Partner Yoga Taught Me What It Means To Be A Strong Person (And An Even Stronger Friend)

Alena Hall

Take a peek at your Instagram feed, and it probably won’t be that hard to spot a striking photo of a partner yoga pose. They look impossibly impressive and elicit that “Gah, I wish I could do that” reaction, right? Well, that’s exactly what I thought, too, until I signed up for a partner yoga workshop with my favorite workout friend.

And let me tell you, we did the damn thing. We were the only friend pair in the class — it didn’t occur to us that the workshop was aptly timed for a Valentine’s Day date — so we embraced all of the “galentines” vibes and learned what it’s like to take a traditionally individualized practice and translate it into a bunch of moves for two. Here’s what I took away from the experience.

Communication is key.

Partner yoga is not a silent practice. You have to openly communicate with your partner to make sure they’re ready to move into a pose, adjust in the pose, come out of the pose and so on. You also have to let them know when you can move more deeply into a posture or need a break. Luckily, my friend and I have been working out (and girl-talking) together for five years now, so our communication abilities were on point — probably even better than some of the couples in the room.

It was also incredibly clear how much these communication skills cultivated on the mat translate into the rest of your relationship with your partner and your own life in general. Learning to speak up and make it known to others what you want and need is a crucial skill to learn if you ever expect to live a happy and fulfilling life. While I feel confident communicating in the realm of this particular friendship, I can’t say that applies to all relationships in my life. And that’s something I want to actively work on.

Trust is a must.

When you have to use your partner to balance successfully — or rely on their strength to hold all of your body weight off the ground — trust is not an option. Yes, you’re talking through the pose and who needs to be where and doing what, but at some point, you also have to let go a bit and know that your partner isn’t going to let you fall.

We definitely said, “I’ve got you,” quite a few times throughout the workshop just to make sure any hesitation the other person might have felt was alleviated, but all in all, we leaned into our friendship and let it take care of us. And when you get the opportunity to open your eyes to this feeling, it becomes incredibly easy to spot the other areas of your life that might lack that kind of trust.

Alena Hall

Being playful makes it even more fun.

Partner yoga poses already present you with new entertaining challenges, but the ability to laugh when you fall out of postures or try the next level of poses when you’ve landed the first one requires a sense of humor, a willingness to play and a creative mindset.

Each time our instructors came by and offered us another way into a pose, we gave it a go without hesitation because that’s the kind of workout buddies we are. From running the New York City Marathon to climbing all the stairs to the top of Rockefeller Center, we try anything at least once and push each other just enough to get as much as we can out of each of these experiences. If you can’t play, you miss out on so much that the world has to offer.

The bonds of friendship are breathtaking.

As we concluded the class, sitting back to back and feeling each other inhale and exhale, I realized just how invigorated and alive the two hours of yoga made me feel. I was so open, trusting, happy, carefree and curious. And I attribute a lot of that to the fact that I took the workshop with this dear friend of mine.

We’ve been through quite a lot together, but we’ve never linked physical energies the way that partner yoga required. We’ve done burpees in perfect sync with one another, but we’ve never watched each other just breathe. And basic details like that, the ones that give us life, reenergized us both as friends and individuals.

I can only hope that romantic couples benefit from this practice as much as close friends can. Because if so, they’d be unstoppable.