Making contact

Ashtanga, Kundalini, Hatha -- the many styles of yoga are drawing crowds at studios across the country. But yoga enthusiasts may soon be hearing about a new variation: Contact yoga, the creative and playful invention of Canadian yogi Nateshvar, known as Tesh.

It takes two people to perform contact yoga: One person is lifted, pushed and pulled through a series of postures with the assistance of his or her partner. But the emphasis is on creating unity, not simply having one partner help the other person. "Working with another person not only strengthens the body, it also stimulates the mind and uplifts the spirit," says Tesh, who fell in love with yoga in the early '80s and studied at the Kripalu Ashram in Pennsylvania. "You will definitely sweat and be totally stretched on a physical level, but you will also come away feeling integrated and peaceful."

Contact yoga is designed to help you develop grace, improved posture and a better sense of balance. "It is very demanding externally," Tesh says, "but the whole point is to shine from within. A great body is only the byproduct."

Tesh cautions against performing his yoga poses with too much vigor. "Newcomers may want to jump on each other like they're doing gymnastics," he says. Instead, begin each session slowly, by breathing together. Once you have established a rhythm together, one partner can begin guiding the other through the postures.

No matter what your skill level, Tesh says, you can get great results from even two partner-yoga sessions each week. The trick is to learn to combine physical exertion with relaxation techniques. "It's like a dance," says movie producer and contact-yoga instructor Lynda Guber. "The partners should open themselves up so that there can be a better dance."

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