Partner Yoga Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 6

Lean on Me

35 min - Practice
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Scott, with the help of Christina, guides us in a partner sequence designed to deepen our sensitivity, connection, and trust. The sequence includes side bending, twisting, forward folds, and heart openers. With your back to your partner, you will feel their breath and support as you playfully lean into one another.
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Welcome back. Welcome to partner yoga. My name is Scott and this is my partner Christina for the class today. This class I like to refer to the session today as lean on me. Through much of the poses that we're going to do, you'll have the poses where you're back to back, where you won't necessarily see your partner with your eyes. But what it will do instead is to encourage even a greater sensitivity. When the poses where our backs are together, you'll feel that connection of even the breath coming through the back with your partner. You'll feel the connection through your arms or hands, whatever is in support of the pose. But without using your eyes so much to see your partner, they'll encourage to go even slower, to take an extra moment, to feel the connection that you have with your partner at even a deeper more sensitive level. In life we like to refer to certain situations as having someone's back. And so in this way being able to lean against each other, you feel that security that's maybe you feel at other times in your life when you know that there's someone there for you, someone having your back, someone to lean on. So we begin seated bringing our backs to each other. With the legs crossed, scoot in really tight. See if you can bring as much of your back in contact as possible. So what might help here too is using your hands turn one thigh in, turn the other thigh in, allowing you to more easily lift from the low back. So you feel all the way from the lowest vertebrae, even to the back of the shoulders come into connection. And then moving slowly, even let the heads come together. So don't do that quickly, softly find each other's support. And spend some time just here feeling a connection to your partner through the contact, through the parts of your back, the back of your head. And already you can start to feel your partner's breath coming through the back ribs. And without even needing to say anything, the breath can start to become in sync where you're taking inhales at the same time and taking exhales at the same time. It's a wonderful comforting feeling, feeling that connection with your partner. I'll spend just a couple more breaths here. And then we'll move this connection into some more shapes, some stretches to do with your partner. We'll keep our backs together, our shoulders together, but now with an inhale take your arms to the side and up, and find a connection through the arms. Now depending on differences in height and length of arms, you probably won't have hand-to-hand exact contact. So here Christina is holding something around my wrists, you might hold the partner's elbows, but we're just trying to create a connection, a linking of the arms that's going to help us in the stretches that we do. Let's take a couple more inhales here, helping each other to stretch up and lengthen through our fingers to the sky. And then one more inhale, and then if our exhale, we'll take it to one side, it will go away from the window, first hands come to the floor, top arm stretches over the ear, and you might just stay here. We're trying to keep the opposite hip, opposite leg heavy to the earth and get really a wonderful side stretch. You might be able to take it further. So with one more inhale here, we'll stretch a little bit more, and keeping the outer hip down, maybe the elbow comes to the floor too. You can stretch a little bit more. As we do this, we're still leaning into each other. Shoulders come together, even the back of the head gently comes together, and we can both look more up toward the sky. Take a couple more breaths here, and then using the inhale, rooting down through our sitting bones and linked arms, help us to come back up. And we'll go to the other side. One more inhale here, exhale. First the hand comes down, top arm stretch over the ear. Take a couple breaths here, keeping the opposite hip grounded to the earth. And maybe, inhale, exhale brings the elbow to the floor. If the elbow doesn't come to the floor, that's perfectly fine. The emphasis here is just more getting a deep stretch and opening through that side of your body. Breathe into those ribs, keeping your backs connected. Feel the breath coming through your partner. Feel the back of the heart of your partner. We'll root down using the linked arms to help us come back up to seated tall. One more inhale, tall, reaching up through the fingers, and exhale, arms by the side. We'll keep the backs together, spine tall. We'll take a little twist. Take your right hand to your left knee, and now your left arm is going to reach back and bring your hand to your partner's knee. And keep the spines together. Take an inhale, lengthen up through the spine, and exhale. Start to twist open to the left, keeping contact with the back shoulders. Feel how when you lean into your partner's weight, it also helps you to sit up tall and keep the spine long. You might find yourself spontaneously smiling, and you know that your partner is smiling too. A couple more breaths here.

And with the inhale, it brings us back forward. We'll simply chain sides. Left hand comes to right knee, right arm reaches back for your partner's knee or thigh. Take another inhale, sit up tall, and exhale, twist. Go with your partner's breath. Feel your partner's inhale. Use that to stay grounded and tall through the spine. And every exhale, maybe twist a little bit deeper without forcing. Feel the support of your partner helping you. And then with the next inhale, come back to center. Now we're going to help each other to come into just simple forward folds. Christina will keep her legs crossed, simple cross-legged pose. Now I'm gonna release my feet, place my feet flat and floor in front of me. Just giving me something, a nice platform to push into the earth and lift up a little bit. I bring my fingers by the my side on the floor just to help balance here. We'll take an inhale together, and then with an exhale, I lean back. Christina hinges forward. I can lift my hips and encourage her low back to move and lead the way. I'm not pushing her back to the floor. I'm helping her to lengthen from the lowest vertebrae out through the forward fold. If comfortable here, I can lay back even more. Just gently lay my head all the way to her back. And then the inhale will bring us back up. I'll cross my legs, simple cross-legged. Christina will place her feet flat with the knees bent, fingers on the floor to help her balance. We'll take an inhale together and exhale. I initiate the forward fold and she helps that. She encourages. She's not trying to force my forward fold. She's being sensitive and going with me and just helping me to go deeper. I just let my head hang. My hands are in front of me, supporting however far I go. With each cycle of breath, maybe you find a deeper release with the support of your partner. And then inhale, and we'll come back up together. That feels so good. We should do it again, but we'll do it with the legs crossed the other way. So Christina will cross her legs, opposite to how they were crossed before. I'll place my feet back flat. I keep my feet a little bit separated side to side too. That helps me to stay balanced, one side to the other. Fingertips on the floor for balance. We inhale together. And she really initiates the forward fold and I go with her. This is opportunity too, where your partner can say more or less, or if you want to come out of the pose. A couple more breaths here, maybe. And then with the inhale, we rise together and come back up to sitting tall. Now I'll cross my legs the other way. Might be something that you become sensitive to, always remembering to change the cross of your legs in these poses that we do. Not always crossing the legs the same way, whenever we do a seated pose. So we'll inhale tall through the spine, and then I'll initiate the forward fold. And Christina assists me on the way. We can still feel each other's breath coming through our back. With the inhale, I'm staying grounded through the hips, long through the spine. With the exhale, maybe I come down a little bit further, and she's just supporting that, not forcing that. A couple more breaths here. And then with the inhale, we'll rise back up. Okay, now we'll do a slightly different twist here. Christina will cross her legs again, but then we'll take our right leg, both of us will take our right leg, take the knee up and the foot out to the side. A little bit like a Virasana leg. If your knees a little bit sore, you can keep the feet foot away, and you don't need to have the that hip on that side come all the way to the floor. It can be lifted up a little bit on the right side. Then we'll both lean away from the right leg slightly, our shoulders come together, and then we'll turn to face each other, and the inner arm, the right arm, will lift up to the sky. Take a breath here, and then with your exhale, lean back away from that. We lean over each other's other leg, it gives a nice release to the low back. Opportunity to share a smile at this point in the practice. And then with the inhale, we'll come back up, come back to back, and we'll change legs. The right foot comes back in and across, the left leg comes out to the side. Start with the backs together, find that connection, and then lean a little bit to the right, shoulders line up, and we turn more to face one another, and the inner arm lifts up, and you can start to lean back. You're coming across the hip of your partner, it gives a wonderful release to the low back. You lift to the heart, a slight backbend, and take a moment to share a smile and bright eyes. And then inhale, come back up, bring your feet back in front of you. Now we'll help each other into a forward fold one more time. This one's a slightly deeper forward fold, Christina's gonna straighten her legs out in front of her, and to pose Paschimottanasana. I again place my feet flat, separate my feet a little bit side to side for stability, fingertips on the floor. We'll inhale together, and Christina will initiate the forward fold, and again I just help her. If you have very tight hamstrings, your legs might not be all the way straight, you can keep a slight bend. With my feet, I push a little bit down in a way to try to lengthen her spine. So I'm not just pushing down on her back, I'm really just trying to lengthen her spine from the sacrum up toward the head. Again if it feels comfortable, lay your head all the way back, feel your partner's length and spine. Then we'll inhale and come back up, and we'll change sides here. I'll straighten my legs, pressing the back of my legs to the floor, or bending my knees slightly. You can also take a moment here to turn the legs in if that helps you with tight hamstrings. We'll inhale together, exhale, I'll initiate the forward fold.

Christina helps me to lengthen from my low back. What Christina could also do here is even reach her arms over her head, give a little shoulder lengthening stretch. A couple more breaths here. Every exhale may be going deeper into the forward fold, and then we'll inhale and come back up to seated together. Now Christina has her feet flat. I'm going to place my feet flat also. Separate the feet a little bit side to side, and we're going to link arms. In this next sequence we're going to come back up to standing. So this works with the arms length, works with the feet a little bit in front of you, and a lot of pressure of the back. Back's connected. So we push the feet forward, both of us, to really press our backs together strongly. So from here we're going to come up to standing. This might not work on the first time you try it. It's something that you might end up not coming up much, coming up a little bit, or even falling to one side or the other, and I like to refer to as a pool of grace of laughter. And if you laugh then you're doing it right, and just try again. You can always come back to this practice over and over again, an opportunity to try this challenging move. So again the feet are strong into the earth. Push a little bit down and forward with the feet to make a strong connection through the back, through the whole length of the back. Arms length helps too. We'll take an inhale together, and if an exhale we begin to push and come all the way up. Now that happens so easily. You can also try to come up and down a couple times. You game for that Christina? Okay, so we'll come down, keep the backs connected, and then inhale and rise back up. And if for some reason that didn't quite work, which it might not, come up to static anyway. We'll stay back to back, and we're going to take a wide leg forward fold, Prasada Padottanasana. Take my feet wide, Christina takes her feet wide, and for this one too we're not going to have our legs all the way leg to leg. We'll have about a foot to foot and a half between our heels, a little bit of space behind us. We'll take a forward fold, and then our hips, our bones, are going to come together. That's actually going to be part of the contact that helps to keep us stable when we do this exercise. We'll look back at each other, you can share a goofy smile upside down, and then one hand at a time take each other's wrists or forearms. Take a moment here, make sure that you're stable, whether or not you need to shift your feet a little bit further away from each other or any other adjustments. Then we're going to move with the breath here. With my inhale, I'm going to look forward, pull Christina a little bit, and then with my exhale, she'll pull me, and we'll come into a deeper forward fold. And we'll inhale, I'll look forward, long spine, exhale. A couple more times, looking forward, and exhale. One more time. Now this time I'll fold in, Christina will fold in. We'll look at each other, work our arms, maybe our hands further down the arms, maybe hold each other's shoulders, and pull ourselves all the way through, sharing the smile the whole time. And then slide the hands back down the arms, look a little bit forward, keep stability, bring one hand at a time back to the floor so that you don't fall upon each other. Look forward, bring the feet a little bit closer, come back up to standing. Now from that same position, there's a wonderful shoulder stretch that you can give for each other. So we'll do that now. For this one actually, Christina is going to start facing me, take her legs wide, and take a forward fold here. Then she'll interlace her fingers at her low back with her knuckles facing away, keep the shoulders down and rolled back, shoulder blades on the back, and stretch the arms over her head. I'm gonna help her to do a shoulder stretch here. With one hand, I'm gonna hold the heel of her hands right in the center of the palms. My other hand is going to go right at the back of the heart, and I'm going to press down through the back of the heart and up through the hands. I'm not trying to pull the arms over, I'm going to keep them in the same line that they are right now, and just pull in that direction. So I hold the hands in the back of the heart, we'll inhale together, and then exhale. Give her a wonderful shoulder stretch. This is again a wonderful stretch to do for your partner, to open the shoulders, to open the heart, especially if you've spent a long day sitting in front of a computer. A couple more breaths here, and you can communicate with your partner whether you want more or less, or move the hand on the back in a slightly different position, and then we'll release there. She can bring her hands to her hips and come back up to standing, and then she'll do the stretch for me. So I'll take my feet wide, hinge at my hips for folding forward, head doesn't have to come all the way to the floor. Interlace the fingers behind my back, roll the shoulders up and back, and stretch the arms overhead. Christina will take one hand to the heel of my hands, there you go, right into the inside of the palm there, other hand right behind the heart, so more between the shoulder blades, and she presses that hand behind my heart and pulls the arms in the direction they're pointed. We go with the breath, after a few cycles of breath, you'll feel deep opening through the front chest, and rolling open of the outer shoulders. I just let my head and neck release here, and then she releases my hands. I bring my hands back to my hips, maybe slide my feet in a little bit to help me come back up to standing. We'll do one more standing forward fold, starting back to back. For this one, the legs stay closer, it's going to be a Uttanasana forward fold. Our legs are going to be pretty close to each other. Again, the balance is going to be a little bit of something that we work on here, so go slow as you find the forward fold, bring your fingers to the floor to help you with stability initially. So we'll fold here. If your fingers don't come to the floor, you can have the knees bent, you can even start with something in front of you, a chair or a table to bring your hands to initially. Pressing into each other's the back of our legs will help us here to be tall through the strength of the legs to help to release the low back. And then as we fold in maybe a little bit deeper, we can see each other. And then one hand at a time, bring your hand to your partner's shin. Arm can be to the inside or the outside of your partner, and do that with the other arm. Go slow, a little bit on the edge of balance here. Take another inhale, then maybe you pull yourself in deeper, bending the elbows. Their opportunity to share a smile or a smirk or a funny face. And then coming out, going slow again, taking hands, fingers back to the floor. Take a moment here and then hands to your hips. And coming up together with the inhale, going slow not to tippy any either one over. Now we'll do another shoulder opener, this time pulling each other over one person at a time, and something that's referred to as a backpack position. For this one, I'll come to this side, back to back. Now difference of height plays a little bit into how this works best. Initially I'm going to pull Christina over me, so I want to place myself where it's as if I start to come underneath her to bring her up above me. So that's going to depend upon the length of the legs, the position of the sacrum relative to each other. So what I will do is separate my feet a little bit, bend my knees so that my bum and my sacrum come below hers.

We'll link arms here and then she lays back into me, just leans into me. Feel that support that I provide for her. Her head comes all the way to the back of my neck. For this one, the feet will stay on the floor and I just start to lean forward a little bit, pulling on the arms, her elbows, and she gets a wonderful chest opener, shoulder opener. I can feel her breath on my back and I keep my knees bent the whole time, keeping her feet on the floor. And then we'll inhale together and come back up. We can change the length of the arms. She feels the weight of my back coming into her back and then she can lean over, give me a wonderful chest opening, and I just let my head go back. Breathing into my front ribs to expand open my heart to the sky. And then we stand up together. Now we'll do that one more time. Now again, depending upon relative sizes and height, you might do that exact same stretch one more time, especially if it felt really good. Why not do it again? If you want to take it just a little bit further, we'll change the length of the arms again. I'll come back, bend my knees to come below Christina's hips. She'll lean into me and this time I'll lean a little bit further enough to bring her feet off the floor so her entire body weight will be up on my back. But once I bend my knees and I lean forward, she lays back. I bring my hips back, pull on my arms, and that lifts her feet off the floor. And once I straighten my legs all the way, the weight of her body's right on my sacrum, right on my hips, goes right down into the earth. Feels very little pressure at all, feels very light, very balanced once my legs go all the way straight. I'm not muscling this at all. Here, a wonderful soldier stretch that you can do for the partner that's flying. Give just a little pull on the wrists. You don't have to take them directly overhead, just a little bit out to the side. And the direction of pulling the hands and keeping her feet heavy toward the floor gives a length of the whole, the shoulders and even the spine. Then one place that you can also take it to here is I'll use my hands to help her. Christina will bring her feet down further such that she can clasp her feet with her hands. It's a bow pose like nonarasana upside down on my back. Then I bring my fingers to the floor. That gives me more stability, more balance, and she can just hang out here wonderfully. Then to come out of this, she releases her feet. We link arms again. I bend my knees and start to lift my heart to gently bring her back to the floor. Now she'll give me just a simple heart opener one more time. So I won't ask for her to lift me all the way up onto her. She'll just give me that shoulder opener one more time. So we change the length of the arms. I lean back, take my head back, and here she can take my arms and give that similar stretch to me but my feet stay on the floor. And then we'll inhale and come back up. Thank you. That was really good. So now we're gonna come back down to seated. Since we had so much fun doing it that first time, we'll do it again of linking the arms. Bring the back all the way together, feeling a firm connection there. Keeping the pressure the back to back, slide your feet one at a time a little bit forward-forward. So you're coming toward a seated position and keeping the pressure. So we push a little bit down and forward through the feet. Inhale and with the exhale, slowly come on down with your partner all the way to seated. And from here we're gonna give one more wonderful shoulder stretch assisted for each other. So Christina will stay facing the way she is. I'll turn back around, sitting a little bit away from her. She will reach her arms back behind her and will clasp forearms, wrists. She rolls her shoulders up and back and I'm gonna place my feet such that the base of the toes are right at the bottom half of the shoulder blades. Just using the base of my toes, she takes an inhale opening her heart and I pull back a little bit with the arms, press a little bit with the feet. It's not a very big movement here for the partner to get a deep opening through the chest in the back of the shoulders. Partner can give a little bit of feedback whether they want a little bit more pressure or less, a little bit more pull on the arms or less, or even to reposition the feet at a different part of the back. The feet aren't pressing on the spine, just on either side of the upper back. Take a couple more breaths here. Now slowly release the hands, take the feet back down, and Christina will do that stretch for me.

I'll just place my feet in a comfortable position, let my low back draw up, sitting up tall, and stretch the arms back behind and we class wrists or forearms. I roll my shoulders open and Christina places the base of the toes, the balls of the feet, in the bottom half of the shoulder blades. Once I get an inhale together and then with the exhale, I'm drawing back of the arms and pressing of the feet. It's a wonderful opening to the front chest. Shoulders roll open and take your throat back here, open your heart to the sky. And slowly release the arms and take the feet back to the floor. Take a moment to face each other. You can sit knees to knees. Take a moment to experience the gratitude, sharing each other's energy, sharing each other's smiles. Even though we spent much of this practice back to back, it's like you can feel when the other person's smiling or when they need something else to help them smile. In this practice, you grow a sensitivity and the willingness to really feel your partner and help them go deeper into a pose and just to feel that connection. So take your right hand to the top chest of your partner, feel their breath, feel the connection through your hearts. And to close the practice, encourage you to spend a few moments in Shavasana, both of you laying. You can lay where your one legs are on top of the other legs to give a little bit support. You can be side by side. You can even be playful, bring the soles of your feet together or have your head side by side. Just spend a few moments to still let the practice sink in for both of you, still feeling that connection of being present next to each other. I invite you to come to the next class and practice together. Thank you very much.


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