By Emily Shiffer for Parade.
Finding time for both yourself and your relationship can be one of the most difficult balances in life. You may assume that to meet the demands of one, you must sacrifice the other. But couples yoga can enhance not only your individual physical, mental and emotional health, but the health of your relationship.
How can doing couples yoga benefit your relationship?
“As with any health or wellness practice, it’s helpful to have a partner who supports you in the lifestyle and schedule shifts needed to maintain a new routine,” says Cruikshank. “As a couple I think one of the greatest things we can do to enhance our relationship is to deepen our own self-awareness and self-reflection to take ownership of our feelings and reactions.”
According to Cruikshank, this can help improve your communication with your partner.
“We all know that communication is key for a good relationship but this communication is also dependent on our self-awareness. Yoga captures this so eloquently with its practices focused on untangling the filter of our judgements and emotions, so we can see things more clearly,” says Cruikshank. “Not that our relationships magically become effortless, but that we start to see how it’s all entwined and begin to unravel it simply through our nonreactive awareness, self-reflection and compassion. Or better yet, a commitment to continuing to learn and grow together.”
Couples Yoga Poses
Pose #1: Child’s Pose
“This one is great for creating the foundation for self-reflection, sensing that there’s not a right and wrong in the noticing. This is a great place to come back to when you notice yourself stressed or emotional during your day,” says Cruikshank. “You can even just tune into it without the pose. Allowing yourself the space to notice how the terrain here changes, both influencing and being influence by our emotions and the world around us.”
How to do it: In this simple bowing posture, you need only sit back on your heels and bow your head forward to rest on the floor. If you have trouble sitting on your heels, try putting a pillow or blanket under your ankles or under your hips. You can also put a pillow or blanket under your forehead if it doesn’t easily reach the floor. As you allow yourself to be still here, notice the experience of being in your body and all the sensations under your skin. Notice the breath, areas that feel light or heavy, if you feel tired or energized, thoughts that come and go and anything else you notice here. Allow your mind to be the canvas as you paint a picture of the landscape of your experience in this moment. Stay for 2-5 minutes.
Pose #2: Couples Butterfly Pose
How to do it: Start seated with the soles of your feet together and knees spread apart. If sitting with the soles of the feet together is uncomfortable, you and/or your partner can opt to sit in a simple cross-legged position instead. Sit upright back-to-back and begin by noticing the breath, both yours and your partners. Then slowly start to deepen your breath for a 4-count inhale and a 5-count exhale. Repeat for 5-10 rounds. This is a great way to quickly induce the relaxation response to counteract stress and build stress resilience while you feel the support of your partner doing the same.
Pose #3: Supine Twist
How to do it: Start on your back, bending the knees in toward your chest and taking them off to one side. Allow your legs to rest on the floor in a comfortable position, using pillows or blankets under your knees if you like. Stay for 2-3 minutes on each side. Follow the same thread of nonjudgmental awareness you found in child’s pose above as you relax here and notice. A great pose to both wring out the day or prepare you for the day ahead, both rejuvenating and relaxing as needed. This supported twist gently massages the spinal nerves along each side of the spine that innervate and regulate both the organs and muscles. An efficient and effective pose on its own when you’re short on time.
Pose #4: Partner Savasana
“Traditionally yoga practice ends with this final relaxation, which can be a great time to reconnect with your partner (my personal favorite),” says Cruikshank
How to do it: For this one simply lie on your back, hand in hand, without any effort. Allow yourselves to enjoy a deep relaxation as you sense the physical and energetic connection and support between you. Relax here for 5-10 minutes. This final relaxation is often overlooked, but it’s an important time for the body and nervous system to integrate the effects of your practice. This is also a valuable way to increase vagal tone, associated with better stress resilience, greater heart rate variability and cardiac health, improved digestive health and everything else influenced by a decreased stress response.
Pose #5: Partner Meditation
How to do it: Sit side by side in a comfortable cross-legged position with your hips on a folded blanket or cushion so you can be comfortable here. Ideally you want your hips as high as your knees so adjust how many blankets/cushions you have underneath you to achieve that. Set a timer for 2-10 minutes, whatever you have time for. If you’re new to meditation start with 2-5 minutes. As you both close your eyes begin by noticing the breath inside your body. Allow yourself to be curious to the sensations and experience of the breath. Then allow your attention to expand out to notice the awareness around you and that of your partner. Sense the current of life that flows through both of you, however you experience that (the breath, heartbeat, blood flow pulsing through your, energy or vibration). When the timer rings slowly bring yourselves back to greet the rest of your day.
Optional: if you like and it’s comfortable you can do this side by side, hand in hand.
Meditation has so many benefits from stress reduction to mental clarity, focus and well-being. Notice how it affects the rest of your day and your time together or apart.
Find out how mindfulness therapy for couples can boost your connection.