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Why I love Partner Yoga

Why I Love Partner Yoga

As I’m drafting the landing page for an upcoming retreat featuring plenty of Partner Yoga, scheduled for the end of August in Italy, I find myself startled by an email from Catherine Price, provocatively titled “Why I hate Partner Yoga”.

Curious, I thought.

Especially since I love partner yoga, and I also admire Catherine’s book “The Power of Fun” that I’m diligently working through. Her definition of true fun as a combination of Playfulness, Flow, and Connection I find very insightful. That was why I was very surprised to read that she doesn’t just dislike Partner Yoga but hates it!


Embracing Discomfort: My Journey with Partner Yoga

 

I get much of what Catherine is saying in her article. Yoga today is pretty watered down in most studios. I find teacher trainings to be one of the reasons for this. I’m not going to go off on one on this now, however what I find a shame is that it’s SO HARD FOR US TO GO ON A RETREAT JUST FOR OUR OWN GOOD, I’m guessing that’s the popularity of teacher trainings. You can sort of avoid your own inner work, and rationalise your training as a career opportunity. When really you need to come back to yourself and listen to what makes your heart sing.

It’s this coming back to your soul the happens when we do the good inner work, that helps you hold the space for others. Partner Yoga is a delicate affair, in a western world a little “touch-a-phobic”, not helped one bit by the pandemic. While seemingly external I find is powerfully internal too.

 

Balancing Seriousness with Playfulness: The Essence of Partner Yoga

 

In my opinion, it needs to be taught in an atmosphere of fun. When we can laugh through our embarrassment too. Many yoga teachers take themselves WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. The greatest masters I’ve met don’t take themselves so seriously so much of the time. There are moments of quiet introspection.

 

Shifting Perspectives: From “Me” to “We”

 

When a group is held well, with lightness and joy, partner yoga helps us to connect. Kids touch each other all the time; it’s how they become friends. When I shift from an identity of “me” and shift into “we,” I realise how we are all connected and I can rejoice in others’ happiness and feel empathy when others are down. Rather than the opposite that most of us feel – get a reality check!

 

Confronting Shyness: Partner Yoga as a Catalyst for Growth

 

Anyway, being an introvert partner yoga challenges me to come out of myself. In the last 20 odd years, I’ve done a lot of work on my shyness. My first clown lessons were very challenging, then three years at a physical theatre school in a remote Swiss Valley I got to look at my hang ups a lot.

There is power in doing things that aren’t quite comfortable. Without being a masochist every time we do something that makes us a little embarrassed, or timid, or afraid we get a huge surge of energy back. I don’t see partner yoga as being so intense but for some folk it may be.

 

Surprises Along the Way

 

For me the art of taking someone down a path of self-discovery includes adding lots of surprises along the way, creating moments of delight as we understand who we are in the world. This is where I see partner yoga coming in. It also offers some really lovely deep stretches.

For a romantic couple, partner yoga can create some marvelous intimacy. Some really nurturing touch.

 

Why I Wouldn’t Dismiss It as Not Real Yoga

 

While I agree with Catherine that there are some really ridiculous names for yoga styles that have nothing to do with the profound goals of the tradition, becoming really all about business.

Let me tell you a little story of my 5 day Ashtanga intensive. Ashtanga makes folks a little too “hard” in my opinion. Back in 2005 I attended a 5 day intensive, I really loved pushing my body and found it a great preparation for the acrobatics I was training in Switzerland. However coming from a more – listening in to yourself – style of yoga. We need to balance the motor part of our brain and the SENSORY part, to become a bit more human. At the end of the 90-minute session, I sat down calmly, while nearly everyone else was already off to do something else, I chanted three Oms and the whole benefit of the practice came flooding back to me. I was in a state of pure presence. It seemed to me that everyone had missed the deep benefits of the practice. Expect one lady, who’d remained there and came up to me saying how much those three oms had touched her.

In a retreat setting I do feel that we need to alternate group and individual sessions. It’s this alternating that creates such a liberating effect.

 

Balancing Seriousness with Playfulness: The Essence of Partner Yoga

 

In my opinion, it needs to be taught in an atmosphere of fun. When we can laugh through our embarrassment too. Many yoga teachers take themselves WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. The greatest masters I’ve met don’t take themselves so seriously so much of the time. There are moments of quiet introspection.

 

Shifting Perspectives: From “Me” to “We”

 

When a group is held well, with lightness and joy, partner yoga helps us to connect. Kids touch each other all the time; it’s how they become friends. When I shift from an identity of “me” and shift into “we,” I realise how we are all connected and I can rejoice in others’ happiness and feel empathy when others are down. Rather than the opposite that most of us feel – get a reality check!

 

Confronting Shyness: Partner Yoga as a Catalyst for Growth

 

Anyway, being an introvert partner yoga challenges me to come out of myself. In the last 20 odd years, I’ve done a lot of work on my shyness. My first clown lessons were very challenging, then three years at a physical theatre school in a remote Swiss Valley I got to look at my hang ups a lot.

There is power in doing things that aren’t quite comfortable. Without being a masochist every time we do something that makes us a little embarrassed, or timid, or afraid we get a huge surge of energy back. I don’t see partner yoga as being so intense but for some folk it may be.

 

Surprises Along the Way

 

For me the art of taking someone down a path of self-discovery includes adding lots of surprises along the way, creating moments of delight as we understand who we are in the world. This is where I see partner yoga coming in. It also offers some really lovely deep stretches.

For a romantic couple, partner yoga can create some marvellous intimacy. Some really nurturing touch.

 

Why I Wouldn’t Dismiss It as Not Real Yoga

 

While I agree with Catherine that there are some really ridiculous names for yoga styles that have nothing to do with the profound goals of the tradition, becoming really all about business.

Let me tell you a little story of my 5 day Ashtanga intensive. Ashtanga makes folks a little too “hard” in my opinion. Back in 2005 I attended a 5 day intensive, I really loved pushing my body and found it a great preparation for the acrobatics I was training in Switzerland. However coming from a more – listening in to yourself – style of yoga. We need to balance the motor part of our brain and the SENSORY part, to become a bit more human. At the end of the 90-minute session, I sat down calmly, while nearly everyone else was already off to do something else, I chanted three Oms and the whole benefit of the practice came flooding back to me. I was in a state of pure presence. It seemed to me that everyone had missed the deep benefits of the practice. Expect one lady, who’d remained there and came up to me saying how much those three oms had touched her.

In a retreat setting I do feel that we need to alternate group and individual sessions. It’s this alternating that creates such a liberating effect.

 

The Importance of Touch

 

Ok. So there are folk that can suck your energy. That’s why classes around touch need to be lighthearted and fun. When folk free up inhibitions and stickiness, they are less likely to need to steal your energy!

Research has shown that newborns that aren’t touched die! Die. That’s crazy, perhaps more complex than that bold statement of course.

We are craving touch and much violence in the world comes from a deprivation of touch (and of course deprivation of play) I’m sure of it. 

Cats and dogs can also satisfy the need for touch so perhaps mammal touch would be better to say, though it sounds a bit odd! Also I love to stroke my chickens!

If you say something to someone, and then say the same thing with a hand on the shoulder or arm, your true intention comes across more, your warmth comes across, and anything that may have been seen as a criticism or attack loses that hard edge.

I grew up in England. Folk don’t touch each other much there, though in recent years people tend to hug each other more, though they are quite stiff hugs, not really sharing your love for the other by feeling a connection. I’ve lived in Italy for a long time now and folk are much more open to physical contact, releasing more that they need it!

For men, our partners need to be touched. They might not like your touch if you are not PRESENT. Touch doesn’t equate to sex. That’s another thing. We could really do with disassociating these two.

Years ago I adventured in some FREE HUGGING, it was a wonderful experience that really opened my heart. Hugs are so important for our overall health and enjoyment.

We have become touch-a-phobic and I don’t think it’s good for our health.

Human touch is important for several reasons, both physiological and psychological


Stress Reduction

Human touch has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. Physical contact, such as hugging or holding hands, can promote feelings of relaxation and calmness, leading to reduced stress and anxiety.

Emotional Support
Touch can convey empathy, compassion, and emotional support. A comforting hug or a reassuring pat on the back can provide solace during difficult times, offering a sense of connection and understanding.

Communication and Bonding
Touch is one of the earliest forms of communication we experience as humans. From the moment we are born, touch is used to convey love, comfort, and security. It helps establish bonds between individuals, whether it’s between parents and children, romantic partners, or friends.

Pain Relief:
Touch has analgesic (pain-relieving) effects, as it stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Think of a mother’s instinct to want to put their hands on anything sore. Massage therapy is often used to alleviate muscular tension and reduce pain.

Promotes Development
Human touch is crucial for the healthy development of infants and children. Skin-to-skin contact between caregivers and babies, for instance, has been linked to improved weight gain, better sleep patterns, and enhanced cognitive development.

Boosts Immune Function
Studies suggest that regular human touch can boost the immune system. Positive social interactions, including physical touch, may enhance immune function by reducing feelings of loneliness and promoting overall well-being.

Enhances Relationships
Physical touch plays a significant role in intimate relationships by fostering intimacy, trust, and connection between partners. Regular physical contact, such as cuddling or holding hands, helps maintain closeness and strengthens the bond between individuals.

Research Insights on Human Touch and Connection

If you’re really not convinced 🙂 here are a few studies that highlight the importance of human touch and social connections for health and well-being:

Study on Hugs and Stress Reduction:

  • Study: Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R. B., & Doyle, W. J. (2014). Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness. Psychological Science, 26(2), 135–147. Link
  • Summary: This study investigated whether perceived social support, including physical touch (such as hugging), could buffer against stress and illness. The findings suggested that perceived social support, including frequent hugs, was associated with reduced susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and illness symptoms during periods of stress.

Benefits of Touch and Massage Therapy:

  • Study: Field, T. (1998). Massage Therapy Effects. American Psychologist, 53(12), 1270–1281. Link
  • Summary: This comprehensive review discusses the effects of massage therapy on various aspects of physical and mental health. It covers research findings related to stress reduction, pain relief, immune function, and psychological well-being associated with massage therapy. While not specifically focused on hugs, it provides valuable insights into the broader benefits of tactile stimulation and touch-based interventions.

Longitudinal Study on Social Relationships and Mortality:

  • Study: Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7), e1000316. Link
  • Summary: This meta-analytic review examined the association between social relationships and mortality risk. The findings indicated that individuals with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival compared to those with weaker social ties. While this study didn’t focus specifically on physical touch, it underscores the importance of social connections for overall health and longevity.


If you’re curious about Catherine’s perspective, you can read her article here.

Join me for an enriching journey into the world of playfulness and yoga at my 5-day Community Yoga and Playfulness Retreat in Italy, from August 27th to September 1st. 🌟 More details coming very soon!

But first, mark your calendars for April 4th, where I’ll be hosting my FREE signature workshop “Breaking All Your Rules – Transform your Life and Work through the Power of Play” 💫

Sign up to my mailing list at www.Anthonytrahair.com to stay informed about future events!

And guess what? This workshop is just the beginning.

Following its success, I’ll be launching a 4-week course dedicated to helping you discover Your Brilliant, Authentic, Playful self! 🎉 Interested?
We commence on the 8th of April
Find out more at https://anthonytrahair.com/playful-self/.

So, whether it’s breaking free from rules or diving deep into the path of playfulness, I’ve got you covered. Let’s embark on this journey together! 🌈
Cheers for now, Anthony

Love to hear your thoughts.

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