What is Partner Yoga?

Yoga is often quite an individual practice. We are all in our own zone – rightly so, we need to introspect and stay with the breath. But every now and then, a Yoga teacher will say: “Let’s all find a partner for the next asana”. Scary stuff – especially if you’re new to the studio.

It’s perfectly understandable to use this as an opportunity for a loo break! The alternative is to do Yoga…with someone else’s body. That can feel a little strange – but it does open up a whole new world of practice and development. Read on to find out more.

Partner Yoga

Some benefits of partner Yoga

First – and probably foremost – it’s always lots of fun. After a few moments, the whole room will be chatting and laughing. The ice is broken almost immediately and your partner, who was a stranger a few moments ago, is now working with you like an old friend.

Learning to let go, creating balance

Partner Yoga practice is an opportunity to let go of how we normally “do the pose”, and enjoy a different way of doing it, helping and being helped by someone. Lots of the things we learn on the mat apply to our wider lives…this can too, and some of our unnecessary barriers can come down. Trusting someone else is the first step in trusting ourselves – the
barriers we take down are really just the ones we put in our own way.

To put this another way: sometimes in life we can give too much, and lose ourselves. Other times we can be too defensive, unable to make that authentic connection with others. Partner Yoga isn’t one of life’s “give and take” situations – both people are fully engaged in the shared experience. Both of you will offer support and be supported. It’s a great way to understand and feel balance with other people – and again, that’s a great skill to take off the mat.

Partner Yoga

Self-awareness, mutual trust and support

Physical size doesn’t matter when you’re giving and receiving stretch and support – but your intention does! Consider two people moving together: can you give yourself the chance to let someone receive your weight?

Both partners need to be fully engaged, because both rely on each other to set up poses, and to maintain balance, alignment and focus. Realising that it’s okay to have faith in others is a very powerful experience.

You don’t need to bring a partner to partner Yoga – there will always be people to partner with. But if you have brought a partner, it is a great way to deepen you’re your connection with each other. The love and support that you might have taken for granted is suddenly there, physically felt and very real. It’s some time together, devoted to each other, and that might turn out to be very special.

Partner Yoga

New, unusual poses

Have you ever tried to move house on your own? Probably not – because we can accomplish much more with the help other others. This can be true in Yoga practice too. Of course, people have to be careful – but sometimes the strength, responsiveness and encouragement of another is all we really needed to get deeper into our postures. But everyone take care please!

This applies to new postures as well, or ones we might not normally attempt. Your instructor will guide you both carefully through the movement and how it is to be supported and assisted. You never know – you might surprise yourself! It often happens.

Partner Yoga

Is this for you?

Partner Yoga can be for everyone when practiced with appropriate care, attention and instruction. To that end – ensure your teacher is aware of any injuries or medical conditions you have, and be ready to share some of this with a partner if necessary. EG if you have a chronic back issue, it’s a good idea to tell your partner so they know to go extra gentle. Then it can be a wonderfully releasing and restoring experience, with no risk of hurting your back more.

Notwithstanding any injuries you might have, most partner poses are unexpectedly accessible, no matter what your age or size. Some poses are easier when if partners are similar in height, build or weight. Having said that, you’ll be surprised how much weight your body can support. As always…go careful!

Partner Yoga

Read on for a how-to guide and for some fun stuff to try at home.

How-to

Get ready

Yoga can be quite physical, so expect partner Yoga to be physical also…with someone else you might never have been that close to before. Prepare for that and relax, be as comfortable as possible with loosening your boundaries. And for the hardcore Yogis out there – remember that touch is the sense field of the heart chakra. Just allowing a bit of contact can be good for the soul.

Feel, move…and breathe

When your partner moves, move with them. Put yourself in their position, attempting to understand and appreciate what they feel. Think about what would feel good to you, and help them in that way.

Move with your breath, as much as possible. Your first priority is to care for your partner of course, but sometimes the best way to do that is to match your breath with theirs and guide them from there. Inhale to lift/lengthen/expand, then exhale to hover on the edge/ drop deeper if appropriate.

Watch, listen, speak

If something feels good, say so. And vice versa! Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what is/ isn’t working. Sometimes your partner will communicate without words – a gesture, a sigh, a grip of your hand…tune in and focus.

Trust

Trust is earned, right? It will come from listening to and working with each other. Once in place, you might let down your guard, opening up to the possibility to go further. Your partner wants the same things you do; enjoying a novel experience, getting a great stretch, and finding/ exploring their edge. Trust is a sign of emotional health and it takes courage.

Not feeling any trust? Don’t be hard on yourself. Try talking about why this is with your partner and your instructor. Talking openly is a form of trust. Talk about it, and you’ll probably then feel comfortable to try some postures. And from there, the sky’s the limit.

Some postures to try – and some precautions!

Partner Yoga
Reproduced from doyouyoga.com

Sit in a comfortable position facing away from your partner, with backs resting. Feet in a cross-legged position if that’s comfortable: kneeling also works if both do it, as does sitting/kneeling on blocks.

Sit up straight, shoulders relax away from your ears, arms relaxed.

Begin to alternate breathing: when your partner deeply inhales, you deeply exhale, etc.

Repeat for a few rounds of up to 10 breaths.

Partner Yoga
Reproduced from doyouyoga.com

Sit in a comfortable position facing away from your partner, with backs resting. Feet in a cross-legged position if that’s comfortable: kneeling also works if both do it, as does sitting/kneeling on blocks.

Inhale and reach arms overhead.

Exhale and twist to the right, bringing your right hand to inside of your partner’s left knee, left hand to the outside of your right knee/thigh. Your partner will mirror.

Hold for three to five breaths, letting your breath synchronise if this happens naturally. Repeat on the other side.

Partner Yoga
Reproduced from fulllotusyoga.com

Sit in a comfortable position facing away from your partner, with backs resting. Feet in a cross-legged position if that’s comfortable: kneeling also works if both do it, as does sitting/kneeling on blocks.

Drop your right hand (your partner – left) to the floor or some Yoga supports. Keep hips relaxed down with sit bones evenly weighted.

Lengthen your left shoulder away from your left hip, without collapsing your right side. Reach upward and over to the right through your left hand. Again, your partner will mirror, so left and right hands meet.

If there’s a height difference, then forearm/ hand nearer the elbow works better than touching palms.

Strong core? Reach the other hand up as well for an unsupported side bend. Tell your partner before you go for it! If your sit-bones lift or your lower back complains at all, then pull back.

What is AcroYoga?

Not everyone loves yoga! Most want to be limber and loose, but regular stretching is just not enjoyable for some.

Along comes AcroYoga. As the name suggests, this incorporates elements of Yoga and simple (and safe!) acrobatics. When proficient, practitioners can include elements of Thai massage as well.

AcroYoga is practiced in pairs. One partner provides support (often lying on the ground) while the other balances on their body support, attempting movements and positions, many of which will be recognisable Yoga movements and positions.

It sounds tricky – and it does take practice! However, AcroYoga is open to people of all levels of fitness and flexibility – even those with limited experience of regular Yoga.

Taken from www.AcroYoga.com “AcroYoga elevates the connection between you and others through movement, connection, and play. Acro in Greek means high, or elevated. Yoga in Sanskrit commonly translates to notions of union, or joining. The experience of taking flight with AcroYoga instantly dissolves fears and invites practitioners to tap into new and infinite possibilities of communication, trust, and union.”

How does it differ from partner Yoga?

In a nutshell: in partner yoga, you’ll be doing supported poses for a deeper stretch, and offering the same to your partner. Partner practice employs forms and principles of individual Yoga, utilising the presence of another to deepen the impact. Both will do the same thing (in their own way of course). Practice usually starts with assisted postures on the floor and builds to one or two flying poses. It’s contemplative and enjoyable.

AcroYoga focuses more on strength, flexibility and movement, blending Yoga with (often simple) acrobatics. There are two distinct roles: the flier and the base. The base provides support. From there, the flier moves through various positions in the air, supported and guided by the base. It’s breathtaking!

Some postures overlap between the two practices but they have unique own styles. You really need to try both! They are quite different in terms of how you will experience them, and both equally fun in their own ways.

A fun acro pose to try (carefully!)

There’s no substitute for good teaching. It’s a good idea to go to some acro classes before trying anything at home. If you do try at home, to avoid falling and getting hurt, set up the practice space with the following in mind:

Lots of clear space around you.

Furniture and other objects with sharp edges are moved from the area.

If you feel insecure about a move or posture ask a third person to help you with spotting: the spotter stands by to support the flyer and can help to coach the base.

To soften landings, place additional yoga mats around you. You can also practice outside on grass.

Take your time to explore the exercises. Don’t rush, and don’t risk injury. If the posture isn’t coming today then it’s not coming today, no matter how much you strain.

Acro Yoga
Reproduced from yogajournal.com

This flying pose is just like Plank Pose on the ground. There are four points of contact, so the base and flyer can explore how the balance works.

Set it up!

Base: Lie on your back with your heels over your hips.
Flyer: Stand facing your base with your toes almost touching their glutes.
Base: Bring your feet to the hipbones of the flyer and bend your knees a little. Keeps knees in line with hips. Connect in a reverse hand-to-hand grip.

Fly!

Flyer: Lean forward into your base’s feet, keeping your body in one line from shoulders to heels.
Base: With straight arms (don’t hyperextend your elbows), receive the weight of your flyer in your feet. Attempt to straighten your legs, stacking your heels directly over your hips. Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight.
Spotter: Stand next to the flyer’s hips. Make sure the base and flyer are safe. Help the base keep heels directly over their hips for maximum balance, but don’t push into their legs hard, and explain what you’re about to do first. Generally – guide them to a stable position if necessary, and help them exit safely if they can’t stabilize.
Flyer: Engage your core and allow the base to lift you.
Base: Keep your arms straight (don’t hyperextend your elbows), keep shoulder blades grounded into the mat, and hands directly over your shoulders.
Flyer: Push into the hand connection and lift your legs as in locust pose. Stay here for 5–10 breaths.

Exit!

Base: Bend your legs, bringing your flier’s feet to the floor.

It’s started raining again…get the kids involved!

Try the same posture with your little ones! And take extra care with the setup of the area…

Acro Yoga
Reproduced from ekhartyoga.com

Here’s another, fun with the younger ones!

Partner Yoga
Reproduced from bodyrock.tv

Practice chair pose before attempting this! Place your feet hip distance apart and sink into the pose. Lean forward a little from your hips.

If you think you have a feel for it, then pick up littl’un from behind. He or she places one foot on each leg. Sink a bit more into your chair pose.

Play aeroplanes! Littl’un can spread his or her arms out.

Exit by lifting littl’un and placing him or her down again – or stand up and give them a big hug (if you have no back issues)!

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