I have been preaching the gospel of learning to stay in our relationships for close to a decade, but only recently have learned for myself how the lessons of staying with the hard places in relationship are most deeply integrated through the work of the body. Learning how to hold our selves in the Warrior/ Virabhadrasana 1 pose provides a powerful metaphor for the complex commitment necessary for our most intimate relationships to thrive.
My best yoga teachers have always stressed that the strength of Warrior 1 is finding the balance between grounding the back leg while stretching the front forward. In order to rest in the center we are literally holding ourselves fully in the present moment. Finding this central alignment both lengthens and strengthens muscles in the legs, shoulders and arms, while opening up space for your heart and lungs to expand. It is said that the full expression of this pose is “to honor the highest self” which in the best of worlds is the same reason we love each other.
It might seem an oxymoron of sorts, to use the words love and warrior in the same phase, but the truth is that for real and lasting love to flourish and thrive in life, it takes a warrior’s heart. Practicing the Warrior 1/Virabhadrasana forces us to simultaneously rely on our strength while stretching into the limits of our flexibility. Our stability comes from these efforts merging. The same can be said of the work of intimacy. Beyond the initial euphoria of falling in love, finding the reasons to keep your promises takes both the strength of belief in the basic goodness that the container of your relationship holds and the willingness to stretch your emotional boundaries into new spaces of vulnerability.
Our relationships wobble beneath us when we don’t bring both of these qualities to our ability to love. It is easy for us to lose sight of our basic faith in ourselves and to not offer the benefit of the doubt to the people we love. It is such a small quarter turn of vision that brings us back to this place where we fundamentally trust that we are doing the best we can and that the people who love us are doing the same. Building this kind of trust into our relationships as basic as it seems gives you the foundation to be steady when things don’t go as planned. People’s shortcomings and even our disappointment with our self can be contained and even create compassion for the striving and failing that is inherent in our efforts to love.
Opening our heart and even our breathing to wider spaces of vulnerability is how relationships evolve and grow. What we are not willing to share, to disclose and express doesn’t just keep our relationship shielded from our full self, it keeps us at a distance from what is really happening inside of us. In either case, this defensive mechanism designed to keep us safe, often without our recognition, accomplishes the reverse by cutting us off from the heart connection that we long for in love.
So next time you rest into Warrior 1, consider all the spaces that are opening and becoming stronger in your body, preparing you to become a warrior of love, which is the truest battle we have the honor of fighting for in this life.