12 Couples Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Relationship (and Your Core)
We don’t need to tell you all the ways a regular yoga practice can benefit your mind, body and spirit, but you’ll indulge us for a moment, yes? No surprise here, but yoga is a fabulous option for boosting mood and decreasing stress levels. Harvard Medical School’s Stress Resource Center notes that yoga appears to modulate stress response systems by reducing perceived stress and anxiety: “This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal—for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration.” There’s also evidence that yoga can help increase heart rate variability, “an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.”
If you’ve already embarked on a solo yoga practice, it might be time to consider couples yoga. Doing yoga with your partner on a regular basis is an ideal way to spend time together, while releasing the tension that might otherwise get in the way of your quality time. Couples yoga is an excellent way to grow trust, create a more profound relationship and just have fun together. It also lets you attempt poses which you otherwise may not have performed alone.
Luckily, you don’t have to be as bendy as a pretzel to attempt many partner poses. Read on for beginner, intermediate and advanced couples yoga poses. (We’ll note that you should always remember to listen to your body and make sure you’re not attempting anything beyond your limitations that could result in injury.)
easy partner yoga poses
1. Partner BreathingHow to do it:
1. Start in a seated position with your legs crossed at the ankles or shins and your backs resting against each other.
2. Rest your hands on your thighs or knees, allowing yourself to connect with your partner.
3. Notice how your breath feels as you inhale and exhale—taking particular notice of how the back of the rib cage feels against your partner’s.
4. Practice for three to five minutes.
A great place to start, this pose is an amazing way to connect with your partner and ease into more difficult poses. Even if you don’t intend on going on to do a full routine, partner breathing is a calming and effective way to center yourselves and chill out—together.
2. TempleHow to do it:
1. Start by facing each other in a standing position.
2. With your feet hip-width apart, inhale, extend your arms overhead and begin to hinge forward at the hips until you meet hands with your partner.
3. Slowly begin to forward fold, bringing your elbows, forearms and hands so they rest against each other.
4. Rest equal weight against each other.
5. Hold for five to seven breaths, then slowly walk toward each other, bringing your torso upright and releasing your arms down.
This pose helps to open the shoulders and chest, which primes your upper body for more taxing positions. Beyond that, it just feels really good.
3. Partner Forward FoldHow to do it:
1. From a seated position facing each other, extend your legs out to form a wide ‘V’ shape, with kneecaps facing straight up and the soles of your feet touching.
2. Extend your arms toward each other, holding opposite palm to forearm.
3. Inhale and lengthen up through the spine.
4. Exhale as one person folds forward from the hips and the other sits back, keeping their spine and arms straight.
5. Relax in the pose for five to seven breaths.
6. To come out of the pose, release each other’s arms and bring torsos upright. Repeat in the opposite direction, bringing your partner into the forward fold.
This pose is an amazing hamstring opener, and can be very soothing if you really relax into the forward fold and relish those five to seven breaths before swapping positions with your partner.
4. Seated TwistHow to do it:
1. Begin the pose sitting back-to-back with your legs crossed.
2. Place your right hand on your partner’s left thigh and your left hand on your own right knee. Your partner should position themselves the same way.
3. Inhale while you stretch your spine and twist as you exhale.
4. Hold for four to six breaths, untwist and repeat after switching the sides.
Like solo twisting motions, this pose helps stretch the spine and improve digestion, aiding in cleansing and detoxifying the body. (Don’t worry if your back cracks a little bit as you twist—especially if you’re not fully warmed up, it’s normal.)
5. Backbend/Forward FoldHow to do it:
1. Sitting back to back with your legs crossed, communicate who will fold forward and who will come into a backbend.
2. The person folding forward will reach their hands forward and either rest their forehead down on the mat or place it on a block for support. The person doing a backbend will lean back on their partner’s back and open the front of their heart and chest.
3. Breathe deeply here and see if you can feel each other’s breaths.
4. Stay in this pose for five breaths, and switch when you’re both ready.
Another pose that allows you and your partner to stretch different parts of your body, this combines to yoga classics, the backbend and forward fold, which are both wonderful for warming yourself up to try harder poses.
6. Standing Forward FoldHow to do it:
1. Begin standing, facing away from your partner, with your heels about six inches apart
2. Fold forward. Reach your hands behind your legs to take hold of the front of your partner’s shins.
3. Hold for five breaths then release.
This is an excellent way to deepen your forward fold without fear of falling over, since your partner is supporting you and you’re supporting them.
7. Partner SavasanaHow to do it:
1. Lay flat on your backs, hand in hand.
2. Allow yourselves to enjoy a deep relaxation.
3. Relax here for five to ten minutes.
We don’t know about you, but Savasana is one of our favorite parts of any yoga class. This final relaxation is an important time for the body and nervous system to get calm down and really feel the effects of your practice. When done with a partner, Savasana allows you to sense the physical and energetic connection and support between you.
intermediate partner yoga poses
8. Twin TreeHow to do it:
1. Begin this pose by standing next to each other, looking in the same direction.
2. Stand a few feet apart, bring the palms of the inner arms together and draw them upwards.
2. Begin to draw both of your outer legs by bending the knee and touch the bottom of your foot to the thighs of your inner standing leg.
3. Balance this pose for five to eight breaths and then release slowly.
4. Repeat the pose by facing the opposite direction.
Tree pose, or Vrikshasana, can be a difficult pose to do perfectly when you’re alone. But twin tree pose, which involves two people, should give you both some extra support and balance to really nail it.
9. Back-to-Back ChairHow to do it:
1. Stand back to back with your partner with your feet hip width apart and then slowly walk out your feet a little and lean into your partners back for support. You can interlace your arms with each other for stability if you feel comfortable to do so.
2. Slowly, squat down into a chair pose (your knees should be directly over your ankles). You may need to adjust your feet further out so you can achieve the chair pose.
3. Keep pushing against each other’s backs for stability.
4. Hold this pose for a few breaths, and then slowly come back up and walk your feet in.
Feel the burn, are we right? This pose strengthens your quads and your trust in your partner, since you’re literally leaning on each other to keep from falling.
10. Boat PoseHow to do it:
1. Begin by sitting on opposite sides of the mat, keeping the legs together. Hold your partner’s hands outside your hips.
2. Keeping your spine straight, raise your legs and touch your sole to your partner’s. Try to find balance as you straighten your legs up to the sky.
3. You can start practicing this pose by straightening only one leg at a time, until you find the balance.
4. Stay in this pose for five breaths.
Don’t worry if you can’t balance with both feet touching your partner’s—you’ll still get a great stretch with just one foot touching (and the more you practice, the sooner you’ll get both feet in the air).
advanced partner yoga poses
11. Double Downward DogHow to do it:
1. Both start in a tabletop position, shoulders over wrists, one in front of the other. Walk your knees and feet back five or six inches, tucking toes under so you are on the balls of the feet.
2. On an exhale, lift sit bones upward and bring the body into a traditional downward dog pose.
3. Begin to slowly walk feet and hands back until it is accessible to gently walk your feet to the outside of their lower back, finding the back of their hips until you are both in a stable and comfortable position.
4. Communicate with each other as you move through the transitions, making sure each person is completely comfortable with how far you’re pushing yourselves.
5. Hold for five to seven breaths, then have your partner slowly bend knees, lowering hips down toward tabletop, then child’s pose, as you slowly release feet to the floor. You can repeat with the opposite person as the “base” down dog.
This is a gentle inversion that brings length in the spine. It also inspires communication and closeness. This down dog partner pose feels great for both people, since the person on the bottom gets a lower-back release and hamstring stretch, while the person on top gets to work on their upper-body strength in preparation for doing handstands.
12. Double PlankHow to do it:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Hold this pose for three to five breaths, and then carefully step down one foot at a time.
This exercise, which can be considered a beginner’s AcroYoga pose, requires physical strength and communication between you and your partner.