Beliefnet
Reprinted with permission from efit.com

If you've considered taking up yoga, but crowded classes and lack of personal attention chase away all thoughts of melding mind and body into one, you should check out "contact yoga." True to its name, this relatively new practice is yoga done with a partner. "The partner aids and assists the other person in the postures, helping ensure proper form and go farther into each stretch," says Joseph Caraccilo, a chiropractor and private yoga instructor in New York City. "You can do it with a friend, or with an instructor who will lead you through the postures." Many of the positions are variations of the traditional yoga postures (asanas), such as the Triangle, and Warrior I and II, and some are made up by yogis. A few of the postures are exercises in stability as well as trust. For example, one pose, called the suspended front traction, has the instructor lie on his back on the floor and raise his feet (knees slightly bent and legs extended and together) into the air. The partner faces the instructor, who places his feet on her thighs; she leans her body weight on them, and then he lifts her into the air (as if an airplane). The partner balances on the instructor's feet while he holds the partner's hands (or wrists) for support. "You feel like you're floating, but you're also confronting your fears," says Caraccilo. "It's a good way of learning to trust someone, whether the person is a stranger or a friend."Contact yoga was created by yogi Ken Scott, known as Nateshvar (Tesh, for short), about 18 years ago. Scott, who comes from a dance and gymnastics background, came up with contact yoga while lifting and playing around with his young son. He developed the idea and instructed others in the practice. Only five or six people, including Caraccilo, were taught directly by Scott.Unfortunately, no major studios offer contact yoga classes yet--just a handful of specialized private instructors. These include Tesh, who teaches a contact yoga class in Toronto and leads two- to seven-day retreats year-round, as well as Caraccilo, who has private clients and will open a yoga studio in New York City in June 2000.Because contact yoga is available only through private instruction, it is perfect for people who are seeking a relaxing, spiritual workout that takes them away from their busy lives and forces them to focus on the moment. That's also why it's so popular in celeb circles, including actors Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, and designer Donna Karan. "People are looking for ways to attain a certain level of spirituality and calm," Caraccilo says. "For many people, contact yoga gives them what they're looking for."
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