Partner yoga can help you deepen both your poses and your relationships. "Doing yoga with a partner makes many poses more accessible, comfortable, and therapeutic," says Mary Aranas, who teaches at Pure Yoga and leads partner yoga workshops around the country. "By holding onto another person, you can balance better than you could on your own, move into poses more deeply, and hold them longer, which increases strengthening and stretching." Working in tandem also improves communication. All you need is a spouse, a friend, or another willing partner -- and neither of you has to be overly fit or flexible. Aranas chose the following poses, including tension-busting twists and restorative stretches, for their simplicity.
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Benefits: Increases lung capacity, stretches the torso, and lifts the spirit.
How to Do It: Stand facing each other, feet hip-width apart so that you can comfortably hold each other's forearms with your arms bent. Inhale and lift the chest, then exhale and drop head gently back, straightening arms. Hold the pose for 2 to 3 breaths. Inhale, and return to standing.
Double Rag Doll
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings and relieves tension.
How to Do It: Stand back to back, with your heels about six inches from your partner's; fold forward so buttocks are touching. Reach back and hold your partner's hands, arms, or shoulders (depending on flexibility) and draw your bodies toward each other for 2 to 3 breaths, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings. Then put your hands on the floor or on your shins and slowly roll back up to standing.
To Go Deeper: Hold on to each other's arms tightly and shift your weight forward onto the front of your feet so that you're leaning away from each other.
Benefits: Improves balance, strengthens legs, and opens inner thighs
How to Do it: Stand side by side facing the same direction, and wrap your inside arm around your partner's waist. Standing firmly on your inside leg, rotate your outside leg, bringing the sole of your foot to your ankle, calf, or thigh (not your knee). Lift your outside arm above you, or press your palms together to unite the pose. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths on each side.
Benefits: Strengthens quads and improves posture.
How to Do It: Stand with backs touching; link elbows. Feel and match your partner's breath. Press against each other's back and walk your feet forward, keeping your sacrum and spine touching your partner's, until you're in a sitting position (no lower than 90 degrees). Hold the pose for 2 to 3 breaths; slowly return to standing.
To Go Deeper: Carefully rise and lower repeatedly for an added strengthening challenge.
Benefits: Increases blood flow to the spinal disks, rejuvenating the back; enhances flexibility; relieves tension.
How to Do It: Sit cross-legged facing each other, knees overlapping. Inhale, lengthen the spine, and twist to the right, reaching your right arm behind you. With your right hand, grab your partner's left wrist or hand, and vice versa. Exhale and pull gently; hold the pose for 3 breaths. Release and reverse the twist.
Seated Forward Bend with Back Bend, Part 1
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings and back for one partner while providing a heart-opening stretch for the other.
How to Do It: Sit with your backs touching from the sacrum all the way up to the top of the head. Partner A, keep legs hip-width apart and straight, knees pointing up (bend them if you need to), feet flexed.
Seated Forward Bend with Back Bend, Part 2
Partner B, bend knees, feet flat on the floor. Partner A, start to fold forward, until you feel a gentle stretch. Partner B, move in the same direction, lying back on your partner and stepping your feet closer to you for support. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths and then slowly return to the starting position. Switch roles and repeat.
Seated Forward Bend with Back Bend, Part 3
To Go Deeper: (If you have back problems, skip this step.) Partner B, lift arms overhead and reach for Partner A's toes. If that's too intense, leave hands at the sides.
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