Partner yoga is a great way to incorporate a fun learning and bonding experience for friends that are practitioners of yoga! Each partner pose incorporates a posture that offers synonymous or opposing benefits to each practitioner in the pose, which provides a great method of balancing flexibility and strength for both parties. When exploring a partner yoga practice, you get double the fun! This also means double the body parts and double the energy, which can be overwhelming. Focus on the alignment and purpose of each pose, while moving with grace and intention into and out of each pose just like you would in your personal yoga practice. These factors are key in avoiding injury while practicing partner yoga. Kristen and Kaci have demonstrated several partner yoga poses below that you can explore with friends to share the joy and power of your asana practice! Kristen offers modifications when available for each pose.

How To:

Partners sit back-to-back in Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) with the soles of the feet together and the knees open. Partner one links arms with partner two. Partner one leans forward for a hip opening stretch, which pulls partner two backward for a heart opening stretch. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths. Once completed, switch roles in the pose. Do not do take partner one role in this pose if you have low back issues.

What’s Happening...

Partner one increase flexibility in the hips and lower back, while partner two increases flexibility in the chest, shoulders, upper back, and hips.


How To:

Partners sit facing one another with crossed legs. This is a mirrored pose, so both parties follow identical instructions to get into the pose. Both partners wrap the right arm around the back with the palm facing away from the back. Bring the upper right arm as close to the body as possible, and the right fingertips as far beyond the left side body as possible. Both partners reach the left arm forward to link hands with the opposite partner’s right (wrapped) arm. This movement naturally twists the upper body to the right. Once the hands are linked, both parties look over their right shoulder and pull very gently on their partner’s hand. Activate the abdominal muscles to protect the lower back and increase the intensity of this twist. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths. Repeat the pose with the left arm wrapped around the back.

What’s Happening...

This pose helps to increase flexibility in the spine and shoulders. This pose particularly helps to open up the thoracic (upper) spine which is the least flexible part of the back for many.


How To:

Partners face one another with legs extended straight forward and the soles of the feet touching. With a flat back, both partners reach forward to link hands or arms. Gently pull against your partner to stretch the backs of the legs. Pull the chest forward to maintain a straight upper back. Activate the abdominal muscles to support and protect the lower back. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths.  

Modifications: For very tight hamstrings, bend the knees to allow for a flat back. For very flexible hamstrings, reach for a higher place on your partner’s wrists rather than the hands. 

What’s Happening...

Both partners increase hamstring flexibility while increasing strength in the upper arms, core, and upper back.


Full Pose

Full Pose

How To:

Partners face one another in Navasana (boat pose). Place the soles of feet together and reach forward on the outside of the legs to grab your partner’s hands. Both partners pull gently against one another to lift the chest for a flat back and straight legs. Keep the core engaged to protect and support your lower back. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths, and repeat 3-5 times.

Modification

Modification

Modifications: For tight hamstrings, bend the knees slightly. For very tight hamstrings, have the less flexible partner place the soles of the feet on the back of their partner’s calves (see modification photo to the left). Do not do this pose if you have lower back issues.

What’s Happening...

Partners use leverage to strengthen the core, the upper back and improve upper body control when flying Navasana solo. This posture also helps to open up the hamstrings.


How To:

Partners sit side by side/hip to hip facing opposite directions. Both partners take a wide leg position. Each partner lies back to put pressure on their partner’s upper thigh. Allow the arms to extend out wide with the palms facing the ceiling. Hold this pose for 5-10 breaths, and repeat on the opposite side.

What’s Happening...

Each partner lays back on the opposing partner’s upper thigh, offering a heart and shoulder opening stretch. Each partner puts pressure on the opposing partner’s upper thigh offering a hip flexor stretch as the upper body lies back.


More Challenging Poses

How To:

Partner one sets up in plank pose. Partner two places their hands on partner one’s Achilles tendons, and places their feet on partner one’s shoulders or upper back. Both partners extend through the crown of the head and draw the lower abdomen in to form a straight line from head to heels. Hold this pose for 3-10 breaths, and switch roles in the pose.

Modifications: The partner with less upper body strength should take the top position in this pose.   

What’s Happening...

Both partners increase full body strength and core control in this posture.


How To:

Partner one sets up in downward-facing dog posture. Partner two places their hands on the floor about 6-8 inches in front of partner one’s hands, and places their feet on partner one’s lower back in downward facing dog. Partner two focuses on stacking the hips directly over the shoulders with a flat back. Partner two also focuses on straightening the legs and pulling the chest through toward partner one. Hold this pose for 3-10 breaths.

Modifications: Partner two can walk the hands forward slightly for less inversion. For more of a challenge, partner two can practice lifting one leg at a time in preparation for handstand.

What’s Happening...

Partner one is receiving a low back decompression and stretch for the back of both thighs given the pressure of partner two’s feet on the back. Partner two is increasing the strength of the arms, the flexibility of the chest shoulders and hamstrings, and preparing for inversion practice.


Photo Models: Kristen Beal, RYT; Kaci Wall, E-RYT