The basic definition of yoga is yoke or union — the work of uniting your mind, body and spirit.
Much like Tantra, partner/couples yoga deepens the practice by including your lover, friend or family member, in postures where breathing and moving together is key. And like AcroYoga, couples yoga involves one practitioner acting as the base, and the other the flier. These roles ideally, are interchangeable.
The benefits of practicing yoga with a partner are endless, but some include improved levels of communication, deeper expressions of postures and the encouragement of trust.
Elysabeth Williamson, the developer of Principle-Based Partner Yoga, believes that partner yoga is an important part of feeling connected to not only our loved ones, but also people in general. She explains that, "Because we are so technologically based it is even more critical and crucial that we have touch … real human touch-based connections."
So why not give these five powerful couples yoga poses a try!
Before you get started, sit in Easy Pose (Sukhasana) across from your partner and get in touch with their breath. Place one hand on your heart and the other over your partner's hand, which is already on their heart. Begin inhaling and exhaling together, feeling the beating of the other's heart and then switch sides.
Half Lord Of The Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
This seated twist is a very easy, but intimate movement when performed with a partner.
Sit back-to-back and cross-legged in Sukhasana. Inhale your arms up. Exhale and twist to the right. Reach your right hand for your partner's left knee/shin/thigh.
With every inhale, lengthen and find more space. And with each exhale, utilize your partner's knee to gently twist a bit deeper. See if you can synchronize your breathing.
Hold for 5-10 breaths and switch sides.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
With this collaborative spin on a common resting pose, we're entering a slightly deeper movement.
Sit back-to-back with your partner with the soles of your feet together. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale, then one partner folds forward from the hips, attempting to keep their back straight.
The other partner releases their head and shoulders onto their partner's back and relaxes as their heart, collarbones and chest expand.
Hold for 5-10 breaths then come back up on an inhale. Repeat the exercise with the opposite partner folding forward.
Note: If your knees aren't comfortable or are far from touching the ground, then place blankets, pillows, blocks or bolsters underneath them to increase support.
Camel Pose + Plow (Ustrasana + Halasana)
This backbend and deep forward fold are a bit more advanced, so some might find this exercise challenging at first. Make sure to utilize props, feel one another's bodies and communicate what feels good before going deeper.
The base lies his/her back on the ground, then lifts the legs and takes them over their head, reaching to touch the ground behind the head to come into Plow Pose. If the toes can't reach the ground, help your partner and place something underneath their feet, like blocks.
The second partner sits on his/her knees, facing away from the base with their feet hugging the base's shoulders.
Now, this partner begins to bend back into Camel Pose, keeping the knees hips-width apart. Reaching back, grab the feet of the base partner.
If you don't feel stable enough to reach your arms back, you can keep the standard Camel Pose arms and hold onto your heels (pictured).
Make sure to engage your glute muscles, press your hips forward and arch from your chest and upper back to feel the full benefits of Camel Pose.
Hold for 5 deep breaths, breathing in and out through the nose and switch partners.
Assisted Backbend (Anuvittasana)
This is the perfect movement to open up your heart and back, and incorporate playfulness into the practice.
Stand back-to-back and hook elbows. The base bends their knees, engages their core, and starts to lean forward as the flier leans back. The base leans forward until the flier's feet lift off the ground.
Hold for a few breaths and then slowly bend the knees until the flier's feet touch the ground. Switch partners.
Flying Bow/Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
This pose takes the most trust and strength. An amazing back and heart opener, Flying Dhanurasana will leave you feeling blissful.
The base lies down on their back with their knees bent and feet flat on the ground. The flier stands facing away from the base near their feet.
The base places their feet firmly at the flier's lower back with his heels resting on their glutes.
Flier bends backward reaching with their arms. Base reaches and grabs onto the flier's shoulders. Base lifts their legs straight into the air, lifting the flier off the ground at the same time. You have now reached what is known in AcroYoga as Back Bird pose.
Flier can bend the knees and grab their ankles with their hands in Bow Pose or enjoy here, relaxing and allowing the backbend to naturally happen.
Gallery courtesy of the author