Learning to move with and be moved by someone else is an amazing experience, and much easier than you think. There’s more to partner yoga than just pretty shapes and flashy Instagram posts. Don’t worry about how it looks—bring awareness to how it feels.
In this series, Daniel Scott—yogi provocateur and ambassador of trust—offers valuable insight on how to best share your movement practice with ease, accessibility, and fun. Looking to try AcroYoga with Daniel? Join one of his amazing classes at Wanderlust Squaw Valley this summer and learn to take your trust to the next level!
Much like an itch on your back just out of reach, having a friend around when working on your backbend is super helpful! This following progression of exercises will help you take a closer look at how to open up from the front body to better explore moving back. Make a point to work both roles, as both base and flyer. Remember: Go slow, communicate often, and have fun!
Exercise 1: DownDog, Chest Opener, Backbend
While it may sound like a yoga version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, this easily accessible exercise has got something for every body!
First off, one of you will rock a downward facing dog. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just comfortable. Feel free to bend the knees and adjust the distance between hands and feet as necessary. The other partner has a choice: Do I place my sacrum between the shoulder blades of this fine downdog and gently open up my upper back over their hips for a delicious chest opener? Perhaps I should try raising my hips higher up my partner’s sacrum and slowly unwind my lumbar spine over the crest of their tailbone?
My two cents: Try both!
Exercise 2: Backpack
Obviously, back bends and forward folds fit very nicely together. For this next round, let’s talk about a special skill known as the “Dump Truck”, in which one partner scoops their tailbone under their partner’s. As you can tell from the GIF below, it’s extremely important to coordinate Dump Trucks & forward folds in order to comfortably and safely move (and move with) your partner.
For the first variation, aim to keep your partner’s feet on the ground as you take them through a gentle mini-backpack. After comfortably interlacing arms whilst standing back to back, have them “Dump Truck” you (scoop their tailbone under yours). Once cozy, begin to gently fold forward with knees bent (to adjust for height differences and ensure controlled balance). Keep your feet spread wider than your hips (for a wider wheelbase and strong foundation). Keep your partner’s head supported with your neck and back, and stop folding when they tell you to.
Want to increase the difficulty? Go for the full backpack by Dump Trucking your partner (scooping your tailbone under theirs), using the strength of your legs with bent knees. In both cases, feel free to try releasing the arms and help support yourself by taking your elbows to your own knees.
Pro-Tip for the Flyers: Keep a good amount of core engagement to protect the lower back. Try slowly lifting the knees to your chest if it’s too much on your lower back.
Exercise 3: Meat Rack
This next progression works on finding the perfect fit of foot-to-back, while creating a particularly lovely chest opener with shoulder traction.
Start with Flyer’s heels at Base’s seat. Base extends legs upwards, presenting their feet so that the Flyer may place their shoulder blades on them (it may help for the Base to turn their heels outward to cradle the back ribs). One or both partners can try bend their knees to adjust for height/proportion differences.
Once you’ve figured out the weight of your partner (or his/her ability to support you), try this from the other direction. Step around and place Flyer’s heels at Base’s shoulders. Let the Flyer reach back and place their shoulder blades on the Base’s feet. Once nestled all cozy-like, the Flyer can let their arms hang downward, and the Base can reach upward with their hands to offer gentle traction. Flyers, is your neck feeling strained? Try interlacing your fingers behind your skull to support your head. BOOM! You just mastered a more advanced Acro pose.