the classical yoga texts. It’s uncanny, and may explain why we’re so taken by this book.