Whether Mom's lectures about your "questionable" lifestyle leave you livid, or you're exasperated with your significant other for forgetting an anniversary, bickering with loved ones from time to time is normal. But instead of throwing damaging verbal punches, maybe a more constructive way to work through arguments is by hitting the mat together for a few minutes of partner yoga?
"Partner yoga is the medium to building stronger communication and intimacy between human beings in any relationship," explains Cain Carroll, co-author of Partner Yoga: Making Contact for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Growth. "Postures and flow sequences are designed to bring communication into a tangible, physical form, and help you witness the dynamic of relationships."
Whether you practice periodically, or flow together in the midst of a fight, partner yoga compels companions to lay aside their differences and work to achieve a common goal. The simple act of breathing together and participating in a practice grounded in acceptance, unity and love translates to more productive, open and caring communication between partners. So, though disagreements are still bound to occur, you'll be less likely to shout, and more likely to communicate effectively.
Jason Nemer, co-founder of AcroYoga, a practice combining yoga, Thai massage and acrobatics to bring individuals into a state of union with themselves and each other, recalls a combative couple that came into his class a few years ago. "They were fighting non-stop. I suggested we do some flying, postures that utilize gravity to open the spine of the flyer (partner who is lifted), while empowering the base (partner who lifts). I designated the base the talker, and the flyer the listener. I promised they'd switch roles, giving them both opportunities to speak and listen. After that initial class, they kept coming back. It became their therapy. It brought up so much in their relationship they hadn't faced before, and helped them discover what wasn't working in their communication patterns."
The practice also re-establishes weakened bonds, because on the mat, partners must have complete faith in each other. "You rely on each other for the very creation of poses," says Carroll. "Postures are dependent on two people showing up for one another and giving equal effort. It's a great metaphor for the nut and bolt aspect of all relationships."
Don't fear that your relationship is doomed if you can't do the poses perfectly. It's not about perfection, assures Carroll. "It's a process of working it out - there's no finished, perfect pose. It's about how you connect, cooperate, support each other and figure out the pose based on what works for the two of you."
Want to communicate better in your various relationships? Carroll recommends the following partner poses for:
1. Sit facing one another with legs open in a straddle position. Press feet together.
2. Hold hands or arms. The backs of the knees are pressing toward the ground, and the spine is lengthened.
3. Further the stretch by inching closer together. If you can, release hands or arms, and hold the backs of each other's legs (don't pull on them).
4. This wide-legged seated posture establishes a resonance between couples: the legs and pelvis are open, hearts are facing, and the gazing and shared breathing deepens intimacy, increasing sensitivity to self and other. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Parents and Children
1. Partner 1 sits upright, legs extended forward. Partner 2 kneels with his or her back touching Partner 1's.
2. Partner 2 bends forward into Child's Pose.
3. Partner 1 exhales and lies gently on Partner 2's back, keeping legs together or slightly apart.
4. Partners stretch their arms to their sides and touch each other's hands.
5. Partner 2 gently presses Partner 1's arms toward the floor. Hold for up to a minute or two.
6. Switch positions and repeat. This pose gives the child the feeling of being supported and loved, as well as being the supporter. (If there is a big weight difference, parents shouldn't lay all their weight on their children.)
1. Partner 1 lies on his or her back, bends knees and lifts feet off the floor.
2. Partner 2 stands in front of Partner 1, and places Partner 1's feet on his or her hips.
3. Partner 2 leans forward onto Partner 1's feet.
4. Partner 1 bends knees toward his or her chest to better hold Partner 2's weight, and touches palms with Partner 2.
5. With feet aligned over the hips, Partner 1 straightens his or her legs and arms and lifts Partner 2 off the ground. Partners 1 and 2 press their hands together. With arms and legs straightened, Partner 2 arches back slightly to come into full Lifted Cobra.
6. Hold for 10-30 seconds. This pose requires trust, overcoming the obstacle of being afraid to fall, or that your friend won't hold you up (literally and figuratively). It also boosts the excitement of friendship by adding a playful, physical element to your relationship.
1. Standing hip-to-hip with feet about 10 inches from your partner's, reach arms around each other's waists.
2. Lift your outside leg and place your foot against the upper part of your opposite inner thigh.
3. Touch the palm of your free hand to your partner's.
4. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and repeat on opposite side. This pose promotes cooperation. If partners push, pull or attempt to dominate the other, the posture won't work. It also creates a sense of equality, connection and harmony, which is crucial in terms of improving communication between siblings.