Instructor:Elysabeth Williamson, of Boulder. Williamson has been practicing yoga for more than 30 years and teaching for 23. She began developing this style of partner yoga about 15 years ago. She published a book, "The Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga," four years ago. Get the book on her Web site or at local bookstores, such as the Boulder Book Store on Pearl Street.
What is the workout?This newly emerging practice is based on cultivating relationship skills while doing yoga postures; building trust, confidence, compassion, developing balance and connectivity. This is not just about doing postures with another person. The postures are a metaphor for how to become more compassionate human beings, Williamson says.
She teaches various aspects. How to:
1. Help each other go deeper into postures.
2. Mirror each other and harvest each other's energy to energize your practice.
3. Build trust and do inverted poses that utilize gravity, traction and alignment.
4. Work in larger groups and circles.
5. Tap into deeper, shared energy while meditating.
According to Williamson, "yoga" means union; it's about transcending duality. Yet many yoga classes are solitary, with no touch, sharing or nurturing.
"You might be mat-to-mat with someone else, but God forbid you touch each other or look at each other," she says.
She says, "We're all basically so isolated with our technology. We're really lacking the most simple and most profound things: Connection with each other."
Adding people to your yoga practice breaks down ideas that we are separate and different, making people more receptive to yoga -- physically in the postures and spiritually. Plus, it's fun.
Williamson teaches private group lessons and has teacher training workshops.
What does it cost?The book is $29.95. A private two-hour lesson is $150 for two people.
Who does it?Any two or more people, from siblings to co-workers to friends. Partner yoga is not just for couples. And you don't have to be the same physical size (although extreme size differences limits some postures). Williamson says she has lifted men who weighed 260 pounds.
"It's not so much strength as it is alignment," she says.
The teacher training is for anyone who wants to explore partner yoga, not just for yoga teachers. Williamson says she teaches therapists and midwives.
When:Williamson teaches at people's homes, businesses, in her home and at studios in Boulder. Her next teacher workshops are June 21 at Vida Yoga and July 3 at Core Power.
Level: For private lessons, no experience necessary. For teacher workshops, you need some yoga experience.
In some ways, partner yoga is more difficult than traditional yoga because it demands more cooperation, coordination and balance. But in other ways, it's easier because you have another person's support to go deeper or balance. For example, the tree pose was much easier when done palm-to-palm with others in a circle. And my partner moved my body into a better downward dog than I have ever done on my own.
Format:Class started with chanting in a circle and moved though various poses. Ended sitting back-to-back with my partner, silently meditating. Some classes include Thai yoga massage, an "amethyst biomat" or a partner "corpse pose" (foot-to-foot, head-to-head or touching hands).
What to wear:Yoga clothes, no shoes.
Muscles worked:Same muscles as yoga, but deeper. Partner yoga is less aerobic than restorative.
One new move:Sitting back-to-back, which the book calls "chakra visualization meditation." Normally, people sit face-to-face, presenting their personas. Sitting back-to-back eliminates that, while aligning your chakras along your spine. Make sure your sacrums are firmly pressed together. To do this, both partners first learn forward, shift hips back and then return to the upright position.
This pose is also a metaphor that we support each other strongly and don't lean on each other.
What's different:Another kind of partner yoga, acro-yoga, focuses on inversions and acrobatics. Williamson's yoga focuses on connection, authenticity in relationships, trust and partner yoga as a metaphor for life.
In Thai yoga massage, there is clearly a giver and receiver. In this practice, both partners simultaneously give and receive.
What I loved:I love when my yoga teacher helps me move deeper into a posture. This was like having that -- constantly.
Also, lately I've become frustrated with shallow, virtual communication. Every day, I check 15 different e-mail addresses and social networking sites, but never truly accomplish anything or talk to anyone. I invited my friend, Annie, to do this class with me, and it was wonderful simply being with her, silently looking her in the eyes and remembering what it feels like to be human. Not to mention, I moved into the postures quicker and deeper than I could have alone.
What I didn't like:My workplace wasn't welcoming for a yoga class. I wish I had done this at my home, with fewer distractions.
Also, partner yoga can feel either incredible (like when you're in a healthy, blissful relationship) or yucky (like after a fight).
"But in partner yoga, you understand you're choosing to be here, choosing to feel that. It might not be comfortable, but we can do it and move to the other side and be freer," Williamson says.
Words to live by.
Inspiration for class: Williamson's desire to make yoga relational.
"We're doing these yoga postures -- how to stand on our head and do the splits -- but how does that translate into our life? Are my relationships healthier? Am I becoming a kinder human? Is my heart opening?" she says.
How I felt after the class:Like I just came out of a massage. Thanks, Annie.
How I felt later:Not sore, but curious. I want to dig deeper into this book and try it at home.
-- Reported by Aimee Heckel.
Know of any interesting workouts? Tell us about them so we can check them out: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-473-1359.