Partner work in yoga – working together and working on you.

Partner work requires bags of trust. Phillipines 2015

Partner work requires bags of trust. Phillipines 2015

Yoga is a partnership on so many levels. Partnership with the teacher - I can only give to my students what they give to me. Partnership with our fellow yogis – we are all students and we learn from one another. It is also a partnership within ourselves – between mind, body and spirit.

I was conducting a class a few weeks ago, and we concluded the practice with some partner work. There are so many benefits to working with a partner – you feel more supported so that you can challenge yourself in postures more, for one thing. Hmm, there might be a metaphor for life in there!

We conducted a series of challenging stretches and postures. When we “stirred the pot,” some wary faces... “Um…can I bend like that?” turned into huge smiles and sighs of relief as they clasped wrists with their partners and enjoyed the deepening stretch. Paired chair pose initially conjured up nervous giggles that turned into child-like gasps of awe when the students realised that yes, the posture was perfectly achievable, and all they had to do was trust themselves and each other. Can anyone else see a life-lesson in this? Stay with me now…

Our final posture that day was hanging upside down on a standing partners shoulders. One nervous and shy student volunteered to be my partner for the demonstration and despite her insistence that she couldn’t do the initial supported handstand, agreed to try. She went from squeaking like a terrified mouse, to shrieking with child like laughter and wonder. Because her trust in me was returned, and she knew that she would be alright, upside down and right side up too. Similar things happened when the other students attempted the posture with their partners. The sense of real togetherness was palpable. Everybody was excited and smiling.

Even when things didn’t quite go to plan there was something to be learnt. One student tried valiantly but collapsed onto the ground mid-handstand, the thing is she is physically strong enough. I was her partner and was caught off-guard. Yes, she was laughing, and eventually so was I, but my back and shoulders were not too pleased! Yoga teachers are not indestructible, we are students too, we still feel pain! So where’s the life lesson, I hear you ask?

When you work with someone you have to be responsible for yourself as well as one another. Sometimes you have to know when to save yourself, to not be afraid and say “No I can’t, not today” or “Yes, I can.” Only then can your partner support you in the way that you need.

Yoga is about facing your fears and facing you. In partner work, we do all of these things as well helping our partners face their fears too. We are often so busy focusing (and worrying!) on the physical things - about not falling over, not hurting ourselves or our partners, that we don’t realise that the lesson goes much deeper than our joints! These very things apply to our daily lives too. When we are at work or among friends and family, we can only offer our best support to others if we are responsible for ourselves. Only then is partnership equal, true and liberating.

Love and light,

Caroline x