Practicing yoga alone teaches you to be in tune with yourself. No phone. No television. No interaction with others. Personal practice awakens your sense of creativity, inner strength and commitment to growth. The solitude surreptitiously expands your flexibility. Flexibility of choices. You give poses a try that you might not do with others to see. You discover how to "hear" what your body needs to move. You get to know yourself better without distractions. That in itself is a practice.
Practicing yoga with a group of people is a beautiful interexchange of energies. You are aware of your moves, but peripheral vision can distract you. Sometimes you have to close your eyes to refrain from comparing yourself to others. It is just our nature. Maybe its that "survival of the fittest" gene looking for ideas. Despite this quiet ego-based distraction, the collective positive energy of a like minded group can make a practice dreamy. Like the waves of the ocean, a group's energy flows together. You feel the interconnectedness of life.
Practicing yoga with a partner is a magical blend of solo and group yoga. It is just you and your partner. The relationship outside of yoga can range from non-existent to intimate. But, the united yoga practice is a unique relationship that evolves move by move...breath by breath. You get to immerse yourself in the awareness of a solo practice while enjoying the cohesive energy that emerges with your partner. You discover new edges that might not have emerged without another's intuitive guidance. You learn to trust more. You weaken fear of failure. You practice opening up like a flower does to the rays of the sun. You may be with a partner; but, you enjoy an expanded perception of Self.
If you've had a teacher assist you during practice, you know how delicious it is to get that extra push. Just when you think you have reached your edge, the teacher's touch tells your cells to surrender a bit more. You miss them when they walk away to another student. So, imagine having that attention for an entire practice. You get the best of both worlds.
The practice can be meditative and slow. It can be active. It can be whatever comes to mind. Your intuition strengthens as you learn to focus on another while being present with yourself.
Practice long enough with the same person and you can practice without words. You just know...and vice versa. The energy dances on the edge of becoming palpable.
Tips for a partner practice:
1. Place each mat side by side. It's nice to have plenty of space.
2. Practice the blending of breathing. Sit back to back in easy seated position and breathe. Feel the other's inhales and exhales flow with yours through the back. See if you can synchronize the breath.
3. Do the same as you would a solo or group practice....set intention, warm up, flow, pursue edges, twist, try balance poses and don't forget Shavasana.
4. Respect the edges of the partner...communicate. A great non-verbal way to express you can go further in a pose is to gently tap your finger on your partner where the hands are linked.
5. Enjoy the exchange of counter poses. One can be in a forward fold move while the partner is in a back bend pose.
6. Integrate some solo moves like Sun Salutations. It reminds you of your independence and deters co-depence.
7. Let there be a "leader" of the practice. Roles can be changed. You practice being teacher or student. Despite the role, each benefits. We need to be leaders. We need to be followers. We must practice being both.
8. A great book to use as a guide is The Joy of Partner Yoga. There are YouTube videos to watch. Use your imagination. Yoga for Partners is another good visual book.
9. Never lose your sense of humor and remember...it is only a practice.
Give it a try. It might feel awkward at first; but, so does most everything when we start something new. A partner practice should not replace all other practices. It can enhance and broaden both your solo and group practices. By doing it, you added a new perspective of awareness.
Variety really is the spice that keeps the taste of whatever you do in life intriguing.
Yoga is no exception. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.