Partner Yoga Poses: The Power of Connectivity
Want to heighten your yoga experience? Deepen your practice through body and mind with partner yoga: Partner Yoga Level One and Partner Yoga Level Two, led by instructor Pedro Franco, are perfect for yoga lovers. Partner yoga is a practice for any level of yogi. It can be done with a friend, loved one or acquaintance. Through this fun and connected series, you will learn to strengthen and amplify your practice by creating a greater sense of awareness in your own body while also paying close attention to the presence and movements of your partner. Partner yoga poses are great if you want to try something new or to spice things up in your relationship with more intimate couples yoga poses.
Things to Keep in Mind When You Start Your Partner Practice
- Partner yoga does not have to be complicated to be beneficial
- Partner yoga can simply be sitting back-to-back with your partner and breathing. It can be meditative. It can be as simple as massaging your partner’s sacrum after a stretch or wiggling your partner’s legs after a flying pose
- Partner yoga works on the same principles as individual yoga: Listen to your body and do what feels right. Challenge yourself, but only to a healthy limit
- If you’re new to partner yoga, take time to build strength, stability and flexibility in order to grow in the practice. Remember that in any form of yoga, there is no competition. For as many times as you stumble, you have just as many opportunities to try again. It is the act of connecting that matters most, not reaching a pose
Start with a Simple Partner Yoga Pose
Partner yoga can be a challenge for even the most advanced practitioner: It doesn’t matter how many hours you have spent on your mat, how many downward dogs or side crows you have done in your life. Maybe you are focused and resilient but need to work on your strength. Maybe you are strong and advanced in your movements but need to work on the act of giving yourself to your partner in a selfless manner.
Partner Seated Spinal Twist (Janu Sirsasana)
Begin by sitting back-to back in a comfortable cross-legged seated position
Each partner places their right hand on the other’s partner’s left thigh just above knee
Put your left hand on your own right knee
Coordinate your breathing by lengthening through spine on each inhale
During each exhale, twist a little more
Come back to center seated and repeat on other side
Learn the Art of Balancing with Your Partner
Partner yoga is not just about you. It is about the other person, too. Partner yoga poses exist to teach yogis and anyone interested in the practice how to gain better awareness and alignment of the body through precise adjustments and articulated movements.
Partner Boat Pose (Navasana)
Start by having each partner sit at the end of the mat facing each other
Each partner will bend their knees and press the soles of their feet together
Connect by clasping each other’s hands
While keeping the soles of your feet together, lean back slowly
Lengthen your legs and reach your feet upward to a bent-legged boat pose
Continue to breathe while you work on your balance
Create Greater Intimacy with Your Partner
Partner yoga can be as intimate as you allow it to be. Partner yoga is for anyone and everyone. It is about trust. It is about connection. It is about feeling the electric sensation between you and another person. It has the power to strengthen bonds between friends, unite strangers and fuse couples together in a new and stimulating way. Partner yoga has the powerful ability to create a profound level of intimacy between two people. The combination of breath, balance, trust and connection create for a unity that is unlike any other. It is assumed by many that partner yoga is purely sexual. This is not true. Yes, partner yoga can be a sensual experience if you want it to be, especially in couples yoga poses. It can also be an experience of unity in a completely different way. It can be whatever you want it to be. That is the beauty of the practice.
Partner Dancer’s Pose (Nataranjasana)
Start by standing up toward the back edge of your mat, facing your partner
Grab your partner’s right hand
Each partner will slightly bend the knees
Shift your weight onto your right leg
Bend the left knee and gran onto the inside of the left ankle or calf with your left hand
Gently pressing your shin into your left hand, open your back
Finally, reach your right arm up to balance
Repeat on the other side
Connect with Your Partner
Partner yoga is not just about you. Partner yoga has the word partner in it for a reason. It is a practice for two and is a practice that focuses on the unity of two. This is the idea that we should be incorporating in our partner yoga practice. Listen to your partner’s needs. Are they comfortable? Do they feel supported? Do they feel capable of holding you in a pose? Are they calm and present? Through the power of breath and touch, you will be able to sense your partner’s physical and emotional state. Yes, you need a partner to fly. You need a partner to pull your legs and lift you up. But your partner also needs you. It all comes back to unity. In these partner yoga poses and couples yoga poses, we rely on each other and so we must move in a way that represents that.
Double Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Stand back-to-back with your partner
Leave about 6 to 12 inches between you and your partner’s heels
Each partner will bend at the waist and come to a forward fold
Reach your hands behind you
Grab onto your partner’s hands
As you increase flexibility, you may be able to grab your partner’s forearms, elbows or even shoulders
Walk your heels closer until your bottoms are touching and straighten your legs
Lengthen the spine, head dangling toward the ground
AcroYoga is the combination of yoga, massage and acrobatics. As with partner yoga, which often includes acrobatic poses, shown in the Partner Yoga Level Two video, it is important to focus on the building blocks of your practice. Start with what you know and allow yourself to grow through continual practice, one step at a time. Motivation and repetition are the keys to helping you excel at AcroYoga. A common misconception about AcroYoga is that the size of your partner matters. This is not always true. Believe it or not, you have the ability to lift someone twice your weight. It is all about your technique.
As an extension of partner yoga, AcroYoga relies on the same principles: trust, communication and connection. Once you master these skills, you will be flying in the air and lifting people up with your feet in no time. Here is a fun beginner’s partner AcroYoga pose to test out your skills.
Flying Plank (A)
Base lies on back
Base places legs up in the air, heels over hips
Flyer starts by standing facing the base, with their toes almost touching the base’s glutes
Base bents knees slightly to bring feet to the hipbones of the flyer
Base and flyer connect hands, palm to palm and fingers interlaced
Flyer leans forward into the base’s feet
With flyer’s body in a single line, the base will receive the weight of the flyer in their feet
Base will then straighten their legs and stack their heels directly over the flyer’s hips
The flyer should have an engaged core, and the base should have straight arms and shoulder blades firmly grounded into the mat for maximum support and balance
From Flying Plank, yogis can work into the variation below: the flyer leans into the base’s hands instead of feet.
Flying plank photo credit: Amy Goalen
Just as we protect our family, friends and loved ones, we must protect each other when practicing partner yoga. Emotionally and physically, we must rely on each other to reach the ultimate goal of unity and connection.
Thank you to Amy Goalen for providing the beautiful main article image!
When Things Get Turned Upside Down: Yoga Inversions
You’re never more alive than when things get turned upside down.
Whether misjudging a headstand and crashing to the floor, fired from our job just when we thought we were up for a promotion or dumped after posting “in a relationship” on our social media status for all to see, nothing gets our attention like being confronted by the unexpected. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a surprising new landscape for which we weren’t prepared. We’re staring down change and wrestling with the fear that we might fall again.
The truth is we’re guaranteed to fall again…and again. Like crashing waves, challenges will crest and crumble whether we’re talking about our headstands or our lives. Personally I’ve fallen many times, certainly out of my headstand, but ultimately into a new headspace.
Inversions in Yoga
To me, inversions are a fantastic living laboratory where we can embrace and move beyond things like fear, expectation, and impatience. All at once upside down needs to become right side up, and we have to surrender our tight grip on what we think we can control. We feel tangible postural balance merge with something deeper.
Inversions are an amazing reminder that how we do one thing is how we do everything. They reveal to us that often things are not going to go as we’d planned, but they just might turn out even better that way.
Making the Leap
Starting a new job or relationship is like the leap of faith it takes to turn upside down in a handstand. Though initially our jump may resemble a first handstand in an unfortunate bra, revealing things we had not hoped for…we learn as we go. Frankly, sometimes the catalysts for our evolution are pretty tits-out, upside down. But, if we move through our raw initiation and prove to ourselves a little at a time that we can do it, before you know it, whatever we were attempting becomes an important part of our personal fabric.
When we try too desperately to control the things we can’t, we become tightly wound in lopsided ways that stunt our growth and leave us miserable.
If we litter our inversions or our lives with expectation, we pin ourselves underneath frustration and impatience, which, in turn, erode the courage and humility it takes to try again.
Outcomes Are Not Guaranteed
The bottom line is we can’t control a guaranteed outcome. Even Kino MacGregor and Doug Swenson have days when they can’t balance in their handstand (albeit annoyingly infrequently). And for all of us, life can feel out of control and out of balance sometimes when it comes to work, deadlines, responsibilities, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, time wasted down the rabbit hole of Facebook…you name it.
The Yoga Sutras
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, abhyasa (perseverant practice) and vairagya (surrendering without expectation of a particular outcome) demand that we resist the trappings of instant gratification our modern society seems to promote. And Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga, stated,
Do your practice and all is coming.
He didn’t say, “Do your practice and kurmasana (flipping your feet behind your head) is coming instantly.” Nor did he promise results like millions of dollars and six-pack abs. We have to allow incremental progress to eclipse our need to accomplish the finished product. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so famously put it,
Life is a journey not a destination.
What We Can Control
There is one thing we can control, however, and that’s the accountability and integrity with which we show up — on our mat, at our job, for ourselves and for one another. Abhyasa and vairagya ask us to see balance and progress not as a single handstand, but as a part of a larger personal pilgrimage (sadhana). When we look at things through a wider lens, we can see every wobble, challenge and fall as an opportunity to learn and grow. Each time we glean a little bit more wisdom to bring to our next inversion or adventure. And as we do, we start to see that we’re never more alive than when things get turned upside down.