As we’re socially distancing to help flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming our medical system, so many of us are trying to find ways to keep fit and stay entertained at home. I asked my community what I could do to serve them (you) right now, and got lots of requests for couples yoga. Unfortunately, I know from experience that it can be really tough to get your partner into yoga, so I put together an accessible and fun sequence that you, the more knowledgeable yogi, can teach to your partner and work on together.
First, as Adriene says, “Hop into something comfy.” (If you don’t know her work, I can’t recommend her content enough for an at-home yoga practice, and she has videos for beginners,too.) Pajamas work! If you have a yoga mat, you can use it, but you can also practice on the carpet or floor. Just make sure you have a towel or blanket handy to put under the knees.
Second, try not to laugh at your partner. Appreciate that they are willing to try something you love, and that they are trusting you to guide them. When either of you gets frustrated, take a breath, and come back to the pose. Remember, it's called yoga practice, not yoga perfect.
I love this sequence because it releases pent up energy and emotion, and it builds up to crow pose (an arm balance!) which is a quick win for lots of – though not all – new yogis.
Here we go!
• Start in easy-seated pose with your legs crossed. Take a few head and neck stretches, and then walk your hands forward and bow your head. Start to notice the breath, gently lengthening and deepening it, using the inhale to widen the shoulder blades, and the exhale to deepen the stretch. Slowly lift up, just to change the crossing of the legs, and head on back down for the stretch. Go for 5 breaths on each side.
• Sit up, and lean back into a boat pose. Any kind of core work here is great. I like inhaling to a low, stretched out boat pose, and exhaling to come up. Sometimes I add in a little twist, too.
• Come into a table top position, wrists under the shoulders, knees under the hips. If the knees are sore, put a folded blanket under them, or double over your yoga mat. Inhale to arch your back (cow pose) and exhale to round the spine (cat pose). Play around here, just getting warmed up. I like to work in a side stretch, bringing one shoulder toward the hip and stretching through the opposite side of my body.
• Make your way to downward-facing dog. Take a break to check out your partner and help them master this pose. Newbies often end up in a half-plank-half-down-dog here, so show them how to move in and out of those poses. Plank to down dog to plank to down dog… breathing through each transition.
• Instead of pushing them to do a vinyasa practice, let go of the flowy transitions for today, and simply walk your hands towards your feet, taking a forward fold before rolling up to standing. Turn sideways on your mat and take a wide stance.
• Turn one foot out for Warrior 2: front knee is bent, and that foot is in line with the back foot. Arms out, gaze over the front fingertips. Back to a wide legged stance, then try the other side. You can throw in some dancing warriors or side-angle pose here if you like.
• For more of a challenge, and to build some heat, you can add in some side lunges (skandasana), with finger tips on the ground or hands in prayer at the heart.
• Take a squat with the hands at the heart. Heels can be lifted! If it's really challenging, and you have some blocks or some books handy, you can prop of their heels.
• Now, time for the arm balance! Place your hands in front of you on the mat, shoulder distance apart, fingertips facing forward, not sideways. Lift your hips, and get your knees onto your triceps, or right up into your armpits. Inhale, and on the exhale, look forward (not down, or you'll likely end up somersaulting!) and pick one foot up off the floor. On the next exhale, try lifting the second foot. Then switch, trying the opposite side first. If you manage to get both feet up, simply breathe and stay chill. The steadier you keep your gaze and your breath and your attention, the less likely you’ll be to fall. If you do fall, have an attitude of playfulness about it, and try again!
• Once you and your partner are done playing with crow pose, return to the seated cross-legged posture from the beginning of the sequence, sitting back to back. Take a gentle twist by turning to your right and placing your right hand on their left knee (they can do the same to you). On the inhale lift up, in the exhale, amplify the twist. Switch sides, for five to ten breaths on each side.
• End with an extended child’s pose. You can help your partner in this pose by positioning your shins against their lower back, on either side of the sacrum, and your hands can be supported by their mid or upper back (depends where you can reach!). Encourage them to expand their upper back on the inhale, and to allow themselves to sink deeper into the pose on the exhale. Pay attention and ask them how it feels: do they want more pressure, or is it too intense? Stay for at least 3 breaths, and up to 10 breaths.
• Give your partner a little namaste/prayer bow, and a big high five! Thank them for letting you share something you love, and then let them share their passion with you!
P.S. I made a playlist to go along with this sequence! If you want to see this sequence in action, check out my Instagram highlights for Yoga & Wellness. See below for the classic stick-figure version.