My book The Yoga of Divorce is based on personal experience of how yoga (both poses and philosophy) successfully guided me through divorce. To my knowledge, Yoga and Conflict Resolution have never before been explicitly connected. I wanted to show that the connection is more than just a cause-and-effect relationship. Yoga caused me to calm down enough to deal with the stress of divorce. That cause-and-effect connection was important and true, but the relationship between Yoga and Conflict Resolution is much more than that. In surprising ways they are identical.
The analogy between Yoga and Conflict Resolution is not immediately apparent and for that reason is worth some investigation. The two unlike entities are linked by the process of co-opposition, a term coined to describe how opposing forces can engage with one another in a constructive, complementary and co-operative manner rather than aggressively.
This co-oppositional attitude is not automatic. It requires a steady, conscious intention. You can of course approach your yoga practice with the same impatient aggression that is often found in divorce negotiations. In other words, Yoga and Conflict Resolution can be similar in ways that, from my point of view, are stressful and problematic. The positive aspect of this analogy arises when the emphasis is placed on balance.
Co-oppositional balance begins with a psychological acceptance that opposite extremes both have value, both have a right to exist. Lets say you’re struggling with an unfriendly person, or with your sore lower back. The automatic response is to resent the painful person or body part, and to feel that things “shouldn’t” be this way. We tend to want to exterminate the irritant.
This approach is about shifting from adversarial, military analogies to the image of a dance. The goal is not to win but to learn new steps, converting the tension into a flow. Whether this is overcoming conflict at the bargaining table or restrictions on the yoga mat the process is essentially the same. Instead of judging the unwanted force, study it. Instead of fighting, find a way to co-ordinate opposing energies.
The Yoga of Divorce offers a case study of how I took the process of constructive opposition learned on the mat and applied to divorce. As far as I was concerned the process was the same, just expanded from physical poses to conflicted emotions, and from there to social conflict.
The analogy that worked for me can be helpful to anyone who is willing to make an intentional practice of co-opposition.