When the pace of family life speeds up and everyone is pulled in different directions, a partner yoga break with your child is an easy way to connect and practice mindfulness. Partner yoga is a wonderful way to be fully present together—a tune-in versus a tune-out. Even if you have never practiced yoga, there are plenty of poses that are easily accessible as well as fun.
Getting the Basics Down: The Three Cs
Partner yoga is fun for everyone and promotes the three Cs: cooperation, communication, and connection. Energy can run high during partner yoga practice, so be sure to pause between poses with a few breaths or a stretch.
First, let’s break down the three Cs.
Cooperate: Doing these poses requires teamwork, and both partners are equally important.
Communicate: It is important to let your partner know what poses feel good and what might feel like too deep a stretch. This is a good opportunity to teach your child how to check in, assert his or her needs, and develop a non-verbal sense of another person’s physical comfort level.
Connect: Physical touch naturally releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone. Eye contact in Seesaw or Boat Pose promotes connection, so remember to smile! In the other poses, your partner’s body weight produces connection kinesthetically.
When learning these poses, you will naturally move into them slowly. But sometimes we forget to move out of the poses mindfully, which is especially important when you are supporting another person’s weight. Remember to release from the poses slowly and mindfully, one limb at a time.
Lizard on the Rock
The rock is the partner closest to the ground; in parent-child yoga, the parent makes an ideal rock. First, the parent comes into Child’s Pose with any comfortable arm position: arms along the sides, extended forward, or forearms on the ground. Your child (the lizard) stands behind you, facing away, then has a seat on your tailbone. The sun is shining and the lizard is tired, so she lies down, back-to-back on the rock, sunning herself. The lizard’s legs can be stretched long, or with knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor. The lizard’s arms can stay alongside the body or stretch overhead. The rock enjoys a grounding back stretch, while the lizard gets a heart opener.
Sit facing your child with legs in a wide straddle. If your heights are similar, you can press the soles of the feet together. Otherwise, the shorter person presses the soles of the feet inside the taller person’s legs. Hold hands, and take turns seesawing your upper bodies back and forth.
When one person leans back, the partner gets a forward fold, stretching the back and hamstrings. Communication is key here. Play with sensing the limitations of your partner’s back and hamstrings. If your child is pulling too hard, you might ask, “Can you feel how my muscles don’t want to move any further?”
Wave the Flag in Side Stretch
From the Seesaw position, sitting up tall, partners hold each other’s right hands. Then they extend their left arms behind them, gently pulling away from one another. Heads turn toward the outstretched left hands, so you and your child are facing away from each other. Hold for a few breaths, sensing the edge of your partner’s stretch. Breathe deeply, inhale back to center, make eye contact, then switch hands. Repeat several times.
Face your partner, sitting with your knees bent and toes touching. Hold on to your partner’s hands or wrists. Place the soles of your feet together. Use your stomach muscles to straighten and lift one leg, feet still touching. Now lift the other leg, sitting up tall. If you are feeling strong, sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while your legs are lifted. You can also try shifting arm positions from outside the outstretched legs to inside the legs. Practicing the partner Boat Pose stretches the hamstrings and strengthens the core.
Playful Puppies: Napping Dog & Double Dog
In these partner poses, each partner gets different benefits.
For Napping Dog, start by sitting in Butterfly Pose, soles of your feet pressed together and knees opening out to the side as the hips open. Your child comes into Table Pose facing you, places his hands on your thighs, then lifts the hips into Downward Dog, enjoying a back body stretch. You can place your hands on your child’s back, resting your forehead on your hands. Take some deep breaths, unwind, and switch.
For the Double Downward-Facing Dog, start in Downward Dog pose. Have your child stand between your hands, facing away from you, and placing her hands in front of yours. Then she can step up one foot at a time to your lower back with toes turned under, heels pressing back, hips lifting up towards the sky. While your child is developing arm strength, you can enjoy a good stretch in the lower back.
These exercises can be exhilarating, so make sure to rest in Child’s Pose afterwards. Once you have the hang of these partner yoga poses, you can encourage other family members to join you. If your family enjoys partner yoga, look for a yoga class you can all join in your community. Or send your child to a yoga class and let them teach you afterward!
Related Books from Magination Press
Breathe is a conversation between a boy and his mother at bedtime. But this conversation can happen at any time, in any place. This introduction to mindfulness presents a collection of illustrated exercises to help little ones become aware of their breath and their body. Includes a Note to Parents & Caregivers that describes the exercises and their effects in more detail.