In the full Leadership Yoga workshop, I usually try to spend some time taking participants through a few poses with a partner. Each pose is one that can be done on one’s own, but working with a partner can add depth to each pose. Partner yoga also gives us a chance to explore the idea of balance in unique ways. The book Partner Yoga describes the challenge of partner work this way, “Each partner must first find (their) own balance, bringing balance into the partnership. The pose is based upon mutual support, not one partner holding the other up.” (Citation below) I think this idea is particularly important for leadership.
In the workshop, we do a limited number of partner poses and none of them are acrobatic or spectacular. But in every case, participants are able to see that their stretches are deeper than when they try them on their own. The support of their partner provides both a level of safety as well as a counterbalance that lets them release a tension that was holding them back – even when they didn’t feel it.
Partner work requires each person to pay attention to their own skills and to speak up when they have reached their personal limit. It requires both partners to listen to and respect the boundaries and abilities of the other person. In other words, it requires honest communication. Partner work off the mat requires the exact same skills and actions to be effective.
When it works, even in a short interaction in class, with a person who may be a relative stranger, what often comes next is a sense of play, a freedom to try something new and different. The laughter becomes relaxed and people soften into the work. It’s just as true in our organizational work, isn’t it? Once we begin to trust, to actually work together, even the most difficult task is more enjoyable and the results more interesting. And it creates a feedback loop. Each success leads to the next one.
Partner yoga gives us a chance to practice both self-awareness and awareness of others. It gives us a chance to understand we can create balance in a partnership and to explore the ideas of trust and communication. It helps us take our understanding of both leadership and balance to new depths. It reminds us that developing partnerships off the mat benefits both of us. Partner yoga reminds us that it’s not truly balance if my experience comes at your expense. Balanced leadership matters for us all.
Carroll, C. and Kimata, L. (2000). Partner Yoga: Making Contact for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Growth. Rodale Books.