Roses and artisanal chocolate are pretty awesome, but when it comes to keeping a relationship strong, they don’t hold a (softly lit, romantically fragranced) candle to one-on-one time on the mat. Enter: partner yoga poses to enhance that bond.
“One of the best ways to create more intimacy in your relationships is by establishing and maintaining open lines of communication,” says Abby Vernon, an instructor at San Diego’s Yoga Six, which offers partner classes meant to deepen a couple’s relationship. “In partner yoga, communication is key in order to cultivate a sense of safety and trust, as well as hold space for laughter and play.”
Vernon crafted a two-person routine that can help couples (and BFFs) explore and strengthen a relationship. She suggests completing the series twice, holding each pose for three to five full breaths. So grab a partner—whoever that may be—and hit the mat for a way to create an entirely new level of a love connection. And if you still want to finish up with some post-savasana chocolate (and a romantic fancy candle) we totally encourage that.
10 partner yoga poses that’ll strengthen your relationships with your S.O. or BFF
Move through these poses sequentially to get the most out of your flow.
1. Centering, or sukhasana
The benefit of centering with your partner is to give you time to detach from your day’s events and focus on what you’re about to accomplish. Looking your partner in the eye allows you to appreciate them and connect before movement.
Sit face to face with your partner in a cross-legged position with your hands on one another’s knees. If this is uncomfortable for your low back, sit on a pillow or bolster for support. Take a moment to breathe as you look into the eyes of your partner.
2. Seated cat-cow, or marjaryasana-bitilasana
Cat-cow is a fundamental yoga pose that articulates your spine for better mobility, which is key in everyday movement.
From your seated position, reach for one another’s forearms and interlace, creating a gentle bind (or reinforcing your bond). Find equal resistance between you and your partner as you draw your shoulders back and down. Inhale and lift your heart toward the sky to extend the spine, allowing your head to arc back if it feels appropriate for your neck. As you exhale, draw your chin to your chest and round your upper back, gazing in towards your belly button and spreading your shoulder blades wide. Allow your breath to lead the way as you continue this motion, flowing through spinal flexion and extension together.
3. Seated spinal twist, or ardha matsyendrasana
Working through a gentle spinal twist loosens up your joints, improves your spinal flexibility, and boosts your circulation as it opens up your shoulders.
Begin in a seated position facing your partner, legs crossed (same position as centering). Cross your arms and reach for each others’ hands. Initiate a twist from the base of your spine, twisting in opposition of your partner and using their hands to deepen the twist. Check in with your partner, make sure they are breathing steadily and feel comfortable. You may feel a slight chest and shoulder opener during this one, so be sure to communicate. Release on an exhale and slowly repeat on the other side.
4. Back to back dialogue
After your beginning movements, take time to further connect with your partner and discuss what feelings may have come up during the flow. This is a powerful exercise in listening and noticing how the conversation changes when you cannot engage or see your partner’s face.
Sit back to back with your partner in a cross-legged position (again using support if desired). Take a few deep breaths in silence and focus on feeling your partner’s breath. Notice how when you’re close, your breaths tend to sync up and match one another. If you feel open to it, take turns speaking about what’s on your mind. Give each person at least three minutes to share without interruption, acknowledgment, or feedback.
5. Back to back backbend/forward fold, or anuvittasana/tttanasana
Taking turns moving through a backend and forward fold allows you to further stretch your spine as well as to unwind your hamstring muscles.
Begin seated, back to back. Have one partner extend their legs and lean forward into a fold (for tight hamstrings bend the knees slightly, or place a rolled up towel under the knees for support). The other partner places both feet on the floor and slowly presses backward, potentially into a gentle backbend. This couples formation stretches one partner’s spine and chest (backbend) while releasing their partner’s back and opening the hamstrings (forward fold). Then switch. Be sure to check in with your partner on this one as sensitive lower backs and tight hamstrings are very common.
6. Back to back shoulder stretch
This is a universal stretch that you can do alone, but with a partner you’re able to get a deeper stretch of your shoulders.
Stand back to back, extend your arms out wide into a T position. Interlace hands with one another, pressing the palms together. Keep your arms engaged as one partner gently pulls on the others’ palms to create a stretch across the chest and shoulders.
7. Back to back chair, or utkatasana
Chair pose is a squatting yoga pose that fires up your quadriceps and tests your balancing skills. With a partner, this is a playful exercise that strengthens body and mind, while creating a deeper sense of trust.
Stand back to back and relax your arms by your sides. Press firmly into one another to maintain balance as you first walk the feet to hip-width apart, and then away from your partner’s. Slowly begin to lower down as if you’re sitting on a chair. Once you’ve reached a 90-degree angle in your knees, hold for three to five steady breaths. Push into each other to rise back up.
8. Seated bound angle, or baddha konasana
The seated bound angle is one of the best hip-opening poses in yoga, and stretches out the muscles that get tight from sitting all day. So you’ll hit your outer hips, inner thighs, and low back while cultivating intimacy and support.
Sit facing one another and find a long spine. Have one person bring the soles of their feet together and the other extend their legs long, feet against shins (feel free to bend your knees if you have tight hamstrings). Reach for one another’s forearms and interlace. The person with extended legs pulls the other forward slightly, tuning in to their breath as the other deepens the stretch.
9. Lateral side bend, or urdhva hastasana ardha chandrasana
Stretching your side body, as you do in this pose, is an integral way to create space between your ribs as it facilitates fuller, deeper breathing.
Sit facing your partner in a straddle stretch with your feet together. Reach for each other’s same side hand (right to right or left to left) and connect forearm to wrist. Take a deep breath in. On the exhale, bend sideways toward the extended arm as you stretch the opposite arm overhead.
10. Flying warrior, or visvamitrasana
This is where your trust and communication with your partner is put to the ultimate test. As you work on these elements of your relationship, you’ll also benefit by strengthening your arm muscles, stretching your hips, and working on your balance. Flying warrior cultivates a sense of stability, freedom, and playfulness.
To begin, the base partner lies on their back, knees bent, legs lifted toward the sky. The partner, the “flyer,” stands in front of their partner, clasping hands and leaning into the partner’s feet. The base partner adjusts their feet in their hip crease, toes slightly turned out for comfort. The base partner keeps their arms strong as the flyer leans their weight into their feet. With trust and a mutually communicated sense of security, the base slowly extends their legs, and they take flight.If you feel comfortable and safe, release the hand clasp and enjoy another level of excitement. Pro tip: It’s best to either have a spotter nearby for support, or a soft surface to land on.
Originally posted February 12, 2016, updated October 2, 2020
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