Yoga doesn't have to be a solo activity. Get together with a friend or family member for a fun partner yoga workout.
While one doesn’t usually think of yoga as a team sport, partner yoga is fast becoming a popular program at local studios.
Expand your practice
Partner yoga is a practice utilizing two people in every pose. Some are partner-assisted stretches (one person adjusting the other into a deeper pose), while others are a series of poses where both partners mutually receive the benefits.
Chris Brandt, of Contact Yoga (contactyoga.ca), says, “Practising with one other person on your mat is a fantastic (and tremendously fun) way to expand into yoga beyond your individual practice.” Brandt points out that the word “yoga” means union in Sanskrit, and that is precisely what partner yoga aims to achieve—a uniting of two people.
Not just for couples
While one might first think of requiring the participation of a loved one for a partner yoga class, Michael Rudd, yoga instructor and studio owner (openspaceyoga.com), says that this couldn’t be further from the truth. While, yes, partner yoga is a perfect exercise for a life couple, it is also ideal for any two people, romantically involved or not.
Instead, the practice of partner yoga teaches us to connect to and trust our partner, making this one of the best team-building exercises around.
Benefits of partner yoga
Yoga is meant to increase our personal fitness as well as improve our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. But partner yoga’s benefits extend far beyond these traditional advantages.
For instance, partner yoga is about touch first and stretch second. While some people may be uncomfortable with being touched, there is no denying that the human body benefits from pleasant physical contact. Touch has been shown to decrease the body’s response to a perceived threat, and therapeutic touch is thought to help manage pain.
Rudd explains that the touch required in partner yoga is not intimate. A good instructor will teach the partners how to use touch to guide each other through deeper poses and adjust one another’s form.
Both instructors emphasize that, for those performing the class with a loved one, participants bond through the poses, laugh lots, and even work through issues. It can increase our awareness of our relationships and teach us trust and communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
Types of partner yoga
There are a few different types of partner yoga classes; however, most programs tend to blend more than one into a class.
Acro-yoga is like gymnastics on a yoga mat—a lot of fun and best learned with an experienced instructor.
Contact yoga (flying) is much the same as acro-yoga, but with more emphasis placed on creating a union between both partners as opposed to maintaining perfect yoga form.
Doubles yoga will have you mirroring your partner, as well as assisting in balancing each other, to create the yoga poses.
Partner-assisted yoga is similar to Thai massage, in that one partner is providing the stretch and traction while the other relaxes and enjoys the stretch.
Partner flow is a series of flowing poses with each partner stretching different areas of their bodies at the same time. Partner yoga poses
To find a partner class or program near you, call and ask your local yoga studio or do an Interet search. Some classes even encourage singles to come out and be partnered up upon arrival. Here are a few poses that you may encounter.
- Partners stand back to back, about two feet away from each other with their feet wider thantheir shoulders, so the legs form an upside-down V.
- Both partners lean forward from the hips, with arms coming through their legs to grab onto each other’s wrists. Keep the hips in line with the legs.
- Partner A lifts open the chest and lengthens and straightens the spine while simultaneously pulling Partner B’s arms forward to get Partner B into a deeper forward bend.
- Partner A’s upper body is now parallel with the floor, maintaining a neutral spine, while Partner B is fully flexed forward, forehead coming as close to the knees as the hamstrings and back muscles will allow.
- Breathe and hold for 30 seconds and then switch.
- Partners sit facing each other, knees pulled in, feet flat on the ground and toes flexed, with the bottoms of each partner’s toes pressing into each other (it’s best to have bare feet for this pose).
- Both partners grab onto each other’s hands, inhale, and lengthen their spines.
- Using the counter pressure from the other’s foot, both partners slowly extend one leg straight up.
- After finding their balance, partners then lift and straighten their other legs. Each partner’s body should now be forming the letter V.
- Keep the spine lengthened, chest lifted, hands holding tight, and the abdominals engaged.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then release, one leg at a time.
Hip opener and back bend
- Partners sit with backs firmly pressed together. Partner A extends the legs straight out in front, feet together, while Partner B brings the soles of the feet together for a butterfly stretch.
- Both partners inhale and lengthen their spines.
- As they exhale, Partner B will slowly bend forward from the hips, walking the hands forward on the floor and bringing the chest as close to the floor as the inner thighs and hips will allow.
- As Partner B does this, Partner A maintains contact with Partner B’s back and moves into a back bend.
- Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds and then switch.
5 tips when partnering up
- Don’t learn from a book, or even solely from this article. Instead, find a class and a qualified instructor to help you learn how to manoeuvre safely through the poses.
- Don’t worry if you’re not experienced with yoga. If you have no experience, don’t be hesitant to partner with someone who does. The practice of partner yoga is completely accessible to all levels of fitness.
- Drop your ego at the door. Listen to your body and do not compete with your partner. Back off when it hurts and relax into the pose when it feels good.
- Protect your knees and spine. The stretches can be deep, so keep communication open with your partner. When performing assisted stretches, learn to use your body weight—not your back—to guide your partner’s body.
- Communicate. Either verbally or non-verbally, communicate during every pose to prevent injury and to get an effective stretch.