Ok, so you got yoga down, you can hang with being present, managing your emotions, flailing limbs, dripping sweat etc… but it’s a whole different thing when you add another person into the equation — someone else’s sweat, limbs, and ideas about how things should work. Dealing with yourself is one thing; adding the element of another’s humanity is quite, well… different.
But wait! What about the other side — how amazing it is to connect with another human being? To share experiences, to move together, to breathe together, especially in this world filled with Facebook and cell phones — it’s a constant stream of digital communication. The frontier for our relationships is ever-changing, and partner yoga can help us come back to a deeper connection with others. I’m not saying it will cure relationship ills, nor am I saying that everyone will be comfortable with it, but it does prove to be a wonderful way to open up to the beauty and complexity of human interaction.
If you’re new to partner yoga, it’s best to take a class with an experienced teacher. I’ve included some frequently asked questions to give you a starting point…
PARTNER YOGA 101
What is partner yoga? Partner yoga is a blend of yoga, Thai massage, and acrobatics. The intention of partner yoga is to bring about an awareness of the beauty of our interdependence.
What is a base? The person lying on the ground, supporting the flyer on their feet.
What is a flyer? The person balancing on the base’s feet.
Is all partner yoga acrobatic? No, there are many types of partner yoga; quite a lot is gentle assisted stretching on the floor with another person.
Is partner yoga just 2 people? Not always — sometimes it’s a huge group!
How experienced do I need to be? It’s always best to try a beginner’s class if you’re unsure, and talk to the teacher about what level is best suited for you. Most partner classes have a wide range of experience levels so you will probably find one that is right for you! Acro yoga can be more dynamic — make sure you check in with the teacher first or sign up for a more basic class.
Do I need to bring a partner? Most partner yoga classes don’t require you to bring a partner. There are lots of individuals who go to practice, so you can pair up with a new friend! That being said, if you’re uncomfortable practicing with a stranger, enlist a friend to go with you.
What kind of partner do I need? You can partner with anyone. It’s recommended to partner with someone roughly your size. However, this is not a rule. You don’t have to be a man to be a base — women can as well. Try it with your best gal pal!
PARTNER YOGA TIPS
- Be open minded
- Communicate; if you don’t feel comfortable let your partner know. It is a relationship.
- Be steady and try to be aware of the impact you have on your partner
- Breathe… and have FUN!
If you’re comfortable with partner yoga, then let’s move into some poses! My partner, Pedro Franco, and I have chosen 6 poses — some for beginners, some more advanced — that we looove to practice…
Start by sitting on the ground, facing each other with legs crossed. With your left hand, reach diagonally for your partner’s left knee — so your arms cross. Reach your right arm around your back and take the hand of your partner that’s resting on his or her left knee. Once your hands are connected, inhale in and lengthen your spine. Exhale to deepen the twist. Release your hands and repeat on the second side.
Continue to face each other, legs spread wide apart. If your hamstrings are tight, place a blanket under your sits bones. Align the placement of your feet so the soles touch. Linking your hands together, slowly lean back and forth to open deeper.
Sit on the ground with your knees bent and toes touching. Grasp your partner’s hands. Keeping one foot on the ground, slowly raise the other foot while keeping contact with your partner’s foot (that’s right foot to left foot). Once that foot is up and stable, raise the other one. Use the grasp of the hands to straighten your spine.
TAKING OFF! The base lays on the ground with legs straight up towards the ceiling, feet stacked above the hips. If the hips are sensitive, place a blanket under them. As the flyer prepares to be lifted, the base bends their knees and places their feet right below the hip bones, angled out. Both partners grasp hands and the flyer leans forward, giving their weight to the base. As the base lifts the flyer up, the flyer keeps their legs wide for balance. As the flyer slowly relaxes their weight down, the base takes the flyer’s hands and pulls them out past their head to stretch the back and armpits. The base can also gently press away, into the hips, lengthening the flyer’s spine.
Once you stabilize, try a twist. The flyer relaxes their torso completely and the base takes the flyer’s right bicep or forearm and guides it out towards their head as they guide the flyer’s left arm between their legs by pressing gently on the back of the left shoulder. As in any twist, take a deep inhale, then exhale and twist deeper. Pay attention to your partner’s breathing patterns. Slowly release, then repeat on the opposite side.
Now for the tricky part — balancing on the base’s feet! Grasping each other’s hands, the base straightens their arms, providing support for the flyer to press up. The flyer lifts and straightens their legs, engages the core, and slowly lifts one hand at a time off of the supporting hands of the base… This is where trust comes in!
EXITING: Holding hands, the flyer relaxes their torso down. The base bends their knees and slowly lowers the flyer down.
Regardless of whether or not partner yoga is for you, the concept of the practice can still be of benefit. You don’t have to go it alone, we are stronger together than apart, and you can still keep your independence and work in harmony with another. Let’s all try to lay aside our differences and work together to create more harmony and less conflict!
HANNAH FRANCO is a yoga teacher and designer for Athleta. She began her exploration of yoga during her second year of art school. The incredible feeling of presence and lack of stress that unfolded after her exposure to yoga led her to direct every aspect of her life towards it. She took a transformational trip to India to deepen her studies in 2008, where she was certified. Her focus as a teacher is to bring community together and harmonize the way we all interact with compassion and love. Her classes are a blend of Hatha yoga and Vinyasa, and are suitable for all levels with an emphasis on creativity, steadiness and presence. For more from Hannah, visit HannahFrancoYoga.com »
PEDRO FRANCO is a Yogi, Physical Education Professional Physiotherapist, Yoga therapist, and Personal Consultant. His Yoga journey started in 1992 and since then he has practiced, studied and is certified by Teachers and Masters from various lineages and traditions around the world. Pedro also carries certifications in Pilates, technical skills for rehabilitation, wellness, and fitness. He has developed a practice that blends effective tools with a broad holistic perspective, and has a teaching style that adapts to all levels for the maximum development of students’ inherent abilities. For more about Pedro, visit YogaNoBorders.org »
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photos by BRETOGRAPHY