If you think finding a deeper connection with your partner, decreasing stress, enhancing your sexual relationship, and getting fit all at the same time sounds like a sweet deal, you might want to consider rolling out a yoga mat (or two). Couples yoga is changing the way we look at the the role of exercise in relationships.
What are the benefits of couples yoga?
The benefits of couples yoga are similar to an individual yoga class and include stress reduction, increased range of motion, relief from pain, cardio and circulatory health, improved respiration and energy, better posture, and much more. Couples yoga takes these benefits one step further and also includes the element of bonding with your partner in a new way. By creating a shared experience, the poses in couples yoga allow you and your partner to listen to each other and work together. “Couples yoga helps bring couples closer physically, emotionally, and energetically,” explains Beth Shaw, founder and CEO of YogaFit. The benefits, Shaw says, include physical bonding, unifying goals of getting in the pose, teamwork building, and improved communication. “Couples yoga also gives couples an activity to do together that they can both improve with as time goes on,” she adds. Psychotherapist and certified yoga practitioner Stefani Reitter says couples yoga can be a lifesaver for relationships in a rut. “Yoga can actually shift relational dynamics by decreasing the ‘fight or flight’ tendency that couples get stuck in while arguing,” she explains. “I have specific partner yoga poses that I have clients do in session and then assign for homework, so they have something to integrate into their daily routine.”
How do you get your partner involved if they’re new to yoga?
If you’re ready to sign-up for a couples yoga class, but your partner is still undecided, Topnotch Resort’s yoga instructor and art therapist Melisa Oliva recommends a one-class pass or an introductory workshop, so your partner feels invited to explore without the pressure to commit for an unlimited period of time. Once you both commit to the idea of doing couples yoga, make sure you choose a class and instructor that works for both of you. Try to find a class that is beginner friendly so the poses won’t seem intimidating.
Are there therapeutic benefits of doing couples yoga?
Every relationship goes through its own challenges, with some more difficult than others. Finding healthy and productive ways to work through conflict or any other issues that relationships go through can help enhance and strengthen your partnership. One of the appeals of couples yoga is the therapeutic benefits partners can experience while moving through the poses together. In fact, a study done by Loyola University Health System found that partner yoga may help couples who are struggling with sexual dysfunction by strengthening their relationship emotionally, physically, and spiritually to ultimately build a deeper connection and improve sexual health according to one of the researchers and professors. “Even just reflecting about their shared feelings after a couples yoga class can be very beneficial, and it can even bring back a ‘lost spark’ that couples are always trying to keep alive,” explains Oliva, “giving them the opportunity to touch each other, to breathe together, and to remember the deep connection between them.”
Couples Yoga Poses to Try Together
Participating in a couples yoga class can help you build the foundation of the poses and learn from the cues of the instructor. Once you feel confident that you can do the poses on your own, try this couples yoga workout designed by Diane Malaspina, PhD, Yoga Medicine instructor, and psychologist.
Start seated in a cross-legged position with your backs leaning into each other. Rest your hands on your thighs, close your eyes, and follow your breath. Be aware of your inhales and exhales, then shift your attention to your partner’s inhales and exhales. Try to sync the breath by feeling the subtle expansion and contraction of your partner’s rib cage. Practice for 3 minutes.
Seated Easy Twist
Start seated in a cross-legged position, facing one another with your knees touching. For both partners: Reach your right hand behind you, across your back, to reach the right fingers toward the left side of your waist. Reach your left hand across and grab your partner’s right hand. Communicate with each other as to how much you’d like your partner to gently pull on your right hand to deepen the twist. Hold for 10 breaths and switch sides.
Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold
Stay seated and spread your legs wide, joining the soles of your feet with your partner’s. Reach forward and grab each other’s wrists, walking your hands to reach for their forearms. Communicate to decide who will fold first. Slowly lean back, gently pulling your partner into a forward fold. Communicate how deep you’d like to fold. Hold for 10 breaths and switch.
Seated Easy Forward Fold
For this pose, one partner is in a seated forward fold and the other is in a supported backbend. Start seated in a cross-legged position with your backs leaning up against one another. Communicate to decide who will fold forward first. For the partner folding: Walk your hands forward coming into a fold. For the other partner: Lean back, keeping your bodies in contact and your hands on the floor alongside of you, palms turned up. Allow your head to rest on the rounding of your partner’s upper back. Relax and take 10 slow breaths, then switch.
Standing Forward Fold
Stand with the back of your hips leaning into each other. Bend your knees and fold forward. Once you’ve folded, reach back and grab each others’ hands, walking your hands toward their forearms, gently drawing your partner closer. Communicate on how deep you want to go into the pose. Knees can be bent or straightened. Hold for 10 breaths.
Stand next to each other. The partner on the right will balance on the left foot, and the partner on the left will balance on the right foot. Bring the the non-standing foot on to the inner shin (toes can rest on the floor or on the shin) or the inner thigh. Avoid bringing the foot to the inner knee. Open the lifted knee to the side. Partner on the right: reach your left hand out to the side to join palms with the partner on the left (who will reach the right hand out to the side to join palms). Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and switch sides.
Stand facing one another, feet pointing straight forward and hip-width apart. Clasp your partner’s forearms and walk your feet back so the arms are extended. Bend the knees and send the hips back as if you were about to sit on a chair. Use the bi-directional pull on each other’s arms to stay up. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. To release, straighten the legs and step toward your partner.
Stand facing one another, feet pointing straight forward and hip-width apart. Leave about a foot of space between your toes and your partner’s toes. Clasp around each other’s forearms with your elbows bent. Bring a slight bend to the knees. Lift from your chest, arch your upper back up, look up (but keep the neck long). The arms will straighten. Draw the shoulder blades together to open the chest. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Return to standing. The benefits of couples yoga are endless for both you and your significant other. If you’re interested in trying couples yoga, make sure you read through the instructions detailed in the above exercises carefully, and refrain from any poses that cause unusual discomfort or pain.