By Felicia M. Tomasko, photography by Nicole Williams
Alison and David had been dating for a little over six months when David surprised Alison with a gift – a day at a partner yoga workshop. Although Alison was initially apprehensive, she finished the workshop feeling a sense of satisfaction from practicing yoga with her partner. As Alison felt practicing with David, partner yoga can deepen the connection between two people, enhancing closeness in practice and daily life.
Although sharing your yoga practice with someone else may stretch areas of your body more than practicing alone, partner yoga goes beyond being simply a form of exercise. Many poses require cooperation between both people; this develops the ability to rely on your partner through constant communication. These poses also create a sense of balance between two people. In order to practice successfully, one partner cannot dominate over the other. Both partners must bear the others weight equally.
To increase intimacy, trust, balance, and strength, try any of these poses, or practice the entire sequence. Keep in mind throughout your session that yoga – particularly partner poses – should be practiced with both a sense of humor and a light heart. So if you fall in a balance pose, don’t blame, but laugh instead.
1. Back to Back Breathing
Both partners sit in bound angle or butterfly, placing the soles of your feet together and letting your knees fall to each side. Allow your hands to gently rest on your knees and close your eyes. Sit with your back fully touching your partner’s back. Each partner should focus on synchronizing their breath with each other, breathing slowly and deeply. Take at least ten breaths in this pose.
2. Cat Balance
Cat balance builds strength as well as a sense of intimacy as both partners face each other and make eye contact. Start out in table pose, on your hands and knees, with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. You can use a blanket beneath your knees to provide stability an padding. Each partner reaches their left hand up to place it on their partner’s right shoulder. Once you feel a sense of balance and stability, lift your right leg. Keep your hips level and use your abdominal muscles to extend your leg behind you. While breathing deeply, hold the pose as long as it is comfortable, and then slowly release your leg and then your arm. Coming out of the pose also builds cooperation as you try and prevent each other from tumbling over. Switch to the other side.
3. Child’s Pose/Wheel
This pose provides a luxurious stretch for both partners, whether you are in a forward fold curled up in child’s pose on the bottom of the yogi stack or stretched to your full length in a supported wheel. Each position creates elongation in the upper body, enhancing the flexibility and suppleness of the spine.
One partner begins in child’s pose, with the knees apart, the hips extending back towards the heels and the arms reaching out in front of the shoulders. The second partner sets up for wheel by gently placing their hands on either side of their partner’s back, and then resting their hips on their partner’s sacrum. Once in place, the partner on top lengthens their back over their partner, extending out through both the arms and legs, and stretching through their spine. Breathe, using the same principles as in back-to-back breathing. Hold as long as it is comfortable for both partners. To release from the pose, the partner in wheel bends their knees to walk their feet in, then brings their hands to either side of their hips, touching the sides of their partner’s hips, pressing up to standing. Switch positions on the yogi pile-up.
4. Closing Pose: Seated Twist
Ending a yoga session with a twist allows the spine to become realigned as the movement stretches the muscles along either side of the vertebral column. Twisting with a partner allows each person to stretch the spine more then they could alone.
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position facing each other. Start by holding out your right arm and clasping your partner’s left arm while they are reaching it behind their back. Hold hands. Do the same on the other side, this time you wind your left hand behind your back as your partner reaches forward with their right hand. Hold hands again, and then turn your upper bodies away from each other into the twist. Release by letting go of your hands, and return to center. Gaze back at your partner for a breath before moving to the other side.
Each yoga practice ends with savasana, lying on your back in relaxation to create integration between mind and body.
A yoga practice does not have to be long or involved to bestow benefits to practitioners. Even a pose or two can stretch the body, build strength, or most importantly, create harmony between two people. Practice together often to cultivate fun, play, and intimacy through yoga.Studio photographs were taken at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center in Santa Barbara, California (www.sbyc.com). Models are Cheri Clampett Borda and Victor Borda, who teach partner yoga workshops together. (www.chericlampett.com). Photography by Nicole Williams (www.nicolewilliams.org).¯¿¿