By Hannah Joseph
Spring is the season of rebirth. Trees sprout new buds, birds return to their northern nests and women everywhere begin their hunt for the perfect pair of strappy sandals. For my past relationships, however, spring has meant certain death. Around March or April, I have historically ditched the wonderful world of couples to spread my wings as a reinvented single woman. I don’t mean to say that I obey this rule like clockwork, but it is just how things have turned out. When spring rolls around and days begin to last just a little longer, life seems limitless. One begins to wonder if she could be doing something better with her time.
Having found someone I could envision as “the one” last year, this little habit presented a serious problem. I needed to find a way to stretch my metaphorical limbs without letting my relationship fall to the wayside. So I did what any other New York City woman would do – I turned to my yoga instructor, David Hollander, for help. He told me to take a yoga class (I should have seen that coming). “This time,” he said, “bring your boyfriend along.” While I was hesitant to drag my boyfriend, who loves to lift weights and plays on a dodgeball team on Tuesdays, to a stretching class, I soon realized that David had a point. Actually, he had several.
Yoga, as you probably know, is the age-old practice of controlled movements and meditation. For individuals, it provides a renewed sense of self. But for the couple that practices together, yoga can strengthen the bond and create a deeper understanding between individuals. “Yoga can do so much for relationships,” said Hollander during our March conversation. “It lets you feel your partner in a way that you normally don’t see them. You get a sense of the push and pull between two people.”
What Hollander is specifically referring to is partner yoga, which (surprise!) involves two people in a series of collaborative poses. Partner yoga, as Hollander explained, falls into one or more of three categories: counterbalance, tension release and acroYoga. Counterbalance yoga requires each person to balance his weight against the other in order to create a harmonious equilibrium of bodies. These poses often work to stretch both partners and enable each person to help the other release tension. For the more adventurous couple, acroYoga involves learning how to support each other in the air. “For these poses, you have to learn to work together, balance each other and support each other or else you will fail,” said Hollander. “A lot of times nervousness and trust issues will come up and couples will become stronger as they work those things out. It’s very beautiful.”
Yoga, like any other new experience, places couples into a state of reexamination. When you have been with someone long enough, you may start to feel less like an individual as well as lose sight of your partner’s individuality. Yoga can help fix this common problem. “It’s a sensual process where you’re touching and engaged – it’s not overtly sexual, but in a way, it’s really reveals a bit about yourself and the other person,” Hollander told me. “Seeing your partner in a different and unusual way – getting out of the normal routine – can be a turn on.”
If you practice yoga on a continual basis, you’ll also begin to see physical changes within your relationship. You’ll become more toned, have increased flexibility and possibly even notice a difference in your sexual habits. In fact, Hollander asserts that yoga includes many Tantric exercises, which ultimately help women achieve multiple, full-body orgasms and enable men to abstain from ejaculation until climaxing becomes a spiritual experience. While most instructors won’t bluntly say it in the middle of a beginner’s yoga class – although he or she might instruct you to contract your “pelvic floor” – sexual fulfillment is a large part of yoga. “I would not be surprised if Kegal exercises were invented by someone who had studied yoga,” Hollander said. “All yoga is really Tantra. In the order of chakras, or energy centers, first comes survival and second, sex.”
Better sex is a wonderful byproduct of partner yoga but spirituality is the true foundation of the practice. Don’t let this turn you off to it, though; Hollander tells us that the spiritual aspect of yoga is completely unimportant in the beginning, and definitely not a requirement as you continue. If you and your significant other do choose to study the spiritual element of yoga, you will each embark on a journey that millions swear by. As you grow as individuals, you will grow together. “If you’re breathing and moving and helping the other person and showing them affection – if you’re spending time with them while doing something that you love, that’s wonderful.”
David Hollander (above) has taught yoga since 1994 and studied Ashtanga Vinyasa under yogis all over the world including Pathhabhi Jois, Manju Jois, David Swenson and David Williams. Currently residing in Manhattan, David instructs yoga classes for all skill levels at Pure Yoga (203 E. 86th Street on Third Avenue, NYC) and Yoga Sutra (501 Fifth Avenue on the Second Floor, NYC). For more information about yoga, David Hollander and to get a sneak peak at some of his artwork, go to: http://www.sunandmoonarts.com.