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Relationship Struggles? Turn to the Ancient Yogic Wisdom of the Yamas for Guidance

People change, and so do relationships. So when we are faced with relationship struggles, how can we be sure when to hold on to a relationship, and when to let it go?

It is common to be thick as thieves with a person for years, and then slowly drift apart. The trick is knowing if the relationship is still authentic and beneficial, or now heavy and forced.

This happened to one of my closest friendships. As we began to explore ourselves and what we wanted in life, our friendship fell by the wayside. On the surface we pretended to be the same, but underneath we felt like strangers.

A heaviness between us followed, and I began to question our relationship entirely. So, I turned to my yoga practice (and specifically the Yamas) to give me the tools to see my relationship for what it was, and the courage to release it from its suffering.

What Are the Yamas? And How Do They Link To Relationship Struggles?

The Yamas are found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as part of the Eight-Limbed Path of Raja Yoga. They are known as “restraints” or ethical guidelines.

The Yamas help you discover your true self and allow you to take your yoga practice off your mat and into your daily life. The Yamas can also help you see deeper into your relationships to know if they are beneficial and rewarding.


Relationship Struggles? Here’s How Each Yama Can Bring More Freedom and Honesty Into Your Relationships:


1. Invite Compassion

Ahimsa is the first Yama and it means non-violence. Practicing Ahimsa helps us become aware of our destructive habits, thoughts, words, and actions, and then work toward removing them.

Applying Ahimsa to our relationship struggles allows us to recognize and remove the habits that cause harm, such as blaming others, saying hurtful things, and setting unfair expectations for a relationship or individual.

Finding gratitude and focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship will help redirect our thoughts and habits toward love and kindness.

2. Invite Honesty

Satya is the second Yama and it means to be truthful. We all have ideas of how our lives should be. But when these expectations aren’t met, we unknowingly create suffering.

By practicing Satya, we can start to accept our relationship struggles as they are. Ask yourself what you’re avoiding in your relationship or what you don’t want to admit. This is usually the truth. Although the truth can be hard to admit, accepting the reality instead of the story we’ve created will change how we view our relationships.

3. Invite Respect

Asteya is the third Yama and it means non-stealing. But it does not just refer to stealing possessions. Asteya can refer to stealing from ourselves by mistreating our bodies, and stealing from others by wasting their time or criticizing their opinions.

During relationship struggles, Asteya reminds us to show our partner that we care about the relationship. Our actions and words demonstrate how much we value them and the relationship by being fully supportive of their opinions and thoughts, and by not stealing their time and energy.

4. Invite Clear Perspective

Brahmacharya is the fourth Yama, and it’s all about managing your energy. It’s a practice of being aware of what you devote your energy to and doing so in moderation.

Brahmacharya is extremely important during relationship struggles. What do you currently focus your energy on in your relationship? If your partner did the dishes? If your friend texted you back immediately? This is a waste of your energy. Instead, focus on growing your relationship and how to connect with your partner on a deeper level.


5. Invite Gratitude

Aparigraha is the last Yama and it means non-hoarding. Hoarding stems from the fear of not having enough. When you practice Aparigraha, you turn your focus from what you don’t have and focus on what you do have.

To practice Aparigraha during relationship struggles, stop fearing that you are inadequate. Focus your attention on what you do contribute to the relationship rather than holding on to what you fear you lack. Let go of your attachments to what you think your relationship should be, and find contentment in the relationship you have built.

The Importance of the Yamas, Abhyasa, and Vairagya During Relationship Struggles

Abhyasa is practicing each Yama and Vairagya is letting go of the outcome. As with any practice, there will be bumps and imperfections along the way. So set your intention, practice it, and let go of any expectations of how you think it should end.

Abhyasa and Vairagya will help you find success by encouraging you to continue practicing if you ever become discouraged.

When dealing with relationship struggles, set the intention to change your perspective in order to relieve the suffering. Live in the present moment and let go of any expectations.

The Yamas can help you to clarify and strengthen your relationship with yourself. When you apply non-harming, telling the truth, respect, generosity, and gratefulness to your relationship struggles too, suffering can be transformed into freedom.

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Kiara Elliott

Kiara is a Pranalife Certified Yoga Teacher. She loves sharing her passion for yoga with others so that they can live their best lives on and off the mat. When she is not practicing yoga, you might find her reading a good book and enjoying a nice cup of coffee.

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