If you prefer yoga as a social activity, you may be interested in partner yoga.
Whether you practice with your significant other, your sibling, or your friend, partner yoga is a great way to establish trust and connection.
“Alone we can do so little together we can do so much”Helen Keller
What is Partner Yoga?
In short, partner yoga is a yogic practice adapted for two people. It uses a variety of techniques designed to encourage teamwork and connection.
Since it requires two participants, partner yoga is also known as tandem yoga.
Partner yoga poses can include two people mirroring each other in the same asana, or using their connection to counter balance one another.
In the case of the former, participants tend to share a point of contact or lean on each other for support.
Partner yoga can be performed in a private, intimate setting, or in a group class. Classes are a great place to start, since the teacher is there to guide the participants and ensure that they practice safely.
Physical Benefits of Partner Yoga Poses for Two
Just as many other types of yoga, partner yoga comes with a plethora of physical benefits for both parties.
Depending on the yoga poses for two you perform, you could enjoy the following physical benefits:
Flexibility. One of the most renowned “side effects” of yoga practice is the increase in muscle elasticity and range of motion in the joints. Partner yoga is no exception! In fact, some yoga poses are especially advantageous due to the presence of a practice partner.
Balance. Many partner yoga poses focus on participants creating mutual balance. In some cases, this is achieved through relying on each other for support, in other poses the participants lean in opposing directions to counter balance one another.
Physical strength. Yoga can be challenging enough on your own, now imagine supporting another person throughout the practice! It doesn’t necessarily mean bearing the entire weight of your partner. However, it does require extra engagement in certain mucles depending on the pose you are performing together.
Coordination. We use our coordination skills on a daily basis, but we normally apply it to our surroundings. Working closely with another person, especially in a scenario where partners rely on each other for balance and support, can take your spatial awareness to a whole new level!
Other Benefits of Partner Yoga Poses for Two
One of the main reasons partner yoga became popular are the mental and emotional advantages that it offers to the practitioners.
In a way, these benefits are even more important than the physical skills that you learn from this practice. Many of the following qualities can be applied beyond the yoga mat to improve other areas of your life.
Trust. Practicing yoga with another person requires a level of trust. Both participants must find it in them to open up to their partner. It may be a difficult leap to make at first, especially when you practice with someone you don’t know too well, but the more you practice, the more trust you can build.
Communication. Another major difference from the more conventional types of yoga is that yoga poses for two only work if communication is part of the process. Even if your communication skills are not up to par to begin with, practicing partner yoga poses regularly is a great way to improve them.
Emotional connection. Putting your trust in someone and establishing a line of open and honest communication goes a long way. Combined with physical contact and explicit support, tandem yoga poses can help you build a close connection to the person you practice with.
Teamwork. Another fantastic benefit of partner yoga is the skill to work closely and efficiently with another person. However challenging it may be, partner yoga teaches you to embrace teamwork in order to achieve a mutual goal.
Empathy. Partner practice allows both parties to put themselves into the other person’s shoes. As a result, it creates an excellent opportunity to learn to be more understanding and compassionate by performing yoga poses with another person.
How do benefits of partner yoga apply in real life?
As well as establishing explicit and long-term trust with the person you practice with, partner yoga could inspire you to be more trusting in general.
This practice really goes to show that sometimes you need to give the people around you the benefit of a doubt, and allow them a chance to prove themselves.
If you haven’t practiced it before, partner yoga could be a great way to connect with your family. This is especially relevant to families or couples that may not be able to spend much time together.
This type of close connection is especially important for families with children on autism spectrum. One of the common characteristics of autism is difficulty to communicate, occasionally stemming from the fact that the child is non-verbal.
While it may not work for everyone, partner yoga is a worthy avenue to explore as a mean of connecting with family members.
Finally, empathy, teamwork and communication are valuable characteristics in every part of life, from your job to your friendships and romantic relationships.
How to choose your partner?
There is no real limit as to whom you can practice with. Your partner could be anyone willing to give it a try!
Some people prefer to practice partner yoga with someone they already know and trust. For example, you may choose to practice with your romantic partner, close friend, sibling, parent or child.
However, that’s not the only option! You can just as well practice partner yoga with a complete stranger. This can be a great way to get out of your comfort zone and make connections with new people.
What is the difference between partner yoga and acro yoga?
Truthfully, these terms can sometimes be used interchangeably. For instance, when acro yoga is performed by two people either mirroring or counter balancing each other.
Some may argue that acro yoga is just a subcategory of partner yoga that requires more physical effort to perform the acrobatic aspect of the tandem yoga poses.
One way to think about it is by defining these types of yoga through the roles performed by the participants. In acro yoga, there are two clearly defined “jobs”. The base stays in contact with the ground, carrying the weight of the other person (or people), while the flyer is the person performing feats of balance and flexibility at the top.
In partner yoga, participants usually share an equal amount of effort. It is also more common for both parties to have continuous grounding contact.
Acro yoga involves a minimum of two participants, but the number of people involved can be as high as five or six. In partner yoga, it is rare to see poses that feature more than two people.
What are the risks of partner yoga?
Along with the standard risks that come with yoga practice, you must be prepared to navigate the limitations of another person by your side.
You may be perfectly in tune with your own body, but it is very important to be aware of your partner’s comfort as well.
This is where continuous communication comes into play. If any part of the practice is causing you or your partner discomfort, you must be able to inform each other immediately and adjust accordingly.
What to expect from a partner yoga class?
If you’ve never practiced partner yoga before, the best place to get started is a dedicated partner yoga class.
Most classes allow you to come with the person you intend to practice with, as well as on your own.
Using their best judgement, the teacher will normally assign partners to anyone who came alone. Depending on the prospective contents of the class, they may pair people up according to their height, strengths, or experience.
If you have a request (such as having a partner of the same gender) you should tell the teacher in advance.
In cases when there are an odd number of people in the class, the teacher may assign students into groups of 3-4 people, or act as a partner to the person without one.
Best Easy Yoga Poses For Two
The best thing about partner yoga is that it is very versatile. There are plenty of yoga poses for 2 that are suitable for complete beginners and even people with mobility issues.
Back-to-back Easy Pose Twist
This is a beautiful partner yoga pose for practitioners of every level. It doesn’t require any prior experience, and can be adapted to accommodate lack of flexibility or certain injuries.
Pose type: seated, twist, mirrored
Targets: posture, hips, shoulders, chest and neck
Step-by-step Instructions for Back-to-back easy pose twist
Sit with your legs crossed back-to-back with your partner.
Reach your right hand to your partner’s left knee, and place your left hand on your own right knee. Allow your partner to do the same.
Twist to the right and have your partner do the same, so that you’re twisting in opposite directions but using each other for support.
Turn your head and bring your gaze to your right. Take some time to breathe in unison with your partner.
Communicate with your partner when you would like to exit the twist and perform it on the other side.
Tips and variations:
This pose works best for partners of a similar size. However, adaptations can be made to level the playing field. For example, the smaller partner may sit on a yoga block if desired.
Those who struggle with tension in the hips and groin may experience discomfort. The easiest way to deal with it is to prop the knees with yoga blocks, rolled-up towels or blankets.
Side-to-side Tree Pose
Balance is always easier when you’re standing firmly on two feet or when you have something to hold onto. In case of this partner version of Tree Pose (Vrksasana) you can do both!
Standing side by side with your partner, you can rely on each other for balance and embrace that supportive connection.
Pose type: standing, balance, mirrored
Targets: hips, glutes, ankles, balance
Step-by-step Instructions for Side-to-side Tree Pose
With your partner at your right side, stretch your right arm to hug them by the waist. Your partner should mirror your actions.
Transfer your weight into your right foot. Bend your left leg and open your hip to the side.
Slide or place your left foot along the inner side of your right leg. This could be anywhere from your ankle to your inner thigh. Focus on keeping the knee facing out.
At the same time or immediately after, your partner should come into tree pose standing on their left leg.
Finally, bring your left hand towards the space between you and connect with your partner’s right palm in a prayer mudra.
Stay in the pose for a few breaths, adjusting as needed. Support your partner when exiting the pose and don’t forget to repeat this variation on the other side.
Tips and variations:
If both you and your partner normally struggle with balance, you may take an additional precaution and perform this pose with your back against the wall for support.
An alternative option is to keep the toes of the non-standing leg on the floor or a yoga block.
Child’s Pose + Reclined Bound Angle
This asymmetrical partner yoga pose is both accessible and enjoyable. The participants take turns to perform complementary asanas with mutual support.
One person gets the chance to relax their shoulders and decompress their spine in Child’s Pose (Balasana), while their partner uses their rounded back as a prop for Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana).
Pose type: resting, reclined, complementary
Targets: spine, shoulders, hips, and groin
Step-by-step Instructions for Child’s Pose + Reclined Bound Angle
The first person should start in kneeling position, ready for Child’s Pose. It’s up to them which variation they perform, as long as it is comfortable and sustainable.
Once the first person is established in Balasana, their partner can take a seat facing away from them.
Then, the second person can find a comfortable variation of Bound Angle, bringing their feet together close to the body, and allowing the knees to drop towards the ground.
Communicating with their partner in Child’s Pose, the second person can begin to slowly recline. Once they are resting on their partner’s back, it may take a moment to get established in a way that is comfortable for both parties.
Since both of these yoga poses are restorative, the participants can stay in them as long as desired before swapping roles.
Tips and variations:
Feel free to use any props you find necessary. For example, you may be more comfortable in Child’s Pose with a folded blanket under your forehead. Equally, if your hips feel tight in Baddha Konasana, you can prop your knees up with blocks or blankets.
Since neither of the participants can see the other person, it is very important to communicate with your partner in this two person pose.
Child’s Pose + Standing Forward Fold
Another complementary combination, this partner pose allows both participants to be more grounded and comfortable in their respective asanas.
This pose is best performed at the end of the session to help the parties wind down. It combines the decompression effect of the Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) and the relaxation of Child’s Pose (Balasana).
Pose type: standing, kneeling, forward fold, complementary
Targets: spine, lower back, hamstrings, and shoulders
Step-by-step Instructions for Child’s Pose + Standing Forward Fold
The participants start facing each other, one person standing upright (Tadasana), the second person kneeling in front of them.
The second person can start to sink their hips back and extend their arms into Child’s Pose. At the end of their reach, they should be able to grab hold of the standing person’s ankles.
Meanwhile, the first person can start folding at the hip, placing their hands on their partner’s shoulders or lower back.
Tips and variations:
Before any pressure is applied, the person in Child’s Pose should be as comfortable as possible. If need be, they can use props or modifications.
It is extremely important for the parties to communicate while performing this complementary yoga pose in order to avoid discomfort or injury.
Seated Cat/Cow Pose
This beautiful iteration of the classic spinal mobility sequence allows you to work in unison with your partner, and even help each other extend the range of movement in the Seated Cat/Cow.
Pose type: seated, backbend, heart-opener
Targets: back, shoulders, neck and chest
Step-by-step Instructions for Seated Cat/Cow
Sit facing each other with your legs crossed. Extend your arms towards each other grasping the other person’s wrists with a firm grip.
On an inhale, arch your back and lift your heart, leaning slightly backwards to create a pulling sensation in your arms.
At the same time, you partner should exhale and round their spine, once again pulling backwards.
With your next breath, swap roles with your partner. As they inhale and arch their back, you ought to exhale and curve your spine.
Continue alternating between two yoga poses in complementary fashion, breathing steadily and trying to match your partner’s movement.
Tips and variations:
Make sure to create a little bit of distance between you and your partner so that your arms are fully extended when both of you sit upright.
Counterbalance Chair Pose
Chair Pose (Utkatasana) requires equal parts balance and lower body strength. This partner variation makes use of the backwards “siting down” motion.
The participants pull away from each other, creating an effective counter balance. All that’s left is to focus on form and endurance!
Pose type: standing, balance, counter balance
Targets: ankles, quadriceps, core, and back
Step-by-step Instructions for counterbalance chair pose
Stand facing your partner, about a foot apart. Link your hands or wrap your hands around each other’s wrists for a more secure grip.
Keep your feet together, central lines of the feet parallel with one another.
Communicating with your partner, start pulling away from each other, lowering the seat and bending the knees until the thighs are approximately parallel to the ground.
Make sure neither yourself nor your partner pulls too far in their favor, in order to maintain equilibrium.
Tips and variations:
Due to the nature of this pose, it is best performed by partners of approximately the same size.
However, if one partner is significantly larger than the other, the smaller person may need to pull back further to leverage their mew delicate frame.
Best Intermediate Yoga Poses for Two
If you and your partner are in the mood to increase the intensity of yoga poses you perform together, try one of the following yoga poses for 2.
Double Boat Pose
Even a standard, singular Boat Pose (Navasana) can feel quite challenging, especially for the core, hip flexors and quadriceps.
The partner variation of Boat Pose may not require as much strength, but it still requires balance and double the amount of coordination.
Pose type: seated, balance, mirrored
Targets: core, hip flexors, quadriceps
Step-by-step Instructions for Double Boat Pose
Sit facing each other with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Reach your arms forward and hold hands with your partner. Flex your ankles and press the balls of your feet against your partner’s feet.
Carefully lean back and away from each other, taking care not to pull too much in either direction.
Lift your feet off the floor, extending them towards the sky and balancing on your sit bones, as your partner mirrors your actions.
Tips and variations:
Once again, this is one of those yoga poses for two people that is much easier if the partners have a similar height and build.
If you and your partner are finding it difficult to extend the legs forward, holding hands may be a step too far. The alternative to that would be to connect with your partner using a pair of yoga straps.
This way, you can either keep your knees bent, or float your legs lower to the ground.
Back-to-back Warrior I
A strong standing pose, Warrior I (Virabhadrasana) can have even more impact as a partner asana.
One element of this posture is a proud, open heart, which you can take to the next level working with another person.
Pose type: standing, mirrored
Targets: legs, ankles, hips, shoulders, and chest
Step-by-step Instructions for Back-to-back Warrior I
Stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your back to your partner. There should be a distance of approximately 3 feet between you.
When both of you are ready, step your left foot back into a lunge position and bend the front knee. Rotate your left heel to bring it in contact with the ground.
Reach both of your arms back and connect your hands with your partner’s.
Press your feet into the ground and pull against each other to open your heart forward.
After five full breath cycles, release hold of your partner, step forward and perform this yoga pose on the other side.
Tips and variations:
The distance between you and your partner depends on several factors. For example, if you are quite tall, you will be able to step back into quite a long stance in Warrior I.
Depending on the flexibility of your hips, shoulders, and spine, you may also increase the distance between you and your partner to intensify this pose.
Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose For Two
This variation on Upavishta Konasana really brings focus to the hip-opening aspect of this pose. The partners take turns helping each other fold forward while maintaining a wide angle of external hip rotation.
Pose type: seated, forward fold, asymmetrical
Targets: hips, hamstrings, groin, and lower back
Step-by-step Instructions for Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose For Two
Sit with your legs extended and open wide facing your partner.
Shiffing closer to your partner, place the soles of your feet on the inner side of their ankles.
Connect with your partner’s hands or wrap your fingers around each other’s wrists.
As your partner exhales, start to gently lean back, bringing them into a forward fold.
After a few breaths in this position, come back to the upright seat and swap roles.
Tips and variations:
Be sure to communicate with you partner every step of the way. The person in the forward fold will be in a very precarious position, so it is very important to exercise caution at every turn.
The person leaning back, on the other hand, may find it difficult to sustain their position for an extended period of time before collapsing backwards and pulling their partner with them.
To avoid this, it may be a good idea to set a yoga bolster or a stack of folded blankets to support some of the weight of the person leaning back.
Half Camel + Dancer Pose
Have you ever noticed that Half Camel Pose (Ardha Ustrasana) looks like Lord of the Dance (Natarajasana) if you extend the front leg?
These yoga poses are like reflections of each other, except in a different dimension. Together, they create a beautiful shape that is easy to replicate for two intermediate practitioners.
Pose type: complementary, standing, backbend, balance
Targets: spine, shoulders, chest, and glutes
Step-by-step Instructions for Half Camel + Dancer Pose
The first person starts in the tall kneeling position. Stepping their right leg forward, they should establish their hips directly over the knee that’s on the ground.
Keeping their core engaged, they can start to lean back, aiming to connect their left hand with their foot or ankle, creating an arch in their back.
The second person starts standing in front of their partner, at the inner side of their partner’s right ankle or shin.
Transferring their weight into their left foot, the second person can lift their right foot and grasp it with their right hand.
Leaning forward and lifting their right leg into Dancer Pose, the standing yogi can reach their left arm forward and connect with their partner’s right palm as the kneeling person reaches their arm up.
Tips and variations:
The height of the participants, as well as their flexibility, will determine where the second person will stand in relation to the yogi in Half Camel Pose.
If the standing practitioner is shorter than the kneeling one, they may stand closer to their partner’s shin or knee. If the roles are reversed, the taller person would stand at their partner’s foot or ankle.
Half Camel Pose can be modified with a block to support the bottom hand. Dancer Pose can be modified with a yoga strap to help the practitioner reach their foot.
Boat Pose + Hero Pose Backbend
Along with tandem yoga poses that use partnership to encourage forward motion, some yoga poses for two help participants achieve thoracic extension and stretch their shoulders.
Pose type: seated, kneeling, complementary, backbend
Targets: core, spine, shoulders, thighs, and ankles
Step-by-step Instructions for Boat Pose + Hero Pose Backbend
With one person kneeling in Hero Pose (Virasana), the second practitioner can approximate the right distance to sit behind their partner.
As the first person reaches back with their arms, the second person can wrap their hands around their partner’s wrists and place their feet on the first person’s upper back (around the shoulder blades).
With a gentle push through their feet, the person in Boat Pose (Navasana) can begin to lean backwards, prompting their partner to open their chest forward.
Tips and variations:
Communication is key in this asana. The person at the front may ask their partner to increase the intensity or ease off.
The partner in Boat Pose can regulate the intensity with the level of extension in their legs (the more they push, the more arching it will create) and the angle of their back (the farther they lean away from their partner, the bigger stretch they create).
reference – kind of like that, except the back person can extend their legs if necessary and the front person kneels in virasana
Best Hard Yoga Poses for Two
If you and your partner routinely perform yoga poses that require extreme flexibility, commitment, and a lot of strength, you can challenge yourselves with the following partner combinations.
For advanced yoga poses that involve inversions and difficult balance, it may be a good idea to have an extra person nearby, acting as a spotter.
The spotter’s job is to guide the participants in and out of the pose, make adjustments if necessary, and stop either party from injuring themselves if things go awry.
Hanuman Pose Two Ways
If you and your partner’s practice includes front splits (Hanumanasana), this is an excellent pose to show off your flexibility.
Pose type: inversion, mirrored, balance
Targets: hips, thighs, groin, hamstrings, and wrists
Step-by-step Instructions for Hanuman Pose Two Ways
The first partner starts by establishing in the front splits position. In accordance with full expression of Hanumanasana, their arms should be lifted overhead.
Standing behind their partner, the second person should frame the first person’s back foot with their palms, in preparation for the inversion.
Kicking off with one leg, the second practitioner should lift into a handstand, splitting their legs apart. The first person’s job is to catch their partner’s foot or ankle and help them stabilize in the handstand position.
Tips and variations:
Depending on the participants’ strengths and weaknesses, they can perform the splits with their best foot forward.
Star Shape Side Plank
This partner yoga pose is not only a great challenge for your core and arms, it also creates a striking shape that looks great in photographs.
And while it is considered intermediate, that’s due to the nature of the “original” side plank. If you and your partner can both perform this asana, combining your efforts is just a matter of coordination.
Pose type: balance, mirrored, strength
Targets: core, wrists, arms, shoulders, coordination
Step-by-step Instructions for Star Shape Side Plank
Start in prone position next to your partner but facing in the opposite direction.
Place your palms near your chest, and push up into high plank (Phalakasana).
Start transferring the weight to the hand and foot closest to your partner. For instance, if your partner is to your left, you will be performing the plank pressing into the left hand and foot.
Once you lift into side plank, raise your top arm and leg into a star shape. Meanwhile, your partner will be mirroring your actions.
With your top hand, find your partner’s foot or ankle. Grasp it and help it maintain height. Your partner should do the same to your foot.
After exiting, take a moment to shake out the wrists before repeating the pose on the other side.
Tips and variations:
Just as many other yoga poses on this list, star shaped side plank works best with a partner of a similar size. Specifically, similar height and length of your limbs.
Additionally, it’s important that you and your partner have a similar level of yogic experience (at least intermediate), as this pose requires equal effort from both parties.
If one partner starts to lose their balance, it’s crucial to communicate that immediately so that the other person can release grasp of their foot.
This way, if the tandem topples over, each person can safeguard their own fall.