With Valentine's Day nearing, anyone who's unhappily unattached is likely to be pondering love's eternal conundrum: How do you find that perfect someone? More than a few happy couples might suggest casting a glance at whoever's occupying the sticky mat next to you in yoga class. That's what Yamuna Devi did. Although Devi wasn't looking for love, she clearly remembers the first time she saw her partner of nine years, Robert Barton, in a class held in the basement of a local library.
Not surprisingly, for couples who meet through their practice, yoga is an important, even essential, commonality. For Tom McGowan, maintenance manager of Rodney Yee's studio in Oakland, California, and Leslie Howard, the studio's manager, yoga is the primary source of connection. "We're very steeped in the philosophy, we practice together on a regular basis, we have deep conversations about the yoga sutras," says Howard.
Couples who study yogic teachings say they find better ways for dealing with the usual stresses of relationships. "Yoga is opening to yourself—it's very much an internal thing," says Barton. But it's that very self-knowledge that prepares you for improving your relationships, romantic or otherwise. "Yoga helps us to understand ourselves and each other," says Dean Lerner, an Iyengar teacher who runs, with his wife Rebecca, the Center for Well-Being in Lemont, Pennsylvania.
Of course, having yoga in common doesn't magically make matches from heaven. There will still be differences. "Robert is very much a jnana yogi, the path of the constant inquiry of the mind into its own nature," says Devi. "I'm more of a bhakti yogi, the path of devotion; I tend to take things on faith." For Dean and Rebecca Lerner, who met at a workshop and married in 1985, marriage and family make it a challenge to find time to do asanas. "Yoga is absolutely a positive aspect of our marriage," says Dean. "It's only a bone of contention when we both want to practice and the kids are hungry and it's time to make dinner."
So, all in all, would these couples recommend yoga class to their sad-and-single friends? Most say yes, but add that lonely hearts shouldn't head for the local studio with love as their goal. Love is a possible dividend of yoga, but more than that, so are truth and happiness. And that makes anyone more likely to find love, in or out of a studio.