Dana Santas is the creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning, a yoga style designed to help athletes move, breathe and focus better. She’s the yoga trainer for the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic and dozens of pros in the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
(CNN)Want to share more than commercialized romance with your significant other? Try Partner Yoga to put the emphasis back on connection instead of consumerism.
Partner Yoga is a style of yoga designed to connect people — especially couples — via the somatosensory system, otherwise known as your sense of touch.
Not only can physical contact reinforce intimate emotional connections and increase dopamine release to enhance pleasure sensations, but studies have shown it also reduces stress.
In 2006, Dr. James Coan, director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Virginia, conducted an experiment with 16 married couples and found that holding your partner’s hand reduces anxiety by mitigating the stress response.
According to Coan, subsequent research has shown that hand holding between loving couples also promotes enhanced health, overall well being and, even, increased life expectancy.
The Partner Yoga moves I’ve included below all involve hand holding and/or intertwining arms as the foundation for connection, so you and your partner can partake in your own touch-response experiment.
Sit across from your partner in a seated straddle position with your feet touching your partner’s feet.
Reach out and clasp hands. Look at one another as you establish a long, deep breath.
Try inhaling and exhaling at a five count. You want to maintain the same breathing pace, so you can coordinate your breathing with your partner’s as you move through the poses.
For the first two poses, as one person inhales, the other person exhales. For the last two, synchronize your breathing rather than alternating it.
Partner Yoga is about intimately tuning into one another so we can be guided by our partner’s breathing and tactile reaction and respond appropriately — being careful not to lead one another too deeply into any stretch or movement.
Alternating Seated Straddle Stretch
This move releases adductors (inner thighs) and hamstrings, and it strengthens core muscles along the way.
From a seated straddle position with feet touching and hands clasped, begin to coordinate your breath and movement.
As one person inhales and leans back, engaging their core muscles for support, the other person exhales and folds forward, feeling a stretch in their hamstrings and groin. Repeat through six or more rounds of slow, deep breath.
Alternating Seated Forward Fold/Modified Fish
This position lengthens lower-back and hamstrings, alternately opens chest and front of shoulders
Sit back to back with your legs straight out in front of you at hip-distance apart.
Reach your arms out to the sides and intertwine them with your partner. As one person exhales and bends forward, the other inhales and gets a big chest opening stretch, and then vice versa.
Repeat through six or more rounds of slow, deep breath.
Partner Warrior 2 pose into Reverse Warrior Variation
This move promotes hip mobility, pelvic stability, chest opening and mid-back mobility
Stand side by side, with the outside edge of your inside foot touching the outside edge of your partner’s foot. Clasp each other’s forearms with your inside arms.
Step your outside legs laterally away from one another into a lunge position, facing opposite directions. Reach your forward arm straight out in front of you while you extend your back arm, still clasped with your partner’s behind you.
Hold and breathe together for three breaths. Then straighten your front legs, as you switch your back hands from holding forearms to holding hands. Inhale together as you both reach your front arms up and back to clasp hands overhead.
Hold this position for a breath or two before releasing.
Relaxes the entire body while maintaining tactile and breathing connection between partners
“Savasana” means corpse pose in Sanskrit and is the standard final relaxation position in most yoga practices.
Simply lie down side by side with enough space between you to comfortably rest your arms and hold hands.
Synchronize your breathing while you tune into the sound of your partner’s breath, the warmth of your hand holding and comfort of relaxing together.
Many people confuse Partner Yoga with Acro-yoga, a style that often requires one person to hoist the other into the air.
Although the challenge of Acro can be fun, the Partner moves I’ve shared are simple and accessible — even for inflexible, yoga novices.
Even if you fall over laughing, laughter also has myriad health benefits.
Between the hand holding and laughing, you’ll have a healthy and happy experience, regardless of your Partner Yoga prowess.