Why I don’t do partner yoga.

Published on November 13, 2010 by      Print
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By Joslyn Hamilton

This article was originally published on An Outside Eye in May 2010.

I have an intense aversion to doing partner exercises during workshops.

Whether it’s a writing workshop, a meditation workshop, a yoga workshop, or what have you, I generally attend these things because I want to look deeper inside… not because I want to make more friends or, God forbid, spend any more time talking to people than I already have to. Partner exercise is on my List of Things That Give Me Panic Attacks, somewhere between violent airplane turbulence and potential food poisoning symptoms.

When the teacher says, “Everyone, please grab a partner,” that’s usually a cue for me to grab my things and silently flee the room, generally running straight to my car. In the dharma course I’ve been taking at Spirit Rock, we chose “dharma partners” early on. This has worked out really well for me, since my dharma partner rarely actually goes to class. When we have to do partner exercises, I pretend my dharma partner is just in the bathroom for a sec.

Having spent years of my life taking and teaching transformational yoga retreats all over the place, I feel as if I’ve paid my dues in the partner exercise department. I have, on many occasions, had to:

  • Bare my soul to a complete stranger who I have then run into, awkwardly, at dinner a half hour later
  • Stare into some random person’s eyes until I either fell in love with them (which is what is supposed to happen) or my eyeballs sizzled and fell out (worst case scenario)
  • Take part in all sorts of yoga partner moves where my nose was uncomfortably close to someone’s crotch or their toes practically in my mouth

But by far the most degrading partner exercise experience I ever had was at a Solstice Celebration Yoga Workshop I took right here in Mill Valley a few years ago. I won’t name names, but Certain Teacher pulled the most sinister partner exercise coup ever. She had us team up with random strangers, stand facing them, look them right in the eye, and then ACT OUT IN MODERN DANCE PANTOMIME WHAT THEIR EYES WERE SAYING.

I swear, I could not make this up. I would have gladly died in that moment. Unfortunately, I lived to tell about it. I love her yoga classes, but will never take a workshop with her again. Because she can’t be trusted.

I think we can all agree that at this point, I have earned my right to voluntarily sit out partner exercises. In fact, avoiding partner exercises—both in workshops and in life—is my M.O. right now.

Filed under: Boundaries | Zombie Yoga and Tagged:


  1. T.G. Palmer says:

    Thanks! I just about died laughing on this one! Must wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes now.

  2. linda says:

    OMG, I am SO with you! I DETEST partner yoga!

  3. L says:

    I am SO VERY pleased to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Last week, after several years of bowing out of partner yoga exercises, I got pressured into assisting someone up into headstand and literally got kicked in the face. It completely crystallized for me why I don’t do partner yoga.

  4. darla magee says:

    thank you Jesus…. er uh… Joslyn…

    i too am a hater of any partner exercises in workshops. it IS amazing how many times we are asked to bare our souls or tell our most secret of secrets to a total stranger. are they kidding? i don’t even want to remind MYSELF of some of the stuff they want me to talk about. i truly thought i was the only one who hated these things. usually the other yogis are all “smiley” when they partner up. i seriously thought there was something wrong with me. (a bitch. unfriendly. need to be more open.) i feel better.

    the next time this happens i want to raise my hand and say: “i want to be partners with the other person in the room who doesn’t want an effing partner.”

  5. kim bean says:

    I’ve never enjoyed group or partner activities. I have dropped university classes for just that reason. But it seems like with yoga, we are expected to accept and enjoy an interaction with other students. Hasn’t anybody ever noticed the students do not even interact with each other before or after a class beyond the normal hello or let me put that mat back for you. As a student, how can I tell a yoga instructor “no thank you” to partner yoga?

  6. EcoYogini says:

    ya know, it wouldn’t surprise me if lots of yogis didn’t like partner yoga…. since yoga is mostly a solitary practice where often we practice, in our small yoga mat space, alone and surrounded by others- who are also practicing alone.

    i am not a fan of partner yoga- panic attacks also easily crop up during these moments.

  7. Stephanie says:

    You had me smiling with this one . . . I’m totally with you and have been in many of these situations. The one that “cured” me was a workshop where we had to pair off and have someone read our energy – baring my soul to me. I slipped into the bathroom hoping to get out of the exercise, but the workshop leader saw me and when I returned told me she would find someone to read my energy. I thanked her and politely declined her offer, explaining that I do not have people that I do not know (or know of through other trusted practitioners or healers) “read my energy” as that is a sacred experience for me. This was a pretty well-known workshop leader and it was apparent no one had ever said no to her exercise before. She was floored. but respectful at the same time. To this day, that is the way in which I handle these situations – a polite decline. Great blog!

  8. Words we adore | RecoveringYogi says:

    [...] loathe and abhor / Things we especially hate. Like workshops during which one is suddenly asked to “grab a partner.” [...]

    Response posted on May 25th, 2012 , 9:44 am