Yoga & Married Life

When your partner in marriage is also your partner in yoga, you can work together in some wonderful ways. Not simply in practice, but in the daily focus that your philosophy creates in your life together.

According to tradition, there are four places to dedicate our time-


  • Artha - Material welfare
  • Kāma - Physical, intellectual and emotional satisfaction,
  • Dharma - Justice and morality
  • Moksha - Spiritual fulfillment


Any marriage must focus on artha and Kāma, for without a roof over your head or a sense of emotional fulfillment, marriages do not last long. While we need the security of material comforts, too many of us stop there. When we have the good fortune to possess (and have put in the hard work to have) such things as houses and cars and bank accounts, our sense of material welfare should be satisfied. But we live in a culture that insists we get more and then more after that. Constant advertising keeps us running on a treadmill of getting and spending, until we are so exhausted by our material welfare, we don’t have time to do anything but take care of our possessions. Marriage, in one sense, is business partnership, and when the economics are taken care of, there is room for the rest to grow. When material goods become the focus, then life’s outlook is no longer about meeting needs, but overreaching greed. Conversely, when there isn’t enough to make ends meet, that becomes an overwhelming concern, and there can be no growth towards satisfaction or fulfillment until both partners know that they will be able to take care of things. When enough attention is given to artha, the rest can follow.


Kāma is one of the great gifts of married life, for with a partner, one can achieve emotional, physical and intellectual fulfillment. The heartfelt support of a dedicated spouse is known to be priceless, and the list of accomplished people who have said they could never have achieved their goals without their partners is very long. Having someone to talk with and listen to, sharing ideas and affection, taking pleasure in physical details of food and sex, all are the standards of a good marriage. Kāma describes the things in life that we require a partner for, as no one can truly achieve a physical sense of fulfillment in solitude.


With artha and Kāma as the focus of life, most people would declare themselves to be satisfied. But as a yogi, you must ask your relationship to continue to a higher level.


 Making dharma a part of your marriage requires that you consider the justice with which you treat each other, and how you can work for justice in the world. If one partner is doing all the earning, and the other partner is doing all the spending, is that just? Can you bring balance back into your marriage by being honest about what you need to make and what you need to have? What about when one partner is doing all the housework, and the other is taking for granted that food will be purchased and dishes will be washed? Without restoring balance, your relationship is threatened with anger, resentment, and the withdrawal of the very support that it is built on. But when a marriage has a sense of it’s own dharma, the need to restore the balance is mutual.


When you work for balance in the world, you give your combined ardor to larger issues. Working to register voters, save the rainforest, stop the war or free Tibet can all be dharma. When a married couple decides to put their time and focus onto creating change in the world, the level of support they can give each other is enormous. But if their own balance is not secure, they risk their relationship by trying to balance things outside of the marriage. Single people can attend the rally, circulate the petition and come home to a pile of laundry without guilt. But if a spouse is out late at committee meetings while the other partner is at home with a pile of laundry, it is not creating dharma. The marriage must be in order before the effort for justice can be offered to the world.


At last we come to moksha, the idea of spiritual fulfillment. Moksha can be considered synonymous with the yogic goal of liberation or enlightenment. For householders, spiritual fulfillment is both beyond the physical world and a part of it. While some people may feel that it should be the first thing on the list, the ancient wisdom tellingly makes it the last. Without physical security, emotional security and the satisfaction of virtue, no one can stay focused on the spiritual for very long. While advanced adepts can train themselves to overcome hunger and thirst, a person whose body is subject to hunger and thirst can’t feel very spiritual.  As Gandhi once noted, to a truly hungry person, a loving God could not appear in any form other than food. Until the physical needs and wants are satisfied, the call of the spirit cannot be heard. 


The spiritual fulfillment found in marriage is the reflection of Shiva and Shakti, the embrace of tranquility and activity. With the balance of complimentary forces comes the peace of surrender. Unlike the all-too-pervasive concept of gender roles, where he does this and she does that and no one may step beyond the line, a yogic marriage combines flexibility with the stable foundation of dharma. As Shiva represents the all-being and Shakti the all-doing, we can know that the divinity that sparks between them exists for all couples who seek it. When there is mutual emotional support, it does not matter who does the cooking or who makes more money, only that the benefits of both are shared with an open heart.  When both partners care equally for each other, the gifts and talents of each are generously given for the benefit of both.


The genuine moksha of marriage is the realization that your relationship is holy, your partner is holy, and your work together in the world is holy, too.  In Nikos Kazantsakis remarkable novel , “The Last Temptation of Christ” the author considered that the final temptation Jesus faced was to give up the suffering that the prophesies required of the savior, and live life as an ordinary householder. Some thought the story scandalous, but Kazantsakis wanted to make the point that daily life and human relationships were just as holy as self sacrifice. Yoga calls each individual into closer contact with the divine. When two spouses can come into a relationship with the universe through their relationship with the other, the result is moksha. 


To have the best marriage, be the best spouse. Commitment is a sacred thing, and the commitment you have for your yoga practice can reflect in how you move through the holy work of love.


Copyright Yoga Next, 2012

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