Love Languages

Heart-opening poses get into the space representing where we give and receive love.

Heart-opening poses get into the space representing where we give and receive love.

I learned about the five love languages when I was in middle school. It is safe to say that I have been mildly obsessed with love languages ever since. I am a very verbal person so it came as no surprise that my love language is words of affirmation. I will remember every compliment (and disparagement) with crystal clarity. I have a gift for remembering conversations and have always been more of an auditory learner. It drives my husband a bit nuts that I can recall his exact words at the drop of a hat.

You might have guessed that my husband does not share my love language. He is a physical touch person. He likes holding hands, having his hair pet, giving hugs, etc. We are exact opposites in our ranking of these love languages. His preferred method of communicating love is my least favorite and my preferred is his least favorite. How are we even still married? Well, we do share a secondary language of quality time. But we also have worked on understanding how each other expresses our affection. I remember my mother scolding me once when Bill and I were only dating that I needed to “get over it and hold the poor boy’s hand!” Ick. Hands are sweaty and holding them feels controlling. I would much prefer he just told me how great I am. (Alternatively, I can tell Bill he is brilliant until I am blue in the face but he would rather I stroke his hair.)

But this isn’t a marriage blog, it is about my yoga practice. And I have seen how my preferred love language has greatly impacted who I am as a teacher. I am not what I would call a “handsy” teacher. I don’t adjust people physically unless I think it will help them understand the pose better. My first instinct is to change the language that I am using to describe a pose. And I often offer my students feedback and encouragement with my words. The occasional “beautiful expressions of the pose” or “nice self adjustments” is very natural for me to say. I work on keeping my language light and encouraging. I hope that I create an atmosphere where people feel they belong and can practice in a way that suits them.

So that is how my love language has impacted how I teach. But it also impacts how I receive feedback from my students. In the practice, if a student asks a question or laughs at my joke I know they are engaged in what I am offering. But we live in a digital world where opinions are shared through all sorts of methods. When I would read the studio’s reviews to share encouraging feedback with other teachers, I would get stomach aches. Finding out that I did not meet a student’s expectations, that they did not connect with me or my class, was devastating. Even though I know that I will not be the right teacher for every student — that would be unrealistic to expect — reading the words that I was not the right teacher strikes a deep chord with me.

These students are not offering their feedback to hurt me. They are trying to express their opinions to be constructive. But I am who I am. Words have a certain power over me. As much as I love with words, I have used them as a weapon too. Reflecting on all of this, I have created a personal intention to not demean any other person. And it has been difficult. The person who runs the red light in front of my street usually makes me mutter under my breath. But what good did calling that person a name do? They couldn’t hear me and all I am doing is creating an world with more negative energy in it.

The love languages give us a framework to go deeper in our understanding of the ego, the false self, and how we might adjust. I encourage you to learn more about how you express and receive love (you might also learn how you react negatively using this lens as well). And then explore what personal intention you could hold to create a world with more love. The love and energy we put into our lives returns to us.