What are we doing here? Let’s get out,” hissed my husband as we faced each other, about four feet apart, holding each other’s hands, even as the instructor told us to lower ourselves into a crouching posture and then, arms stretched to the maximum, still holding hands, bend backwards. Too much pull and we could topple and fall.
When the email invite said “yoga for couples”, we didn’t bother to read the fine print and landed up at New Delhi’s Defence Colony at the appointed hour for the first session. Here, the brother and sister duo of Sanjeev and Poonam Bhanot, who run the Yogalife Studio, were holding their three-day workshop (Rs1,500 for a couple).
We were late, and as we entered, the first reaction was to flee. It looked as though couples were glued to each other, doing what looked like complicated dance poses. But Poonam spotted us and pushed us onto the mats right at the front. Fleet-footed hubby, however, smartly whipped the mats to the back of the spacious hall. If we had to do this routine, we might as well do so without making exhibitions of ourselves.
Even as Sanjeev and Poonam demonstrated the next asana—which involved leaning against each other’s backs, arms stretched out sideways, and then stretching the right leg out in the classic Virbhadrasana pose, they described how these asanas would help couples draw support from one another, demonstrate the total trust reposed in one’s partner, help one stay connected, and so on.
Looking at their amazingly fluid moves, we were emboldened to try it, only to find ourselves encumbered by the difference in our heights. Sneaking sideways glances at others, we were relieved to see the other couples—not all of whom were husband and wife—in similar difficulties. If we had been busy finding fault with each other’s stance, then the father and daughter duo next to us were positively bickering. Only the tall, slim foreigner nearby and her Indian partner seemed to be doing things with ease.
After much trial and error, and under the personal supervision of Poonam, who taught us how to adjust the height difference (the taller partner had to bend more), we finally got the hang of this asana, only to hear Sanjeev announce that we had been doing the easy routines so far and would be stepping into higher gear.
By this time, helped by the constant self-deprecating jokes around us (the guy in front kept wanting to find out when we would get to do Shavasana) and the non-stop banter of the instructors, we lost some of our inhibitions and began entering into the spirit of things.
Over the next hour and a half, we learnt various asanas—from Surya Namaskar to the Turtle Pose that could be done together—and, finally, the piece de resistance—the correct technique to walk on each other’s backs without causing pain. From the unholy glee with which men proceeded to walk down their partners’ backs (at last a chance to crush them beneath our feet, went the wisecracks), it looked as though we were back to the usual game of one-upmanship among the sexes, rather than the lofty ideals of building trust and intimacy.
However, by the end of the third day, when the participants had stopped horsing around, Sanjeev was positively crowing with triumph. “There was good energy all round. Did you see the way the father and daughter had started communicating better? How the daughter was no longer so impatient?” he said.
Hmm, purists might frown at the concept of “couple yoga”—after all, it is very much an individual practice requiring concentration and focus. But Sanjeev, who has seen it successfully used in Europe, justifies it as a fun way to draw on each other’s strengths. He also uses this technique of paired yoga for corporate workshops. “We organize weekend retreats in the mountains for corporates, which involves self-development programmes and team-building and couple yoga techniques work really well here,” he explains.
And, did it help hubby and me bond better? Well, after the workshop, for once we were in perfect, harmonious agreement. Fun though it admittedly was, we would keep our exercise routines separate from now on. One place less to fight.
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