1) Seated centring/grounding
Grounding and centring are a great way to start any yoga practice. It allows you to connect with your spiritual and physical environment and prepare your mind for the practice you’re about to begin. Mindset and meditation are important aspects of a successful yoga practice.
How to do it: Sit cross-legged, facing your partner with your hands on each other’s knees. If sitting cross-legged is uncomfortable, sit up on a folded towel or pillow for more support. Look into your partner’s eyes, taking a few moments to truly see the other person. Take 10 deep breaths in and out and allow for a deeper connection without words. We can get so busy in our daily lives that we forget the importance of truly seeing each other for who we are.
2) Seated cat cow (Marjaryasana/Bidalasana)
Cat cows are two yoga poses that are usually paired together. It is a great stretch for the hip, core, and back muscles. Seated cat cows also help with expanding the lungs and chest, so be sure to focus on breathing during this position.
How to do it: Remain seated and reach for each other’s forearms. Maintain a firm grip as you release your shoulders down and back. On the inhale, lift your chest up to the ceiling, allowing for a slight arch in your upper middle back. As you exhale, draw your chin into your chest, rounding through your upper middle back and spreading your shoulder blades wide apart.
Continue the same movement for a few cycles of breath, and as you warm up your spine, you may lift your gaze up to the ceiling as you inhale and allow your gaze to fall to your belly button as you exhale. Do 10 to 12 rounds, developing trust while using the support of your partner to find a sense of spaciousness in your chest and upper back.
3) Back-to-back chair pose (Utkatasana)
This is a great pose for beginner yogis because you can use each other for support. Chair pose is a great way to strengthen the muscles in your thighs and feet while increasing ankle mobility. For more advanced yogis, use each other to deepen your stretch.
How to do it: Stand back-to-back with your arms relaxed by your sides. Press your backs firmly together as you walk your feet hip-width apart and then slightly away from your partner’s. Slowly bend your knees and lower down as if you are sitting on a chair.
Once you reach a 90-degree angle in your knees, pause and take five to six steady breaths. Be sure to lift the crown of your head and maintain length in your spine, pressing down evenly through both feet. To transition out, press into each other to straighten the legs. This exercise helps build trust, especially during the transition from standing to chair when you’re using the support of your partner.
4) Seated forward backbend (Paschimottanasana/Matsyasana)
The forward bend and backbend are meant to be an intense stretch for the legs and back. This pose can also be a bit challenging, especially if one partner is more flexible than the other. So be sure to communicate and take it slow, otherwise you or your partner can get hurt.
How to do it: Sit back-to-back with your partner. Have one partner extend their legs and begin to fold forward (for tight hamstrings and/or lower back issues, try bending the knees slightly). The other partner bends the knees and places both feet flat on the floor, beginning to lean backward onto the support of the other person.
Hold for five to six deep breaths, then come up right and switch positions. Be sure to check in with your partner with this one - based on their feedback, you can apply more pressure, releasing into the support of each other. This exercise cultivates physical connection as you lean into each other.
5) Downward Dog/child's pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana/Balasana)
These are two of yoga’s most popular full-body stretches. They are great to perform in tandem with a partner because you can help each other deepen the stretch.
How to do it: Have one partner settle into a wide-kneed child’s pose, with the big toes touching, and the knees spread at least hip-width apart, the arms outstretched and at least shoulder-width apart.
Have the other partner stand facing him or her and have him or her grasp for an ankle with each hand. The standing partner can walk their feet back until the other partner’s elbows lift off the ground, allowing for a gentle stretch in the side body, shoulders and arms.
Then, the standing partner can hinge forward at their hips, placing their hands on the back of their partner’s pelvis (for tight hamstrings, standing partner can gently bend their knees). Be sure to place your hands on the fleshy part of the pelvis, not directly on the spine. The standing partner can also shift more weight into their hands, gently massaging the flesh at the back of the pelvis.
Hold for five to six deep breaths, providing feedback to each other to inspire closeness and trust. To transition out, have the standing partner bend their knees and shift more weight into the heels as they come back up to stand.
6) Revolved chair (Parivrtta Utkatasana)
Revolved chair helps to open the chest and ground the feet. The benefit of performing with a partner, is that you are able to push the stretch that much further. Make sure to stay focused on the breath with every movement.
How to do it: Stand facing each other, one arm’s distance away from your partner. Cross your arms right over left and clasp onto each other’s hands and stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Maintaining a tight grip, slowly bend your knees and lower down as if you are sitting on a chair. Keep your shoulders stacked above your hips, relying on the support of your partner to stay balanced. Keep hold of each other’s right hands, and have each person reach his or her left arm back in line with the shoulder, twisting to the left.
Hold for three to five smooth breaths, then come back to centre, clasp each other’s left hands and twist to the right. To transition out, be sure you have a solid grip on both hands, press into your feet, and use the support of your partner to straighten your legs. This exercise takes the back-to-back chair to the next level, requiring a greater sense of trust and security with your partner as you twist away from each other while staying connected.
7) Double plank pose (Adho Mukha Dandasana)
Most yogis have a love-hate relationship with planks, but doing them with your partner will help build confidence in your ability to hold them. Double plank pose is also a way to build trust with your partner, as you're dependent on each other to stay strong - or you will both fall over. Note that this is a more advanced pose, but it doesn’t hurt to try it.
This couples yoga pose requires a lot of core strength, but you can do it! You’re also pretty low to the ground, so worst case you and your partner will get a good laugh trying.
How to do it: Start with the stronger and/or taller partner in a plank position. Be sure to line up your wrists under the shoulders, with your core braced and legs straight and strong. Have the second partner face the feet of the other partner in plank, and then step over his or her hips.
From standing, fold forward and grab onto the ankles of the partner in plank. Straighten your arms, and keep the core engaged, and play with lifting one foot up, placing it on top of the back of your partner’s shoulder. If that feels steady, try adding the second foot, making sure to maintain a steady grip and straight arms.
Hold this pose for three to five breaths, and then carefully step down one foot at a time. This exercise requires communication, trust and strength, plus a willingness to have a little fun!