Sunday, February 13, 2011

Partner Yoga: a touchy subject.

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I can't help but think of a better topic for today than the importance of touch. According to Dr. Deborah Moore, "We're all born with a great need for touch. To thrive, newborns must be fed touch as much as food. Studies in orphanages and hospitals repeatedly tell us that infants deprived of skin contact lose weight, become ill and even die." So why is it that the older we become we seem to simply lose touch with, well, the importance of it?

Desmond Morris, the author of several books including The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body, Intimate Behaviour, and The Nature of Happiness, says that, "Something special happens when two people touch each other physically, whether it be a handshake, a pat on the back, or a slap on the face." We tend to rely on body language 75% more than we do verbal discourses. It's no wonder that, "Touch establishes communication, and what is transmitted has more meaning than words."

Typically in Yoga classes, students stay on their individual mats avoiding touching their neighbors with much caution. Partner Yoga is completely different in this regards.

Elysabeth Williamson, who developed Principle Based Partner Yoga over the course of 15 years, explains that Partner Yoga is about incorporating, "Themes such as trust, compassion and other universal principles," into one's practice. "Inspiring our human potential for intimacy and connection with others," through touch and the human connection that is inherent in any sort of partnership.

While I spent my summer in 2010 at the Asheville Yoga Center I was fortunate enough to take some Partner Yoga classes. My life's never been the same since. It is remarkable how splendid shifting a typical Yoga Asana (let's say the Boat Pose/Navasana) to fit two or more people (try sitting across from one another and allow soles of both parties feet to touch, clasp hands together) can be.

I understand that not everyone is in a relationship. I'm sure, however, that everyone has at least one friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, son, daughter, niece or nephew with whom they could practice one Partner Yoga posture. I encourage you to find a partner and, "Keep in touch."

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