Asana à Deux. Partner yoga seems to get a mixed reaction – some adore its playfulness, others groan when it comes up unannounced in a yoga class. It definitely changes the dynamic of a yoga practice, which is typically done solo. I confess, I never got super excited about partner yoga, but was always grateful afterwards for breaking through that barrier by tapping into a deeper connection with another yogi. And to me, connection is what yoga is all about — we connect to what’s going on inside ourselves on the mat, and then are able to extend that to others. After all, the word yoga means union.
People always wonder how to extend the benefits of their own yoga practice to their family members; if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “but my husband would never do yoga!” I maintain that what you do on the mat has a positive effect on your family. So maybe your husband and your children don’t practice yoga, but they indirectly benefit from you being more balanced. Partner yoga is a unique way to entice your family onto the mat. It won’t be your 90-minute, sweat-drenched vinyasa practice — but it will forge new connections to people you love through yoga.
Yoga has been part of my daughter’s life since before she was born (I taught my last yoga class 3 days before her birthday!). She views it as normal, and part of daily life. She will watch me, imitate some of the poses, and as I like to think of it, soak up some of the good energy I’m giving off. When I’m really lucky, she’ll rub my third eye while I’m in savasana and softly chant, lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu — may all beings everywhere be happy and free. She also adores partner yoga and playing with me on the mat. I’ve focused this practice to cultivate physical connection — it’s like a series of different-shaped hugs. We’re sharing this practice in honor of Mother’s Day, so grab your mom, your son/daughter, or really anyone you want to give some yoga love. (My daughter is small, but you can do most of the pictured poses with a family member who is larger than a six-year-old.)
Celebrate Mother’s Day with some asana à deux!
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How amazing it feels to connect your breath, your life force! Sit back-to-back, close your eyes, quiet down and breathe together. You can take anjali mudra with your palms together at your heart center, or rest your hands in your lap. Once you get settled, your breath will synch naturally; feel each other’s inhale as your backs expand into one another, and the release of your exhales.
Stay here for 3-5 minutes; you might want to set a timer. I love how this teaches children to sit quietly and pay attention to their breath. (And adults can always use the reminder too!)
Twists feel great – but the best part of this one is figuring out your hands!
- Take your right arm behind your back, and reach your left arm across; your partner reaches her left arm behind her back and her right arm across. Join both opposite hands.
- With joined hands, sit up tall to lengthen your spine as you twist to the right, your partner to the left. Hold for 5 deep breaths, using your joined hands as leverage to deepen your twist.
- Switch sides!
This one stretches out your hips, hamstrings, and upper back.
- Face each other and take your feet apart into a straddle.
- For 2 adults, you can place the soles of your feet together; a child can place her feet on the inside of your ankles (as pictured).
- Fold forward from your waist, and take hold of each other’s upper arms or shoulders. Let your heads gently come together.
- Keep your feet flexed and legs slightly engaged.
- Hold for 5-10 deep breaths. Release your arms first and sit up, then slowly bend your knees.
Standing Straddle Reach-Through
This one stretches out your hips, hamstrings, and lower back.
- Standing, take your feet apart into a wide straddle, facing away from one another with a foot or two in between you.
- Turn your toes in and your heels out, and energize the legs so that you can feel the outer edge of your feet pressing down.
- If you have a grown-up partner, your bums should come together as you fold forward. If you have a smaller partner, her bum comes under your legs and you can help stabilize her stance with your inner legs (as pictured).
- After folding forward reach for each other’s hands.
- Hold for 5-10 deep breaths. Release your hands and take them to your waist. Soften your knees slightly and slowly roll up to standing.
Down Dog – Up Dog
This vinyasa requires you to coordinate your breath and movement with those of your partner. If your partner is under 10, barking in up dog is fun. This works best with a grown-up/child pair (one person needs to be smaller than the other).
- Start in downward facing dog, with the smaller partner under the grown-up one. Smaller partner’s hands are placed inside the grown-up’s hands.
- As you inhale, slowly come forward into upward facing dog.
- As you exhale, push back into downward dog again.
- Repeat 5-10 inhale/exhale cycles. When you’re done, the smaller partner can come into child’s pose so the grown-up partner can easily step over her.
This takes the balance pose challenge to a new level. Also, the bigger the difference in size between partners, the more challenging it is to balance. But don’t give up! It’s fun to get even a moment together as a tree unified by balance.
- Stand side by side, with your arms around each other.
- Bring your outside foot up onto your inner thigh, above your knee. You can use your hands for help.
- Bring your other hands together in front. Use this grip to help get balanced. Keep leaning into one another to also help get balanced in the pose. More equally sized partners can bring their hands together in anjali mudra.
Stay here as long as you can! And keep trying til you get it, even if it’s only for a few moments.
This lovely back stretch has a grown-up partner on the bottom and the smaller partner on top; don’t reverse it, unless you have a grown-up partner.
- Take child’s pose, and have your smaller partner sit carefully on or above your sacrum (higher up for shorter partners, lower down for taller). Top partner’s feet should be on the floor.
- Have the smaller partner slowly lie back on your back, and extend her arms overheard. Bend your elbows and take hold of her hands.
- Hold for 5-10 deep breaths. Smaller partner takes her hands to your hips, and uses them to help her sit up.
Our favorite! And it’s great strength work to lift someone up into bow with you.
- Lie on your tummy, and have your partner lie on your back.
- Both partners bend their knees and reach back for the outside of their feet.
- Bottom partner lifts up, and top partner comes along for the ride!
- Hold for 3-5 breaths, then gently release. Top partner carefully rolls off.
No instruction needed—except be sure to hold hands.
Happy Mother’s Day, and Namaste.
Photo Credit: Larry Stanley, Montana-People.com