Partner Yoga Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 8

Seeing Each Other Upside Down

30 min - Practice
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Shift your perspective. Scott, with the help of Christina, guides us in a series of challenging drills in preparation for Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) and Sirsasana II (Tripod Headstand). This practice targets the wrists, shoulders, and abdominals, and can be fun way to build core strength and trust between you and your partner.
What You'll Need: Partner, Mat

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Welcome back. My name is Scott. This is Christina. Welcome back to partner yoga. A pose that's very popular in yoga nowadays is to do handstand, full-arm balance. It's often a pose that we find challenging to do on our own, even when there's a wall available. When there's opportunities to work with a partner, there's many different ways to spot one another, to help you come into the pose, and to learn different skills in coming up with control, coming up with more ease, building strength and confidence, with the support and encouragement of your partner. So we're going to work on several things involved with that, and even working toward doing some more advanced things, like helping to spot a partner do a press handstand, something that's a very challenging pose. But basically, it's still about having fun. It's about trying new things. When you get upside down on your hands, you're seeing the world in a new way. You're seeing each other in a new way, exploring new areas with your partner, trying different things. It's a opportunity to have adventure in your yoga practice, working with your partner. So we'll begin facing one another, and recognizing that we're going to help each other through a pretty challenging practice. We'll spend a moment just acknowledging each other's energy, and feeling grateful for each other's presence. And we'll place our right hand right in the upper chest, right above the heart. And here we'll have an opportunity to share the sound om. And one thing that's sweet here with the hand on the chest is, not only do you hear the sound of your partner, but you'll feel the sound through the vibration of the chest. And have it be an energetic exchange. It's not going to be so loud that we blow the partner away. They're so quiet that you can't hear your partner. Let it be an even offering to each other. Come into your breath. Sweet inhale.

Om. And blink your eyes open. Thank you. We'll take wrist to wrist, step back, coming into hinging at the hips, and chest coming more parallel to the floor. And soldier stretch that I like very much. Once you create the shape, and press your feet down and forward. Pull back away from your partner evenly, not in a jerky movement. The more that you can pull each other evenly with sensitivity, you get a greater stretch to the shoulders. We'll do these things to open the shoulders, which will help us to do the poses where we're balancing on our hands. And then look up. One little shoulder stretch we'll do here is we'll place the hands together with the hands high. We'll form a little steeple shape here. Hands pressing each other, leaning into each other, lean your hearts into each other. Stretch the arms up to the sky and share a smile or a wink. A couple more breaths here. Press your thigh bones back, still rooting down to the tailbone into the heels to keep the low back long. And then press into each other to help come back up. Now from here, we'll come a little bit closer, and we're gonna do push-ups as if each other is the surface to do push-ups on. Watch this one first before trying it. Don't try to look at the camera and do this one at the same time. So it goes like this. We take a moment to acknowledge that we're gonna do it at the same time. We're going to inhale, and with the exhale, we lean into each other, bend our elbows, and the heads go from one side to the other. We inhale to come back up, exhale, chain sides, so don't bop foreheads. And we'll do this a few more times. Trying to get even pressure into each other, sensitive to the weight and strength of your partner. And one more time. And then press away to come all the way back up to standing on your own. The next work that we're gonna do is to help to warm up the shoulders, warm up the core. Having a strong core will help you to balance when you're working toward coming up to handstand on your own. So there's drills that you can do if a partner to help engage those areas. So Christina will come in a plank pose facing away. So like an upper push-up, body one straight line. The arms are strong, but the the heart is soft. She takes the strength of the earth right into the back of her heart. The hips won't sag. There's still right in line with the body. Tailbone lengthens toward the heels. Then I reach down right on either side of her feet, hold her ankles, and start to lift her up. Now here's a challenging part. She's gonna keep the straight line shape, and without knowing which one I'm gonna do, I'm gonna release one hand, and she's gonna try to keep the foot from hitting the floor. Keep that straight line. And she doesn't know if I'm gonna do the same foot again, or if I'm gonna do the other foot. Both legs the same. And we'll do that for a few breaths. It looks maybe easy on camera, but when you try it yourself, it's a lot of work going on. And I'll let her come back to the floor, and take a pause here, and help to lengthen out the spine. Okay, the next drill is kind of a vinyasa. We're gonna move with the breath, have a pose which looks like you're piking up toward a handstand, and you come back through that plank position, and then move into a back bend, like an upward-facing dog, or udvamuka. So we'll start again in plank pose. I'll hold the ankles, lifting her back up to plank pose. She takes an inhale, and for exhale, she's gonna pull her hips up over her hands, pull her belly in, get her hips or shoulders all the way stacked, and then come back down, inhale into plank pose, and take it all the way forward into a back bend, and then pull the hips back up. We'll just do this a couple more times. She's doing a lot of strength. Come back down all the way into a back bend, and one more time up, and one more time into the back bend, and then I help her feet to the floor. And she can press back into a child's pose, and take a moment to relax here. With the knees separated, give her a little length through her low back, and the muscles that she was just using with strength. Through this whole sequence too, feel free to pause to do any of the exercises more times than we're doing here, or less times, or take a break between exercises. We're also going to work where I'll help Christina, assist Christina in these poses, and at any point along the way, if you want to switch and have the other partner do the sequence also, feel free to pause and give the other person a chance. Okay, and from here, Christina's going to come all the way up to standing, and we're going to work toward actual handstands. Now, there's multiple ways of assisting your partner, spotting your partner, and coming into a handstand. And so I'll show you several safe ways to do it, and give you tips and clues with all of them. You can try any of them multiple times. You might find a particular spot that you like, and come back to that one over and over again, as you work and progress on your handstand. So for this first one, Christina will face away, and take a standing forward fold. I'll come to her side. Now, a key thing to this is you want to start with the hands all the way flat to the floor. Christina has a pretty deep forward fold. Your hands might be a little bit further forward, but it's close that you can get your hands and feet together. That's going to be very helpful starting out in this one. So the hands are flat, separated shoulder distance apart, creases of the wrist go straight, aligned, and she also already put some weight into her hands, letting your shoulder blades engage on her upper back. So she's created a stable platform all the way from the earth up into the back of her heart. Then she's going to lift one leg up to this guy. She lifts the legs, but she keeps the hips square. So don't let the lifted leg hip open up, keep it level with the other. So roll the outer hip down. Now I'm going to hold the front of the ankle, and I put my elbow into my side. This means I don't have to muscle so much to hold the strength of her leg. It's drawn from my hand into my elbow, into my side, and down into the earth with that support. Then Christina's going to do two things. She's going to press down into my hand that will lift the bottom foot, and then she needs to pull her hips up over her hands like she has been. I help to bring her legs all the way to vertical. She can bring them together. I come to the back of her, to the back of her hips, bringing the legs all the way together, and I support her here in a handstand just for a breath. Then I can bring the hand back to the ankle. She can lower the other leg, and I come with her back down to the floor.

It's a really safe way to practice a supported handstand. I'm with Christina the entire time. She feels my support. She's not going to fall over her hands. I'm there for you, for her. I walk along to her side and come to her back. It's a way of really in a trustful, safe way, helps someone come up into that shape of a handstand. Another way that we commonly support each other in coming into a handstand. For this one, I'll have you come over here and face toward me. Again, she'll take a standing forward fold, getting the hands flat to the floor. Now this one, I already start from the back of the body. I'm a little bit to one side, but I'm still facing her. I'm not going to turn away from her so that one side gets more contact than another. I face her, but just a little bit off to the side. I'm going to bring my hands to her waistline, to her hips. She's going to pick her favorite leg. One foot's going to bend. One leg is going to lift. The bent leg is going to push. The top leg is going to swing, and I help to guide her up over her hands. There you go. I keep my head out of the way of the legs that are swinging up to the air. My hands are strong at the hips the whole time. She presses down into the earth and reaches up through her feet. She can slowly come down the same way that she came up, one leg at a time, stepping back down to the earth. I help to guide her there. She can take a standing forward fold. One thing that's good is when you do a pose, especially a pose of strength upside down, you don't want to stand up immediately afterwards. Let the blood settle. Let the blood pressure release a little bit. Now those are probably the two easiest ways to help your partner come up into a handstand. You can also just be there as a wall, letting your partner kick up to your arm. The key thing with that pose is how I stand. I'm going to have one foot forward and my foot back here is strong into the earth, straight leg. Even if the person would come up and hit my arm pretty strong, I can take the energy of that through my arm and down into my back leg. Again, standing forward fold and she can choose to kick up with one leg again. She can come all the way to my arm and she's right there. I've got her. Again, my head's out of the way and my arm's just a wall for her. She can stay up for a few breaths and then she wants to come down one leg at a time again. Cool. Holding the hips also works for kicking up in a different way. In all the variations that we've shown so far, she's kicked up with one leg at a time. One thing that's good to do too is when you kick up with one leg, maybe one leg feels stronger than the other. That'll help you at first just to get up and get that shape and get that feeling of coming up into a hand stand. But ultimately, eventually too, you want to be able to kick up evenly with either leg. So you kick up with one leg, get strong with that, and then also start to alternate and kick up with the other leg. It's also possible to come up into a handstand with both legs kicking at the same time. So first, kicking up with knees bent, sometimes referred to as bunny hops. For this one, Christina will take a forward fold. For this one, I'll be at her hips holding strong through her hips and she can even kind of practice that movement. She'll bend her knees together and then lift her hips and get that feeling. Having the feet and knees all the way together too is helpful because then it makes like two legs become sealed like one leg. A couple more rounds of just that hopping. There you go. When she hops up too, she can let her feet come to the back of her legs up all the way up to her bum and it'll help to bring her weight over her hands and then come all the way up if you can. She comes all the way up with grace and lightness and I stay at the hips the whole time to keep her secure. And then to come down, just bend the knees back into the belly, into the chest and slowly come on down. Beautiful. You can also kick with more straight legs, taking your legs out to the side. So jumping up into a straddle. This one takes a lot more practice. It takes mostly coordination of figuring out first to get the hips up then the legs straighten. It's really the key to coming up in handstand whether you're working with a partner or at a wall or in the middle of the room that you want to make a movement of the legs using the strength of the legs to really get the hips to come up over the shoulders over the hands. That's key. The legs primarily just go for a ride after you leave the earth. It's the hips that come up that get you up into a handstand and the ability to stick that, stick the handstand. So here again we'll hold at the hips and what Christina will do is starting that same way, bending the knees like she's gonna hop and then once she gets the hips up the legs go out to the side. So she hops, legs go out and she came right up in one try. It's beautiful and she can point her toes and really energetically lengthen out for the legs to make her light and then bending the knees, bringing the knees back in and slowly come back down and I stay with her all the way feet to the floor. Beautiful.

Awesome. So those are different ways of spotting and again you can choose any of those that are feel helpful, helps you to come up into handstand. As a partner to assisting, eventually as my partner gets more comfortable with coming up on her own my touches actually becomes less and less part of the spot. I'm just more there for her. That's again a practice of sensitivity, of trust on her part, sensitivity on my part to just spot her as much as she needs. I'm not making her do the pose. I'm letting her come up and being there just for her as much as she needs me as she's learning to do this on her own. Now a couple more ways to work on the strength part of this and strengthen the core and the ability to even lift up kind of a holy grail of yoga is to be able to come up into a press handstand on your own. So here's a little bit of working with a partner to help you to be able to do that. So for this one you're going to face away and come on to your hands and knees. She places the hands about shoulder distance apart, again creases the wrist straight across. Then she'll bend her elbows and place her head on the floor beyond her fingers. There you go. So she's creating a tripod. We're working on tripod headstand or Shoshasana II position. So the wrists are across, the head is far enough in front of the fingers to form a nice triangle foundation. The arms are plugged into the shoulders, keeping the shoulder blades lifted away from the neck will also keep the neck safe even with a little bit of weight that you're pricing on the head. Then with the toes curled under, she lifts the knees, lifts the hips up. I'm going to come to the feet side and hold the ankles. I lift the feet just a couple inches off the floor and then she's going to pull her feet toward her face. She's going to pull me. She does that by pulling her belly in strong. Now start to lift the legs up a little bit and she keeps pulling that whole way. It's a strong core workout. She's doing awesome here. Take it a little bit higher than horizontal. She's still pulling the whole way. She's strong and then I come down lower than horizontal. She keeps pulling, pulling, pulling, pulling all the way down to the floor. She can come back into child's pose and give her a release through her low back. Take one hand to one hip, one hand to the opposite shoulder and lengthen out the low back. A smooth steady breath. Come back up to seated. So in that action, you're drawing from the foot back into the leg. It feels like you're retracting that leg, pulling it in. It's also going to feel as if you pull in the belly and even come into a little bit of a forward fold. The drawing of the energy of the legs into the body is what lifts the hips and then ultimately lifts the legs when you're working toward pressing up into a handstand. So we're going to try that from a couple different positions also. So come back up to standing. Face away from me and take a standing forward fold. Hands flat to the floor. Put weight into the hands. Plug in the shoulders like we did before and now lift this leg up. Very similar to what we did before. Again, I pressed my elbow into my side. Now what I want Christina to do is lift your bottom foot just an inch off the floor and now try to pull this leg in. Bring your hips over your hands. Let this leg lead the way up. So pull up through this leg to come up. This leg just goes for a ride. It's a lot of work. I can feel her working here and then I'll let her come back down. It looks very similar to what we did before but that was harder wasn't it? Much harder. So you draw in and it's the leg that's being held that is pulling in and leading the way lifting back up to a handstand. So we did that with one ankle. Now both ankles with the hands flat to the floor. So standing forward fold. This one's really tricky. I'll show it a couple times and give pointers on it. Watch first before you try it. So she puts weight into your hands. Shoulders come maybe a little bit over the fingers. Legs are straight. I come to her side. I come down and I'm gonna hold her ankles and lift her feet up a little bit. She tries to pull in here. Pull your hips. I lift her feet a little bit higher. Pull in. Pull in and then I bring her feet back to the floor. Is that some work? That's a lot of work. One of the key things to this too is I need to pull the legs back to slightly. She'll feel a little bit like she's gonna tumble over her fingers which she won't because I'm holding her feet. That'll keep her from moving in that direction but still I want to recognize the direction that the feet, the arc of the legs, are going to take as the legs rise up to bring the hips and the legs over her shoulders and hands. So she's strong to the fingers. She's also keeping her upper back strong.

Shoulder blades into her heart. So she's pressing her heart toward me also as the legs lift up. Let's try that one more time. She could even step back the feet just a little bit more. That's it. But keep her shoulders over her hands and start to lean her weight over her hands because that's where it's gonna go. I hold the ankles. Just lift a little bit. She moves her heart toward me but pulls her legs in. Pull in. Pull in. We can come up a little bit higher and I'm trying to keep her from going over. A little bit higher. Pull me. Keep breathing. Good. I slowly lower her back down. Bending the knees is fine. Take a moment in child's pose. Press on either side of the hips. This will build a lot of strength and make your handstands very confident. And then come back up to seated. So now working to come all the way up with the assistance of a partner. So come back up to standing and I'll show this from a couple different angles. Stand facing me and take a forward fold. Again hands strong into the earth. She can separate her feet a little bit wider. More say a little bit wider than the width of the mat. Then I'm gonna line my knees up with her shoulders. Her shoulders are already over her hands. For the first version I'm gonna show where the knees actually touch the shoulders and become a lever point to help come up and bring the hips up over the hands. But ultimately you won't even need the knees and the knees are just there as a kind of wall just in case the partner goes too far forward. It creates a place where that stops the person from coming too far forward. Now I'm gonna hold her hips and hold her hips really strong. I'm gonna hold right at the crease of the wrists. If you feel on yourself there's a part where the bone, let's go to the iliac crests, protrudes a little bit. Get your fingers right under that spot. That's gonna be the lever point. That's where the point of the hips tipping up over the shoulders. So I reach down, get my fingers right into that spot. She leans into her hands, lifts her heels, and then I help her. My knees are at her shoulders and I lift her up and she hinges all the way up, hips over her hands. She can bring her legs all the way together and I stay with her the whole time. Reach up through your heels and then open the legs back up. I keep my hands where they are and I help her to hinge back down to the earth. She pulls her belly in, shoulders come a little bit forward and she comes down with lightness. And then Christina will just stay in a standing forward fold. We've done some wonderful, wonderful strong work working toward building strength, confidence in a handstand. And again, pick any of these drills that help you to build strength and confidence and leading you to practicing on your own. And always coming back to a partner too is fun. You get to experience this new adventure with your friend. Now from here, Christina will just come down to her hands and knees and then come down to your elbows. Elbows below the shoulders and interlace your fingers. You can slide the elbows a little bit forward and soften the heart so the shoulder blades slide onto the back. With the toes curled under, lift the knees up and back. I'll come down to one knee and then I'm going to place one hand on either shoulder blade and just give a little bit of pressure. And Christina's not going to fight me. She's going to try to go with the stretch and I just give a little bit of pressure. It doesn't take much to create a real deep stretch here in the shoulders and she can give me feedback on whether she wants more or less. She keeps her forearms strong into the floor and lets the upper back move into the body. Looking forward toward the hands too can help encourage the upper back to move in. Take a couple more breaths here. You should feel like a nice release in the shoulders, the arms, even down into the wrists in the stretch. And then I soften and she comes all the way back to her knees. And we'll come back down to sitting on the floor facing one another. In the road to working on a handstand, often what happens too is you have a lot of pressure on your hands. Now you really want to work your fingers pressing down to the earth the whole time your hands take weight. But what can happen for some people is they still feel a lot of pressure in their wrists. So what's wonderful to do after a handstand practice is to do some releases to help each other release the wrists and any tension or soreness that might be left in the wrist. I'll show you one here. So Christina will take her left hand forward and we'll hold hands like we're gonna shake hands but she stays soft through her fingers. So that hand my left hand holds her left hand and I'll take my right hand from the top of the wrists and hold across the wrists. There's two bones that make up the forearm under the the bottom side is the ulna on the top side is the radia and we squeeze that toward each other right below the the wrist. Squeezing there can help create space in the wrists and then now with my left hand I'm gonna pull the hand and lengthen the space of the wrists. I spend a few breaths there and I can move it around move a little bit in one angle a different angle while I continue the pressure with my right hand on the wrist squeezing the two bones toward each other and the partner can give you feedback on whether the pressure feels good whether the pulling could be more or less there's a particular direction of the pulling that feels good. This is actually very sweet to do at any time. I'll just do a couple more rounds here and I kind of move in a random sort of way finding a spot and even feel what might feel good for your partner and then we'll release that side and we'll do the other side. So again soft shaking hands she's not trying to grip my hand just create this shape. The other hand again these two bones I'm gonna hold from the top side and just give a little squeeze right below the wrists. I make that squeeze and then I begin to pull her hand with my right hand trying to lengthen the wrists. There's about a dozen bones that make up the wrists and often they can kind of move against each other in a way that's can create discomfort. Here you're creating space for the bones of the wrist to set back in proper locations and then again I start to move the hand around lengthening at each breath spending a little bit time in any spot that you can kind of feel where it might need a little bit more length a little bit more space and your partner can give you any feedback on what feels good where to spend more time. I'll slowly release from there and then just to close the practice we'll sit cross-legged bring our knees all the way together simple seated twist I'll take my right hand to the outer left tip Christina does the same other arm comes across the back and we hold fingers or hands or wrists inhale tall through the spine and exhale twist we keep a strong connection to the knees too that helps to increase the twist and give you more leverage. A couple more breaths here and then inhale back to center the other side inhale tall through the spine and exhale twist keeping a firm contact through the knees feel also the arm across the low back helping to encourage the low back to draw in and up and then inhale back to center and hands at your heart and for the partner that you assisted really acknowledge them recognize that it took trust on their part it took courage on their part if it was something new or something they even had a little bit of fear involved and you tried to help them and support them and encourage them to try new things to build strength and confidence in a difficult pose of handstand and you faced that challenges together helping each other so again share a smile thank you very much thank you for joining us


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