Partner Yoga for Relationship Health
How To Communicate Through Movement and Not Words
Hatha, Bikram, Kundalini, Ashtanga: there are a multitude of types, disciplines and approaches to yoga, a practice that enhances mental, emotional and physical well-being. Whether you already enjoy practicing yoga or not, partner yoga can offer a whole new approach and focus to this discipline. The meaning of the word yoga is often defined as “to unite” or “connection”. What a fun way to enhance a relationship: exercise, meditation and connection all at once together with a partner. This type of practice can be experienced as playful, serious, or even subtly erotic.
What makes partner instead of "regular" yoga different is touch and communication with our partner. Of course there are many different approaches to partner yoga as there are to individual yoga, but all practices incorporate some degree and type of body contact in the various poses. The beauty of this style is playing with each other’s energy through balance, using the other’s weight to enhance poses, and building intimacy that arises through trust and contact. Of course this means that not all of us are open to practicing it with a stranger. A friend or a lover may make a more ideal partner for these exercises because of an increased level of safety, trust, intimacy, comfort and communication.
Especially for those who are stuck in therapy and have processed their relationship ad nauseum, partner yoga enables a unique type of communication without talking, which some even use as a form of couple therapy. Sometimes actions speak louder than words in the sense that we can listen and understand and notice in new ways what our body and our partner’s body are telling us about the relationship and our needs. If we listen, we can gain useful insights into how to improve our communication with words.
The elegance and excitement of many experiential exercises is that they take us out of our habitual ways of connecting and give us fresh eyes with which to see and feel a new experience. Connection exercises such as partner yoga allow us to react, observe and reflect in a new way on our patterns of relating in our relationship. Our partner becomes the mirror for seeing and sensing our traditional or safe habits of communicating, controlling, trusting and being open. Moreover, the ways that we interact during a partner yoga session can provide insight into the ways that we relate to one another back in our "regular" lives. We may notice better who takes control and how, who gives in and why, how we do or do not trust. Sometimes those habits that we cannot see in day-to-day life, despite feedback from our partner, become acutely apparent when engaging in a different environment and engaging our bodies in physical exercise that requires cooperation and body communication.
The slow, meditative nature of yoga that requires presence and focus is an ideal playground for this type of reflection. It forces us to attend to our behaviours, thoughts and feelings and be present to each other, which we often easily avoid or simply don't notice in the busy-ness of life. Moreover, especially for those with lower libidos, this gentle play slows us down to allow us to notice our sensuality emerging as a gentle bubbling of erotic connectedness rather than always expecting an intense tidal wave of passion. For many, this slow sensuality is our more natural rhythm. When we slow down to connect, we become more aware of its nature so that we can then naturally re-call when we desire a passionate encounter.
As a metaphor for life, partner yoga also enables us to appreciate the interdependence that we naturally have in relation to others. While we like to think of ourselves as independent and self-sufficient, practicing yoga with another can reinforce the beauty and freedom of interdependence, through trusting the other to support, protect and respect our bodies. We can gain a refreshing appreciation for our partner's contribution to supporting us in our broader lives. And in this form of yoga, there is no giver or receiver, where the power is exchanged back and forth in exercises. Therein can lie a valuable lesson for many who have challenges in surrender of control, or those reluctant to take control. The parallels in relationship can be rich for exploration.
Some take the practice to a deeper level by using blindfolds, music or scents that create a specific mood and enhance the sensuality for the experience. It may be the perfect type of foreplay to foster connection arousal and movement- all excellent ways to initiate an erotic connection.
While not specifically designed for lovers, it can be a great way for partners to build intimacy while working out and meditating all at the same time. Talk about multitasking! Yet while the benefits are multiple, the practice is focused on the moment and being present and aware, a skill easier said than done, and worthwhile embracing. Even if you are not a yoga fan, I encourage you to try indulging in this type of yoga with your partner- you may find that you gain not only an enjoyable form of exercise and meditation, but an intimate shared experience that deepens your bond.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality s hop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you hae questions or comments she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com