Posted on 15th February, 2014 written by Clare Holt
Compared to 30 years ago, most of us have heard of or experienced Yoga to some degree, whether simply through word of mouth, or by attending any one of the growing number of Yoga classes and activities that are now available. We all know that Yoga is good for us, but often the real benefits are not fully understood, and can often be much further reaching that we previously might have thought; this can be especially true when practicing partner Yoga.
Partner Yoga is unique in the practice overall, because it is designed around two people working on form together to achieve mental and physical wellbeing through the practice itself. Partner Yoga itself is actually a fairly new form of Yoga - an evolution in some respects, that allows the practice of Yoga to become an intimate and shared experience. As a result, this new form is popular with couples, but also with friends, family members, and so on, and can generate a great deal of trust and companionship between practitioners. It’s also a great way to get involved for beginners, as working with a partner instantly helps to break down inhibitions. There are numerous theories as to when partner yoga was actually formalised, and some sources suggest that the practice can be traced back to the 4th Century. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that Western practitioners really became aware of this style. Yoga is known for it’s numerous health benefits, and partner Yoga is no exception here, but also offers a unique approach, in that including those we care about in the practice can pass on these benefits as a shard experience.
The very practice of Yoga itself is hugely beneficial to our physical wellbeing. The practice encourages suppleness in joints, relaxation of muscles and an overall improvement of posture. These alone can be great reasons for people with tension in their bodies, often manifested as slightly restricted physical movements as a result of lack of muscle use to get involved, as Yoga actively encourages and exercises all parts of the body. It can also be excellent for sufferers of a number of medical conditions, such as chronic back pain for example. Other benefits include lowered blood pressure, and even weight loss. Although the practice is slow, there is a large amount of physical exercise contained in movements that can help burn calories. A number of global studies and research list these positives, and many more, including possibly helping to cope and recover from cancer, although more evidence based research is required in this field. Discovering the quantifiable health benefits of Yoga is an ongoing process, with more and more attention being focused on this ancient practice and the very real healing powers it contains. If someone you know has any of these physical problems, what better way to help them improve their condition and outlook than partner Yoga. Here, you both become a part of the healing process, and working with someone who understands the nature of their injury or ailment can also be very comforting for those who are suffering.
In addition to the numerous physical benefits we can gain through practicing Yoga, there are also a large amount of positive impacts that affect general mental wellbeing, and mental health. Prisoners in the UK for example, recently underwent a study were they participated in Yoga classes for 10 weeks. They were then asked to comment on their overall mood, stress levels, and behavioural attitudes. The study found that overall, prisoners felt much better, less stressed, and had improved behaviour after the 10 week trial period. Yoga can indeed be a great stress reliever thanks to the combination of slow, careful movements and mindfulness that is required during practice. Breathing can be greatly improved, which in turn can also aid in relaxation and the reduction of stress levels. While these benefits are perfect for washing away and coping with the everyday stresses of life, there are also some significant, and wider reaching effects and implications here. Practicing Partner Yoga can be of great benefit to anyone recovering from an addiction for example, whether they’re simply stopping smoking, or recovering from a serious drug or alcohol problem. As well as the benefits Yoga itself provides, those difficult first steps can be taken with someone that is trusted, and once again, that partner becomes an active, positive element in the recovery process in addition to the actual practice itself. The resultant relaxation and stress reduction achieved through partner Yoga can also help with pain relief to some extent, and this could be of serious benefit to someone suffering from pain killer addiction or withdrawal for example.
One of the major hurdles many people face with Yoga is not related to the activity itself, but rather the perception of it. We might see for example, friends or advanced practitioners curving their bodies, or balancing in ways that we think we will never be able to achieve. This is the first problem that new comers can easily overcome, and one that partner yoga can address easily. Attending a class with a partner instantly sets both parties at ease, and makes the learning experience a fun one that both can enjoy in the security of the other. In fact, partner yoga can be the idea way to introduce a beginner to the practice. The option to continue with a partner, or start practice alone is then always present. Also, it is important to remember that practicing Yoga is not necessarily about achieving higher levels of competence. Beginner level Yoga will be just as beneficial and relaxing as advanced forms, and while progressing through the different stages of practice can be rewarding, making it the only goal can be in a sense, missing the point of Yoga altogether. Working with a partner can ensure a steady pace of development for both practitioners. In the end, finding a willing companion and a beginner class is the best way to get started, and thanks to it’s growing popularity, finding a local practice is often a lot more straight forward than you might think. Taking the first steps to a more peaceful state of mind, as well as a more healthier, responsive body that you are more in tune with is both easy, and never too far away.
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