More than 36 million Americans are saying “om” to yoga each year, and for good reason: The calming, toning practice can be a wonderful escape from the stressors of daily life, while increasing your flexibility and strength to boot.
And the benefits extend far beyond just chiseled arms and strong glutes. Studies show that the practice can help with everything from treating to preventing diseases like diabetes.
Traditionally, yoga is an individual practice. It’s an opportunity to stretch, breathe, and focus on your mat in the present moment. However, jointly practicing yoga with another person, whether that be a friend, partner, or significant other, can have its own unique benefits.
Known as couples yoga or partner yoga, this practice allows two people to relate to one another through assisted poses. From stretching your levels of trust to strengthening your communication, couples yoga can have a positive effect on your relationship that extends far beyond the physical.
Julia Lehrman, a licensed psychotherapist and certified yoga instructor who teaches in New York City and San Francisco, says that “A couples yoga experience can serve as a kind of mini ‘retreat’ or ‘workshop’ to strengthen a relationship. Rather than just going to a class and practicing next to each other, couples yoga requires couples to really pay attention to each other in the moment and work together toward common goals.” The practice is mutually beneficial for both participants, and studies show couples yoga has far-reaching benefits, from reduced anxiety to a better sex life.
Read on to learn more about the unique physical, mental, and emotional benefits of practicing couples yoga.
Strengthen your body and your bond: 4 benefits of couples yoga
1. Increased relationship satisfaction
Just the act of trying out a couples yoga class with your partner can help you to feel more satisfied with your relationship.
Studies have shown that couples who engage in challenging new activities together can feel an increase in both and romantic attraction. In addition, the intimacy and joint posing in couples yoga “can help to renew and revive a relationship,” says Lehrman. “Learning new skills together allows couples to have fun while slowing down, spending quality time, and sharing a meaningful experience.”
Yoga also breeds mindfulness, which studies have linked to happier relationships. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension found a positive association between increased mindfulness, which is defined as “an open attention to and awareness of the present moment,” and higher relationship satisfaction.
Being in the moment while breathing and posing with your partner can reinvigorate your connection, making you both feel more satisfied in your relationship.
2. Improved intimacy and sex life
Couples yoga may also help to increase both arousal and sexual satisfaction. A study from Loyola University Health System found that partner yoga can help couples who are struggling with sexual dysfunction.
It’s important to note that couples yoga isn’t sexual in nature. It’s a form of yoga that utilizes two people to synch their breathing, postures, and movements. However, this can increase intimacy as it requires new levels of trust, communication, and connection.
One reason yoga may improve your sex life is due to increased communication through touch and movement. Lehrman notes that “Conflict in relationships can stem from couples feeling out of sync, distant, or disconnected. In couples yoga, the act of moving together can help couples feel more in sync.”
Studies have shown that practicing yoga can improve and in fact, some couples’ therapists are now incorporating partner yoga into their counseling sessions to help couples improve their sex lives and create a stronger relationship.
3. Increased communication and trust
In order to construct the poses in a couples yoga session, you must rely and lean on your partner throughout (both literally and metaphorically!), as well as constantly communicating verbally and nonverbally. This requires trust, support, and most importantly, vulnerability.
Physical touch can be a language of its own as Lehrman notes, a way to convey a sense of nurturing and express deep emotions without using words. She says “Conscious and consensual human touch has the capacity to communicate to another person that they are seen, appreciated, cared for, loved, accepted, valued, worthy, and safe.”
Additionally, coordinated nonverbal movement like that found in the rhythmic breathing and posing of couples yoga can help couples feel “more affectively attuned to each other,” according to a study from the British Psychological Society.
Matching your partner’s moves, also called mimicry, can help to increase empathy and bonding, according to the study. Because partners must rely on each other to stay balanced and strong in poses, this can help to improve communication. The flowing postures, the push and pull, and the reliance on someone else creates connection because participants must be fully engaged in the moment and in the movements.
4. Reduced anxiety and stress
While most yoga practices help to lower stress and reduce anxiety, couples yoga offers a special bonus thanks to the power of your significant other’s touch. A study published in Psychological Science found that married couples who hold hands felt immediate relief from extreme stress. The spousal hand-holding provided a stronger neural response than holding the hand of a stranger. Thus, just merely touching your partner can reduce anxiety by helping to mitigate the neural response to stress.
Additionally, as Lehrman notes, certain poses like backbends and Camel Pose are designed to help open up certain areas of the body. This can create space for new energy and provide relief from physical and emotional stress, tension, and pain.
Whether you practice yoga to release tension, to build strength and flexibility, to focus on mindfulness, or a combination of all, couples yoga has the added perk of strengthening your bond. And that is something we can say Namaste to.
One simple pose to try with your partner: Back-to-back breathing
- Sit in a comfortable position facing away from your partner, with backs resting against each another and feet in a cross-legged position.
- Sit up straight, shoulders straight and away from your ears, arms relaxed, and begin to alternate breathing.
- When your partner deeply inhales, you deeply exhale, and so on.
- Repeat for 10 breaths, and repeat 3 times.
This breathing posture will help to increase mindfulness, relaxation, and connection with your partner.