Partner Yoga is both an ancient and modern healing art. Although it has deep roots in Yogic, specifically Tantric, lineages – it is an emergent practice that is designed to meet the current needs of our evolving humanity. Principle-Based Partner Yoga™, the unique style of Partner Yoga you are studying, acknowledges with gratitude the depth of spiritual teachings that have been preserved and handed down through the ages – teachings that have greatly benefitted and uplifted humanity.
We live in an amazing and powerful era of both material and spiritual technology. We define technology as the practical application of knowledge. Modern scientific technology has been instrumental in giving us immense access to the spiritual technology of ancient traditions, as well as the teachings of awakened women and men currently alive on the planet. This is a great and much needed blessing for humanity, as this technology offers us a real opportunity, not only to study, but to realize, embody and live from the ultimate truth of our being.
Yoga and Partner Yoga are pathways to realize the deepest truth – that we are not separate, from each other or from life. Our essence is pure, indestructible awareness – whose nature is love. We are connected to each other and to all things through this pure field of awareness. At this auspicious moment in our evolution, we are given access to the most direct instruction and practices, from both ancient and modern teachings, for embodying and fully living the truth of love in our lives.
Yoga, and more specifically Partner Yoga, is considered part of the wider, more encompassing system of Tantra, a Sanskrit word that essentially means to weave. Tantra is an ancient system that inspires us to experience all of life fully, and to use all of our life experience to realize ultimate truth. The practitioner of Tantra holds everything in life with reverence – realizing everything, from the gross to the subtle, has spiritual significance and is part of the unity of existence.
Tantra is a rich and diverse philosophical tradition that comes from some of the oldest spiritual texts on the planet. Tantra teaches liberation of the mind through the release and transformation of unconscious energy. For this reason, it is particularly suited to Western needs because it enables us to liberate repressed energy and to channel it into higher awareness for enlightened living. Tantra promotes a diverse range of definitions of spiritual growth and recognizes that there are different paths for all beings, according to their nature and capacity.
Although in western culture the philosophy and practice of Tantra has been for the most part, relegated to the sexual realms, Tantra is truly inclusive of all of the dynamic display of energy and includes all of our experiences as opportunity for awakening.
Mantra and Yantra
Tantric practices teach how to awaken our innate life-force energy, and how to link that energy to the all-pervading field of existence. Two primary tools used in Tantra are mantra and yantra. Mantras are sound vibrations, words of power, such as the cosmic sound of OM. Most all religious traditions view sound as the basis of manifestation, as in the biblical quote ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was God’.
The Sanskrit word Mantra translates as ‘mind protector’ or ‘free from mind’. Mantras are energy-based sounds that create specific frequencies and states of awareness. Mantra vibrates the mind/body at both the gross physical and the subtle psychic levels. This
vibration exerts subtle yet powerful pressure through the entire being. This pressure awakens dormant energies in the mind/body system and dislodges subconscious crystallized thoughts stored in the organs and glands, transforming these bodily parts into repositories of peace.
The Sanskrit word Yantra means loom, tool or instrument. Yantra is a symbolic representation of aspects of divinity and consists of geometric shapes, either simple or complex in design. Meditation on a yantra induces concentration, focuses our mind and opens the heart to higher aspirations. Yantras relate to mantra in that they are considered to be the form, shape and manifestation of the Mantra. Both Mantra and Yantra energize the Prana (spiritual intelligence) needed for our awakening and transformation.
In Partner Yoga practices, we play with form and energy creating Yantras with our bodies through connecting with others. These symbolic configurations affect us both on the physical and subtle levels. Instead of something we meditate upon, we actually become the embodiment of the sacred symbol and conscious manifestations of the divine.
When we open to the flow of energy while in these symbolic formations, we have an opportunity to experience directly how we are all part of the same consciousness – whose nature is Love. When we include Mantra and/or other sound vibrations, we further activate frequencies for healing and harmonizing our physical and subtle bodies.
Om (Aum) is the original cosmic vibration of the universe and is considered the origin of all creation. It is the sound that is heard when all is silent and the seed syllable of all sound and mantras. Om is the vibration each individual resonates with while in states of deep meditation.
Scientists have found a hum with their radio telescopes in every direction of outer space – and believe that they are hearing the creation of our Universe. Om is even thought to be heard in modern technological sounds such as the hum of refrigerators.
Transforming the dysfunctional into the functional and then into fully realized awareness is part of Tantric training. Our relations with others are often the place where we experience the most pain and disfunction. This comes from the misunderstanding that we are separate beings with competing goals.
Yoga and specifically Partner Yoga practices, confirms the truth of unity. We learn how to be authentic and true to ourselves while relating to others and from this alignment, we begin to perceive others as aspects of ourselves. Partner Yoga offers tools and practices for transforming our relationships into sacred, life-affirming connections. It guides us in our return to our natural state of innocence and trust.
The aim of Yoga is to ‘still the fluctuations of the mind.’ Partner Yoga amplifies the energy of stillness through the added dimension of our partner’s presence. We shift our focus from over-active minds to the gentler polarity of the heart, and from trying to think our way into balance and harmony, to directly feeling it. When the mind is used in balance with the heart, our science and technologies are tempered with the heart’s innate wisdom and capacity for peace, and our actions naturally become beneficial for all.
The techniques of Principle-Based Partner Yoga™ help us to integrate universal principles such as compassion, trust and community. As we bring awareness of these principles into our practices, we actualize our human potential.
Training Manual by Elysabeth Williamson
Subtle Anatomy of the Sacrum – The Holy Bone
– from Principle-Based Partner Yoga™ Training Manual
Sacrum comes from the Latin word ‘sacer’ meaning ‘sacred’ because the sacrum was considered a highly valued and holy bone. Specifically, it was believed that the sacrum could not be destroyed and that it was the part of the body that would allow someone to rise from the dead. The Greeks called it the ‘hieron osteon’ which not only means sacred but also ‘temple’. It is a temple in the sense that the sacrum creates the dorsal wall of the pelvis, protecting the genitalia, the organs of creation. It was also considered sacred by the Greeks because of the belief that the soul resided in the sacrum.
The Romans called the bone ‘os sacrum’, which literally meant the ‘holy bone’. The sacrum is the last bone in the body to decompose therefore it was believed that someone could be reassembled in the afterlife from its remains. In the Yogic tradition, the sacrum is said to be where the Kundalini serpent lies sleeping dormant, waiting for the force of Prana to awaken it from its slumber and cause it to rise up to the higher center of consciousness.
‘We imagine that our bones and flesh are what really exist, and that energy “wheels” and slumbering serpents are mere flights of fancy; but the opposite is true: the sacrum, along with other regions like the navel, heart, throat, and the middle of the forehead, are themselves the outward symbols, “em-body-ing” a deeper reality. The ancient yogi’s saw and experienced the body as a microcosm, a minute replica of the whole of creation, which in it’s hidden recesses contained the ultimate meaning of life.’ Richard Rosen
From the anatomical perspective, the sacrum is considered the keystone bone in the body. In this context, the keystone acts as the central bone that holds the whole structure together. With this understanding and from the sacrum’s auspicious history we can summarize that the sacrum is an important ‘root’, a special seat of power from which we can learn to consciously connect.
The sacrum plays a very important role in the practice of Partner Yoga. It acts as the foundational connection between partners and is the conduit for energy transfer. The quality of energy that is generated is dependent upon the ways the sacra align with one another. Although the sacrum is unique in each body, it is interesting to note that it is noticeably sexually dimorphic (differently-shaped in males and females). In the female, the sacrum is shorter and wider than in the male.
Experiments with Partner Yoga have revealed that the energy is calming and grounding when sacra connect in the same direction, such as in Back-to-Back Seated Meditation. The energy becomes more stimulating and activating when sacra connect in the opposite directions such as in Prone or Standing Sacral Connection. (See ‘The Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga’ for further study)
Connecting With the Sacrum
Simply having physical contact on our sacrum brings greater awareness to both the physical and subtle body. This exercise can be used in both individual and Partner Yoga classes. (See also page 20-21 and page 23 for further practices with the sacrum)
- One Partner stands in Tadasana. Assisting partner places one hand firmly on the sacrum. Use the heel of the hand to press in a downward direction. Point fingers in the same direction as the tailbone but extending away and not touching your partner.
- Assisting partner places the other hand lightly on the sternum with the energetic intention to raise this bone upward.
- Assisting partner breathes steadily grounding her own body as she supports her partner to come into a relaxed, grounded and aligned Tadasana.
Back-to-Back Sacrum Connection is the foundation of Partner Yoga practice and is accessible to most every body.
Back-to-Back Partner Meditation
The spine is the backbone of our being. It provides the structure and support we need to move out into the world. It is also the axis of our innermost Self. Our chakras align along the length of the spine and the central nervous system runs through its core. The spine holds the essence of our individual identity. Allow yourself to experience your transpersonal, soul attributes as you relate from this back-to-back perspective.
Back-to-Back Sacrum Connection general instructions:
This practice is best understood as a powerful connection between sacrum, rather than back-to-back sitting pose. It is extremely important that we do not lean our upper back on our partner. When we lean or are leaned on, we are prevented from receiving the support and energy this practice provides. Creating and maintaining a strong sacral connection is the focus of this posture.
1. Begin in a back-to-back seated position with your partner. Lean forward and shift your pelvis back until you contact your partner’s pelvic bones. Slowly sit upright and align your torso on top of your pelvic bones by drawing the buttock muscles behind you and rolling the thigh muscles inward.
2. To experience deeper connection, reach for your partner’s sit bones. Engaging Uddiyana bandha (drawing lower belly up and in) strengthens the sacral connection. This last adjustment is a subtle and easily be overdone. If you do not feel a solid sacral connection, simply move through these steps again.
3. Draw your wrists into the hip sockets and squeeze the shoulder blades and elbows together. Feel the lift of your sternum as you do this. Maintain the lift through your torso as you relax your hands back onto your knees.
4. Bring your awareness to the connection between this sacred bone. Direct your breath into this connection. Unhinge the jaw and slightly tuck the chin to create length through the neck and the central axis of the body. If you notice your partner begin to lean on you, gently tap your partner’s hips with your fingers to remind them to keep sternum lifted.
5. Relax deeply fully receive the support of both your partner and the ground. Notice how your partner’s presence brings you more deeply into your own being. Play with moving your awareness back and forth between being deeply into your own form and merging with your partner’s.
Note: It is through relaxing the physical body that we experience the subtle body. Sense the distinction between awareness of yourself and awareness of your partner. Sense the subtle pranic energy that is generated between you. Let go of all preconceived ideas concerning yourself and your partner and instead rest in the experience of essential sameness.
Variations: This practice can be experienced on a bench for those with knees issues. Props can also be incorporated to support alignment