Yoga has traditionally been an individual and solitary practice. Yet in the path of the householder yogi, we find ourselves in relationship with many other humans. Practicing yoga with another person, whether that be a friend or lover, can foster and embrace more profound levels of connection, communication, trust, and vulnerability. Partner yoga or couples yoga is similar to a regular yoga class, but the yoga poses are practiced by two people who help and guide each other into the pose through physical touch. The partner yoga poses are often practiced back-to-back, side-to-side, and front-to-front and often involve holding onto the other person for support.
Working with a partner makes the practice exciting and more fun. Partner yoga can make your experience more rewarding and can intensify the experience while providing an excellent way to strengthen your relationship.
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Benefits of partner yoga
- Increases trust and communication. Partner yoga requires cooperation. To effectively perform partner yoga, each person is encouraged to physically and emotionally nurture, support, and trust each other. As you learn to trust your partner, you are also able to trust yourself. If both partners are able to be fully present and listen to both verbal and nonverbal communication during challenging yoga poses, then these skills can transfer over to day-to-day situations and create an overall positive effect in a relationship.
- Creates authenticity and honesty. Increased self-awareness, tolerance for strong sensations and emotions, and noticing inner experiences without being judged, all aid in creating an environment for authenticity and honesty between yoga partners. Through partner yoga, there is a more profound and natural connection because of effective communication and trust, which is brought about by the presence of gentle touch and firm physical support. You will learn that you do not have to sacrifice your needs for a partner pose to work. Instead, you learn to be responsible for your alignment and how your actions form the basis of support to your partner. Therefore, the practice can help to realign misunderstandings and offers space to be honest, authentic, and vulnerable.
- Improves focus and self-awareness. Focus and concentration are required to do the different poses correctly without injury. You will not want to let down your partner (physically, energetically, and emotionally) in the practice and thus you will be more focused and aware of what you are doing. Additionally, being self-aware means that you will be able to recognize your feelings at the moment and how your body and your mind are reacting and responding to the practice.
- Supports and deepens your yoga experience. Partner yoga encourages you to focus on the execution and alignment of the poses. Your partner can help you with self-adjustments all through the practice. Also, it is easier to know where things are off when you have a partner as the connection with their body gives additional feedback. You will be able to offer assistance and point out what you can improve to ensure that the pose is achieved. You will be able to use the weight of your partner’s body to help you move deeper into yoga stretches, and they can support you with their strength in poses where you feel weak.
- Reduces stress and anxiety. Yoga as a practice helps you to relax and clear your mind. Partner yoga can be more efficient as you are able to create a powerful connection with your loved one or friend, which helps you forget about day-to-day stresses. Practicing with a partner also brings the aspect of touch, which reduces stress and anxiety as it makes you feel loved, nurtured, supported, and cared for.
- Builds positive memories and experiences. As you are practicing partner yoga, you are creating fun and delightful memories with your partner. These memories will be treasured in the future, especially if your experience deepens the connection and intimacy between you and your partner.
- Increases intimacy and sex life. Couples yoga allows individuals to have an intense bonding time as they practice. Practicing yoga with a partner creates a strong physical, mental, and emotional connection. A couples yoga practice will have ups and downs and require work to get through the rough patches–just like all relationships. The practice makes you more attuned to your partner’s body, breath, and physical responses. These experiences help improve intimacy, which in turn can improve one’s sex life.
- Boosts relationship satisfaction. Couples yoga is famous for strengthening relationships and intimacy. Couples yoga enables the partners to be fully engaged in the practice and rely on one another to create different poses. The two must maintain balance, alignment as well as focus. This heightens the connection between the partners as you learn to let go, improve communication, be open, and fully rely on the other for support. These positive experiences can transfer over to your day-to-day relationship.
- Encourages playfulness and fun. The experience of partner yoga is playful and fun. Partner yoga creates room for letting go and helps people not to take things too seriously, but rather have fun amidst the challenges. Cultivating play and fun in a partner yoga practice provides a foundation to experience this same joy with your partner in other everyday activities.
The Best Partner Yoga Poses
If you are considering to take your relationship to the next level, you should consider practicing partner yoga. The practice is good for both physical and emotional wellbeing.
- Partner Seated Meditation. Begin in a comfortable crossed-legged seated posture facing back-to-back with your partner. Sit up tall and press as much of your spine against your partner as comfortable. Hands can be at your heart or on your legs. Close or soften your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Feel both your body and your partner’s body rising and expanding with each breath. Let your breathing sync up with your partner. Hold for several minutes. Optional: chant Om together and feel the vibration of the sound in your partner’s chest.
- Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold. Come into a wide-legged seated position, facing each other, and lightly place the soles of feet together. If there is a difference in body size or flexibility, have the feet connected to your partner’s legs wherever feels best. Extend your arms toward your partner and firmly hold onto their wrists or forearms. On the exhale, one person will slowly fold forward as the other partner leans back with their spine and arms straight. Hold for five to seven breaths and switch. Variation: you can also do this same pose sitting back-to-back with your partner.
- Childs Pose and Backbend. Sit with your back against your partner’s hips as they are in child’s pose. Slowly lean back to rest your upper back against their low back. If your partner is comfortable with further pressure, you can lift your hips on top of theirs and lay back against their whole body. Hold for five to seven breaths and switch.
- Double Boat Pose. Sit with your knees bent and toes touching facing your partner. Reach and take hold of each other’s hands or hold at the wrists. Lean back and slowly start to lift on foot up, working on straightening the leg and keeping the soles of your feet into each other. Keep the spine straight and chest open. You can stay here and switch legs when ready, or you can lift the second foot off the mat into the full boat position. Hold for five to seven breaths. Variation: Have the legs wide apart and hold hands to the inside of the legs.
- Double Camel Pose. Sit facing your partner in hero pose with your knees touching. Lift up onto your knees and slowly bring one hand back at a time to your heels. Press your thighs against your partner for support. Hold for five to seven breaths. Variation: if you can’t touch your heels, you can tuck the toes under or use yoga blocks under your hands.
- Standing Forward Fold Pose. Stand back-to-back with your partner with your heels about a foot or so away from your partner.
Exhale and slowly bend forward, being mindful to not knock your partner over. Reach your hands around your legs to hold the arms of your partner or hold of the front of your partner’s shins. Variation: if you have tight hamstrings, have the feet wider apart.
- Double Dancer Pose. Stand facing your partner about five feet apart. Mirror each other as you reach your arm upward and with the other hand, reach back to take hold of the outside of your back ankle. As you exhale, lean forward to place your raised arm on top of your partner’s with the palms resting at the top of the shoulders. Gaze into your partner’s eyes and hold for four to five breaths and switch sides.
- Double Warrior III Pose. Stand facing your partner at arm’s length distance. Inhale your arms overhead with the palms facing toward your partner. Exhale and fold forward to a 90-degree angle, and gently place your hands on your partner’s shoulders. Reach your hips back to lengthen the spine. Gazing at one point on the ground, slowly lift the opposite legs. Have the lifted leg be parallel to the floor, with the toes facing down.
Partner Yoga Tips
- Be clear about your intentions. Know what your boundaries are and communicate these with your partner before you start the practice. If you have specific intentions or goals for your partner practice, you should consider sharing and discussing these. Let your partner know if there are specific muscles or body parts that are sensitive and need to be approached with care and consent.
- Clearly communicate, verbally, and non-verbally. Partner yoga is a wonderful way to practice communication with others. It will be best to keep words to a minimum so consider using sounds like “mmmm” or “ahhh” (or grunting sounds if things don’t feel good) and notice how tense or relaxed your partner’s body is throughout the practice.
- Trust your partner. Many of the partner yoga poses require you to surrender your weight and balance to each other. To be successful in these poses, you will need to trust your partner to communicate and support you fully.
- Don’t complete or judge. It is most likely that your partner’s body will be different from yours in strength and flexibility. Try to celebrate and appreciate these differences instead of getting stuck in a mode of judgment and criticism. You can certainly strive to match the ability of your partner but be wary not to bring an element of competitiveness to the practice. Instead, shift your mindset to be helpful and encouraging to your partner.
- Stay present. The partner yoga poses can be difficult, unfamiliar, and challenging. A large amount of focus and concentration are required to perform them with grace and ease. You will also want to stay very present in the experience to deepen your connection with your partner.
- Expand your awareness. In a regular yoga practice, we pay attention to our mind, body, and breath. In partner yoga, we want to expand our awareness of our partner’s body and breath. You will want to make physical adjustments not only for your body but also to support the alignment of your partner.
- Have fun. It is vital to approach this practice with a sense of play. You will be wobbly and awkward at first, so let this be fun and joyful instead of serious, stressful, or judgemental.