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Partner Yoga


Updated May 30, 2014


Partner Stretch

Denis Felix/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Have you ever received an adjustment from your yoga teacher that helped you get deeper into a pose, like some pressure on your back in paschimottanasana? What about an assist that allowed you to come into a posture that you couldn't have done by yourself, for instance a lift into handstand? If so, you have already experienced the benefits of partner yoga. When partner yoga works, it can be a great boon to your practice, essentially allowing the teacher to be everywhere at once. However, there are some cases when partnering with another student can increase your risk of injury.

Cultivating Openness

The most successful partner yoga situation is one in which you can trust your partner to give a safe assist and offer the same back to them. Partner yoga workshops, in which you bring your own partner (ideally a friend who has a complimentary practice), can be a great way to deepen a relationship and a yoga practice simultaneously. The more difficult scenario is when you are assigned to work with a stranger in your yoga class. There are two levels of concern here, one mental and the other physical. On the mental level, many of us feel an aversion to being compelled to engage with another person, especially since that engagement involves touching. However uncomfortable at first, this is actually a good exercise in letting go of our conventional assumptions of what we do and don't like and allowing ourselves to connect with another person. There is a lot of talk about getting your body to open up in yoga, but getting your mind to open up is just as important and often harder to achieve. Challenge yourself to continue attending that class where the teacher loves to call out, "ok, everybody partner up!" and try to work out a way through your discomfort.

Maintain Awareness

The second, very real, concern is for your physical safety. If you are partnered with someone who seems too inexperienced, be very vocal, though polite, in directing them to ease off their adjustment. (Though I have found that, in general, someone who is nervous about giving adjustments tends to be very tentative rather than overly aggressive.) If your partner seems ill-equipped to support or catch you, say, in an inversion, don't be afraid to opt out of that pose or ask the teacher to be a back up. In short, be open, aware, and friendly while taking responsibility for your own safety.

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