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Contact Yoga: The Yoga of Relationships

by Tara Guber


Yogi and Author Tara Guber sees the future, at least in the world of yoga. Over forty years ago in Los Angeles, a friend recommended she try yoga to deal with her husband Peter’s injured back. Not only did it banish his pain, it set her on a course of discovery, transformation, and some would say passionate zealotry. At this time, yoga was little known in trendsetting LA. When you could find a studio, there were only 6 to 12 people in the class. But soon, everyone was excited about exploring this new import from the East. Then as now, individuals came to class on their mats, separate and in silence, moving through asanas alone within their practice. Even then, Tara did not feel this ‘separate and silent" formality reflected the vibrant, human and connecting energy she felt flow through her body and spirit when she practiced yoga.

Today, yoga is ubiquitous in culture, and an exploding growth industry. It has been aggressively co-opted by the fitness industry and is often used as a vehicle to sell lifestyle products in all media. Space in yoga classes is often at a premium, with popular yogis frequently attracting over 200 people to classes in which mats are an inch apart and you don’t know the person next to you. Rather then achieving the inner peace, balance and consciousness of spirit that is the ultimate goal of yoga, people strive for the desirable lean, toned, "yoga body" by sweating through demanding classes.

But for Tara, yoga was never solely a fitness exercise or something you only do on the mat. For her, yoga was a way of life and it reflected everything she did each day: eating, sleeping, thinking, working, playing and loving. It was a state of mind, a consciousness, that lived within her heart and spirit. It was a constant and loving companion in her life that integrated the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects and balanced the male- female nature we all hold within us. For Tara, yoga meant connection: it meant contact with her partner, with nature, and with all living things. It was this quest for connection that drove her to explore a new kind of yoga; one that was not about isolation or separateness, but one that was focused exclusively and intimately on relationship. Below, Tara shares the birth of Contact Yoga in her own words:

"My evolution to Contact began twelve years ago with an accomplished yogi named Tesh. We went on retreats because I wanted to both strengthen my body and deepen my practice. As a dancer and trained gymnast, Tesh was strong, flexible, and well coordinated. His yoga at the time was very interactive, with lots of partner work. When we began working together, I loved the challenge and surrender of the work, and together we really pushed the boundaries of our yoga. But he was still working me out. I said to him, ‘Let me do that to you.’ As we practiced yoga together, I began to see that something different happened when two people connected their minds, hearts, and spirit into a posture. A heightened consciousness emerged around my movements and intention. We were moving in and out of postures without words. As soon as I became conscious of that difference, I realized how much more fun I was having because we were both doing it together. I had a companion, someone with whom I was sharing the experience, someone who could challenge me to go beyond my limits, and who could be challenged by me in turn. I had a partner who was consciously inside of the practice with me. The walls of separation between us fell away and we laughed with the overwhelming joy of our practice. Together we created a third energy: ‘us’, the relationship."

Out of Tara’s exploration of this path, there emerged a new vocabulary and eventually a new philosophy of Contact that lay at the heart of this practice that enshrined Relationship at its center. Grounded in the ancient tenants of yoga, but aggressively contemporary in language and concept, the Seven Points of Contact describe the fundamental building blocks of relationship and align them with the chakras, the energetic points in the body: Trust, Passion, Commitment, Love, Communication, Vision and Union. Here was a yoga and a yogic philosophy for modern times, born to address a contemporary need for actual human and spiritual connection in a culture that believes pixels are reality and that "friends" are digital. Deepak Chopra describes the hollowness so many feel today: "As the tenor and cacophony of modern culture increase and intensify, we are in deep physical, emotional, and spiritual need of the healing balm of relationship. Traditional yoga provides the tools for personal oneness, but Contact Yoga addresses our modern needs by becoming the conduit for connection, activating and inspiring the relationship of one practitioner to another."

Tara passionately believes it is time to take our yoga practice off the mat and into our hearts and into our relationships and finally out into the world. This she says, is the future of yoga, and the future of enlightened human relationship. And what may make Contact Yoga one of the most compelling and effective forms of practice today is the fact that its philosophy, not its asana, is its true transforming power. The poses illustrated in her book and new e-book, Contact: The Yoga of Relationship are icons of inspiration that embody the essence of each Point of Contact. Tara’s intentions for Contact are clear:

"I want to inspire and support you in the belief that you can evolve and transform your relationship by taking responsibility for your own intentions and actions, sharing them openly and compassionately with your partner, and being receptive when your partner does the same. Trust, Passion, Commitment, Love, Communication, Vision, and Union—these are the things we long for, these are the treasures of relationship. We know their gifts well, yet each has its challenges—hidden places of conflict that interfere with a solid connection. The more deeply you embrace the tenets of Contact, the more profoundly you will experience a sublime expression of transcendent union."


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