Unless you’re doing acro yoga, the only touching that normally happens in class is a teacher or assistant giving an adjustment. So I’m always a little uncomfortable when the words “Find a partner” come out of the teacher’s mouth.
If you happen to bring a friend to class, great. For most people, you’ve arrived solo. Maybe you’ve said a shy “Hi” and “How are you?” to a few people. But ugh… partner work?
I’ll give you a few examples of how this partner work has gone down.
A few exercises have to do with uncomfortably looking at each other and sharing your intention or a goal or some experience. Eye contact + sharing with a stranger gets about a 2 out of 10 on the I-don’t-like-it scale.
In a prenatal class, we got in groups of 3 to help find back relief in a supported warrior III. One person is pulling at the forearms. One person is holding and gently pulling the back leg. And one lucky person asks herself, “When was the last time I shaved my legs?” This gets about a 3 on the scale – maybe 5 if you find yourself being the hairy one.
In an exercise of breath control and remembering to engage core muscles, we partnered up, sitting cross-legged and facing each other. As one person practiced “breath of fire” with quick, shallow exhales, the other person was to place their thumbs just above the belly button while holding the waist. I was paired with a man 20 years older than me. I don’t like to be touched by strange men.
At an inversions workshop, we did a lot of partner work to help find balance in handstand. We were told to find someone of about the same stature, and it soon became very clear why. For one exercise, we helped each other get into and HOLD handstand by having them squeeze their inner thighs against our fists. Can you picture it yet? The act of engaging the leg and core muscles to squeeze against a fist held between your thighs surprisingly gives enough stability to maintain the inversion. Never mind that someone has a fist in an awkward location…
I think I’ve heard a collective groan at every instance when “find a partner” became part of the day’s activities. But you know what? Sometimes, having a partner really does help deepen the practice or add a new perspective, if you can get past the awkwardness. And maybe this is another way yoga teaches us to deal with uncomfortable situations and keep breathing. What do you think?