Whether you prefer your poses on the ground or airborne, the yoga-for- two trend can help elevate your flow and sculpt you head to toe.
If it seems like you’re seeing more pictures of partnered-up yoga poses, it’s because you are. There are about 200,000 Instagram photos with the hashtag #partneryoga and more than one million with #acroyoga, the airborne version of buddy poses. What may seem reserved for contortionists is far from it.
Partner yoga is about doing supported poses that deliver a deep stretch, while acroyoga focuses more on strength, gymnastics and acrobatics. “There are always beginners in my workshops,” says instructor Elysabeth Williamson, the author of The Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga. “And I’d say that 70 per cent of all able-bodied people can master partner yoga.” Both are more approachable than you think. First, you don’t need to go to either class with a partner.
“Most people come with a friend or a significant other, but I also encourage people to show up solo,” Elysabeth says. “I always have an assistant in case there’s an odd number.” (There’s built-in time to break the ice before you’re guided through every pose.) With acroyoga, there are typically two roles: the flyer and the base.
The base lies on her back, holding up the flyer with her raised legs (this can change in more advanced poses). From there, the flyer moves – on the instructor’s cue – through various positions in the air, grabbing the base’s hands for support. Inspired? Find beginner classes near you, or download Elysabeth’s Partner Yoga Touch app ($5.98, iTunes) to try partner poses at home. No matter which style you start with, here’s proof that the benefits extend far beyond #braggingrights.
Being present is easier
You probably drift off during a five-breath triangle pose. But you have to stay focused when adding another person to your flow, because you affect her movement too. “Partner yoga fosters trust and inspires you to stay present,” Elysabeth says. If you zone out, your partner will lose her balance too. That’s even more likely during acroyoga. This kind of heightened presence will help you make the most of each pose and reduce your risk of injury.
It super-cinches abs
“In partner yoga, you’re constantly stabilising each other’s weight, which requires your core to turn on so you can balance better,” says Anton Holmes Mackey, a yoga instructor who teaches at yoga fests. Certain poses, such as partner double plank (where two people hold a plank facing opposite directions, but one person places her feet on the other’s back), cause a deeper contraction of your transverse abdominis, taking your abs sculpting to the next level.
And with acroyoga, your entire core works to give you the stability to get into and hold poses in the air, he explains. Bases build bonus core strength too: You need to fire up your deepest abs to keep your lower back pressed firmly into the floor, and you’ll also work your obliques overtime as you move your partner side to side.
Stretching is next level
Many partner poses help you boost your flexibility better than you can doing typical yoga sessions. (See the Double Boat pose,above, in which you hold hands on the outside of your legs, while raising both legs and placing the soles of your feet together.) This increased flexibility can also open your practice to a new world of poses.
You’ll hit your solo pose goals
Have handstand dreams? Instead of trying to swing up to stand yourself, have your partner serve as a spotter. “She’ll guide you into the proper position, which helps build up your muscle memory,” says Jessie Goldberg, the codirector of AcroYoga Montreal. “Then before you know it, you’re doing it by yourself.” Plus, you mirror each other in partner yoga, helping improve your form and showing you what it feels like to truly master a pose, Elysabeth says.
All the benefits of touch rub off on you
Touch has been shown to boost immunity, decrease the risk of heart disease and reduce stress. “But as a culture, we’re really lacking in touch,” Elysabeth says. With partner yoga, 70 per cent of the class involves touch, Elysabeth estimates, and acroyoga is essentially all touch.
Turn the page to read Shape writer Estelle’s experience of trying acroyoga for the first time with her husband. You might just be inspired to try it out!
“Maintaining the base position in acroyoga will make your lower body stronger as you hold and redistribute your partner’s weight,” Anton says.
TEXT: KIERA AARON PHOTOS: 123RF.COM.