By Anne-Marie Hughes
Arms stretched out in the floor, head loosely hung from
shoulders, hips up in the air. “Sit bones up to the sky!” many
a yoga instructor happily expresses to students. I peek around my shoulder
and make eye contact with my husband and suppress the urge to laugh out
loud. He frowns to remind me this was my idea, so I get back into my
Downward Dog: this isn’t a position I thought we
would be in together. Husbands who spend their formative years on farms
in northern Saskatchewan are not typical yoga participants, yet here
we are together. My husband doesn’t cut the usual yoga visual:
no Lululemon shorts for him, more like wool socks with bright orange
It didn’t hurt that this new experience was brought on by the age-old
process of male to male ribbing. I had a regular yoga date with my friend
Carla and her husband Tim who with a wink and a smile loved to refer
to our class as ménage a trois yoga. This reference during a social
function definitely awoke a response in my husband. When he asked, “What
is it exactly you do at the gym?” Tim’s response was, “Yep,
our yoga threesome, it’s our regular Friday date. Man YOU should
With that challenge thrown down we went off to class and a new yoga student
was born. William found yoga to be a relaxing, challenging exercise and
really fun to do together. Equally important was changing our friendship
of three to four and developing strong ties with another.
This was not an activity I would have thought we would be sharing together,
but yoga positions are not unlike the positions we find ourselves in
throughout marriage. There are poses and places we initially find stiff,
uncomfortable and unnatural at first, but we go there because our spouse
asked us to share the experience or sometimes because the position is
foisted upon us. These positions require us to breath through the discomfort,
surrender to our limits and find a space of flexibility we didn’t
think we had.
I think about all the gifts I have experienced following my husband’s
ideas and dreams that may have not been my first inclination or that
I wouldn’t have had the confidence to even consider alone. Owning
a sailboat, camping in a tent, doing major renovations. I don’t
come from a family of do it yourselfers. My husband, on the other hand,
comes from a farm background where they had to undertake tasks themselves.
When we needed more square footage in our house but didn’t want
to move, William said, “We will build it here. We can do this.” I
can still remember taking a deep breath and closing my eyes as William
cut through the floor with a circular saw. We were committed now.
I can also think of the gifts he has received taking a deep breath and
following me into new and unchartered waters. Yoga, singing in church
choirs, travelling to foreign lands. My family immigrated to Canada from
England so I was comfortable with travel, but travelling to Europe was
not something my husband imagined himself doing. Rome was my dream and
I wanted him to experience the Vatican with me. Standing speechless in
awe of St. Peters Basilica, I know he has always been grateful that I
had the vision of putting us there.
When we choose to put ourselves and our marriages into new positions,
we practice breathing through the discomfort together, finding flexibility
we didn’t know we had and building the strength to hold ourselves
in poses that require muscles we haven’t used regularly.
All this practice helps marriage take on the positions we never thought
we would be in. Honey, I lost my job; I am pregnant again, I am not pregnant
again; your mother has cancer; you need to stop drinking; our son has
drugs in his room; our daughter didn’t come home last night; I
don’t want to be married anymore. Positions I have watched marriages
work through in the last few years. Some still together, others broken
by the the strain.
There is another pose we are learning through practice to share: kneeling
together in prayer. Like other poses, this was strange at first, a little
stiff and unnatural. It required surrender and acknowledging weakness
and lack of flexibility. When you haven’t done it for a while you
worry you have lost the skill, but there it is, ready to be exercised
again. When all else fails call on the Holy Spirit to breath with you.
Place hands together or fall on your knees and take the position, strike
the pose and it will become yours.
Anne-Marie Hughes and her husband, William, have five children and live
in Saskatoon. After involvement in marriage preparation, Time out for
Moms, youth ministry and the Diocesan Preaching Program, Anne-Marie began
covering events for local Catholic media and pursuing freelance writing.