Like most couples, Andrea Skene and her husband don’t have a lot of downtime. In addition to demanding work schedules—she’s a sales representative and he’s a lawyer—they have two sons, aged five and two. Their schedules don’t allow for much breathing room. Yet every Wednesday night, the two go to yoga together.
"We make it our date night," Skene tells the Georgia Straight. "It’s our opportunity to do something for ourselves. My husband’s parents look after the kids, and we go for dinner afterward.
"I like having Michael right there next to me," Skene adds of their weekly ritual at Laural Strang’s For the Love of Yoga Studio. "It’s really nice. It’s very relaxing.”¦In savasana, we’ll be laying there, and every single time I fall asleep."
The notion of yoga as a strictly solitary practice isn’t necessarily the case. Whether it involves people simply stretching side by side or physically assisting one another with various positions, couples yoga is becoming more common in the world of Sun Salutations and Downward Dogs.
"It’s about taking time to connect with each other, and help each other in poses, as well," says Michael Rudd, owner of Ladner’s Open Space Yoga. "It’s about being completely present with each other."
Rudd and fellow teacher Wendy Robertson will be leading a candlelit couples class on Valentine’s Day (to be followed by herbal tea and sushi). Rudd has been offering couples sessions for four years, and he says what often happens is that women bring their reluctant male partners—and the men end up being won over.
"It’s a really great, safe way to introduce men to yoga," he says. "We’ve gained a few regular male students as a result.”¦Men think that because they can’t bend over and touch their toes, they can’t do yoga. But anybody, no matter what their flexibility or fitness level, can enjoy the benefits of yoga."
Among those benefits, Rudd claims, are releasing tension in the body and increasing core strength. "The biggest benefit is that people learn to breathe again," he says. "When we’re stressed, we breathe high in the chest. By learning to breathe deeply, we bring the benefits of yoga into our daily lives."
Other positive effects, according to Vancouver-based chain YYoga, include improved flexibility, balance, strength, and energy. Plus, yoga helps relieve stress, enhance mental focus, and boost self-awareness.
"Yoga is a path of opening to our authentic self," explains the single-monikered Swan, who operates the Path Yoga Centre. "As we journey into the discovery of healing and wholeness through meditation and asana practice, it seems natural to share our experience with our loved one.
"The practice of couples yoga," she adds, "can facilitate a deeper and more meaningful exchange through developing communication skills."
Farah Moolji Nazarali and her husband, Dustin Anderson—who will lead a couples yoga and stretching class on Valentine’s Day at Open Door Yoga’s Main Street location (as well as on February 28 and March 28 at Open Door Yoga’s Commercial Drive location)—agree that the benefits of stretching with your partner go far beyond the physical.
"What we found when we put ourselves in a new learning environment together was that it builds and strengthens our communication," Nazarali says in a phone interview.
Anderson adds: "You have to communicate what your needs are. You have to define your needs within a couple’s dynamic."
Adds Nazarali, "It’s also a great way to build intimacy, because you get to experience the body of your partner, the physicality of your partner, in a different way."
Anderson, who also teaches a men’s stretching class, says that practising poses together also teaches couples to be gentle with each other. "It helps build trust."