Kimberly Drye, left, and Alex Moody practice partner yoga at the Biltmore Estate. Photo courtesy of E. Whitney Photography
How will Asheville’s health nuts and wellness aficionados spend their Valentine’s Day? Well, aside from crafting homemade, raw, vegan, gluten-free, kale-infused treats for their sweethearts (OK, maybe nix the kale), many couples will stretch their limbs and open their hearts at one of the partner yoga workshops offered at nearly every studio in the area.
Local yoga teacher Kimberly Drye gives us some insight as to why so many Ashevillians are choosing to spend their V-days on the mat. She also shares some fun poses you can practice with a friend or significant other at home.
Mountain Xpress: In yoga classes, we often hear teachers talk about “opening our hearts” In what ways can this statement be interpreted and understood?
Kimberly Drye: The expression “open your heart” has both a physical meaning of expanding the chest and an emotional/spiritual meaning of cultivating compassion. The heart in yoga refers to more than the beating organ in your chest, it refers to your heart center — the space within your consciousness for love, specifically unconditional love.
Because we believe the mind and the body are connected, we often will focus on backbends or chest openers to remind ourselves of this aspect of our beings — the part of ourselves that can love fully and unselfishly. It’s not that the act of doing backbends makes you unselfish or more loving — thats not the point. Rather, when we approach the practice with the intention of opening both the physical and spiritual heart centers, then it works.
A partner class helps to open your heart by forcing you to be more aware and thoughtful as you support and encourage your partner and also learn to rely on them for support. We often practice yoga to be alone and to turn inward. A partner class is an opportunity to practice bringing the skills you’ve created in your own practice to the surface in your relationships with others.
A big difference between a partner yoga class and a regular yoga class is having to touch one another. How can touch and becoming comfortable with touch positively influence our yoga practice and our lives?
So much is conveyed in a touch. It’s a transference of energy and emotion — which is why I think so many of us are wary. In today’s world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all that is scary and unknown. It can often be easier to shrink away. I hope my class is a reminder that there are safe places to explore connection, that there is so much to be gained from reaching beyond yourself into someone else’s space and inviting them into yours. There will be some discussion in the beginning of the class of how to create safe boundaries in your practice during the class and in your relationships with others in general.
What are some simple partner yoga exercises that couples and friends can do at home?
There are so many! It’s so fun to approach your practice with the help and support of someone else — just like approaching any other goal in life. I personally like when someone is taught how to adjust my pose, so that I get just a little bit deeper stretch or awareness when I am in it — like when someone pushes my hips back in downward facing dog or simply holds my legs still while I work in handstand. My ultimate favorite partner pose is when someone lies backwards over my back in childs pose and then we switch, so we each get a supported experience of opening up in a backbend and curling in during a forward fold.
What can people expect from a partner yoga class in terms of poses, activities and tone?
The tone of the partner class I’m teaching will be fun and playful. Sometimes partners and couples classes can be focused on intimacy with a lover or spouse. My class will be focused more on inviting someone into your space for connection in a friendly way. The poses will be accessible for all levels. Some of the class will be learning how to adjust your partner’s poses to offer them extra support or enhance their stretch, and part of the class will be you and your partner in a combined pose.
Anything else you want to share about partner yoga and the yoga-love connection?
Partner yoga is rich with metaphors about how to approach your relationships and connections with others — how to offer support and be supported, how to set boundaries, how to reach beyond yourself without fear. Most importantly though, I want this class to be a chance for people to be playful within their practice. Having a buddy can really make things more fun.
Kimberly Drye is an Asheville-based yoga teacher. Learn more about Drye and her classes at herenowyoga.com. Still looking to make some Valentine’s Day plans? There is time to register for Drye’s Valentines-inspired partner yoga and heart-opening classes this weekend. More info here.