Leah Gruber is a personal trainer, nutrition advisor and anti-gravity yoga fundamentals instructor (www.leahgruberfit.com)
Exploring partner poses can be a fun variation to your stretching and yoga routine because when you incorporate another person, it can help you get deeper into your stretches by adding some gentle pressure. All you need to do is breathe, relax and dive deeper into stretching yoga poses with a friend. Before you begin, you must both know that communication is of the utmost importance so don’t be afraid to ask for a little help.
As an aerialist and yogi, I’ve always found my stretching routine very important. I’ve needed to increase my flexibility for new skills and performing. There are times when I feel my stretching has plateaued, so that’s when I reach out to friends for a little help. With the use of their body weight I can feel myself opening in places that I’m normally very tight or lengthening in places I’m normally a little compressed. Some of these postures may be fun to do in place of stretching and for others these stretches may offer a way to increase flexibility.
Before starting, you want to warm up your body with a couple of sun salutations. Stretching in a heated room will also aid in warming up your muscles and joints. The warmer your body is, the deeper you can stretch and the less prone to injury you are. Slowly get out of the stretches. Take your time to lengthen, breathe, and feel your muscles. As you and your partner work together, focus on your breathing, allow your muscles to relax and your body to melt.
Before you stretch, make sure you follow these rules of engagement
Talk to your partner
Set boundaries before you start
Engage in deep breathing
Always ask before you touch
Listen to your body. Avoid sharp pain.
Consult with a doctor before any stretching routine
- Partner Right Angle Pose
What’s Stretched: Shoulders, upper back, hamstrings
Give yourself enough distance from your partner so that when you lean forward your hands are on their shoulders. Slowly open up your shoulders and move your chest to the ground into a right-angle pose. If you feel too crowded (like your heads are touching) take a step away from each other. Take turns having one person’s hands on the inside and then the other and feel how the stretch is slightly different.
- Forward Fold Compression
What’s Stretched: Lower back, upper back, calves, hamstrings
One person starts in a forward fold position and the top person will give weight. This can be done in a couple of different ways. If the person has a tight forward fold and doesn’t have much flexion forward, you may start with hands on the lower back giving them pressure. Otherwise you can lay your body on top either stomach or back first. I prefer to lay stomach first then I can use my hands to balance and adjust the weight of my body on my partner’s.
- Partner Seated Twist
What’s Stretched: Lower back, upper back, chest
Sitting back-to-back, legs crossed, lift up through your spine, and both turn in the same direction. Look over your shoulder, press into your hands, and breathe. Your outside arm should be on the outside of your thigh and inside arm should be on the inside of your partner’s thigh.
- Seated Straddle Stretch
What’s Stretched: Hamstrings, lower back, inner thighs, groin
Sit facing each other with your legs spread so that the soles of your feet touch. Connect with your partner wrist-to-wrist and one at a time stretch forward and down as the other person gently pulls you forward. Make sure you hold this stretch and breathe before switching roles.
If your partner is very flexible and you don’t feel a stretch in this position you may want to get behind them and gently push their hips and lower back forward into the ground.