By Monique Parker
The term “partner yoga” conjures up the image of a couple simultaneously exercising together, perhaps one person supporting the other while both assume a posture.
While this relatively new form of “couples yoga” is on the rise among yoga practitioners and may offer a novel way to experience asana and “other”, the truest form of partner yoga is when two people provide the mutual support, trust, and encouragement to learn and grow in a way that serves the highest good of each individual.
For Lynn and Ed Galusky, this means having a practice that addresses the unique needs and goals of each partner. Married forty-four years, the Galusky’s, who came to yoga for different reasons, practice yoga at the same time of day in separate rooms of their Questa home.
“Lynn started doing yoga first and kept it up,” says Ed, “I started thinking, ‘there must be something beneficial to this’ and it got me going.”
The Galuskys moved to Questa from a Dallas suburb ten years ago after retiring; Ed worked as a building maintenance engineer and Lynn as a special education teacher and counselor.
I met Lynn at Questa High School four years ago; I was teaching dual-credit college English and she was back at work full-time as both as a counselor and special education teacher. “I could have stayed retired, but why, when I can still make a difference in kids’ lives?” she says.
Lynn, 66, started taking yoga classes with me nearly two years ago at the Questa Health and Fitness Center. Soon after, she augmented her routine with a home practice. “I had polio as a kid and had to wear corrective shoes or my ankles would get all bloody,” she says, demonstrating a hyper-pronated duck-walk.
When Lynn first started practicing, she habitually locked her knees when standing, which is not uncommon when someone has a meniscus tear or knee pain accompanied by movement. “I have arthritis in my knees and a meniscus tear—probably from playing soccer—but I’m holding off on surgery,” she adds.
With the advice of Dr. Ganesh Mohan, we designed a series of exercises that helped strengthen the muscles surrounding her knee joint. “And look,” she happily says, “I don’t lock my knees anymore.”
Lynn also suffered from neuromuscular tension in her back and neck, affecting a rounded posture with hunched shoulders. “Turning my head like this,” she says, looking over her shoulder, “was almost impossible before I started yoga. My shoulders are now down and I no longer have aches and pains like I used to.”
The yogic breathing also helped her to cope with work-related stress. “It’s gotten harder at school with all the politics,” she says. “There are nights I don’t want to do my practice, but halfway through I’m glad I did.”
Her dedication has paid off in a marked change of attitude. “I can still spout off and get mad, but it doesn’t affect me as much,” she says. “I do deep breathing at work and my attitude now is ‘Oh well, it will be there tomorrow, let it go.’”
Nine months after Lynn took up yoga her husband Ed came to me for a private session. “I’ve never been flexible,” he says. “I had low back pain and high blood pressure. But since I started yoga my blood pressure has lowered. A few weeks ago it was 115 over 70.”
After a long hiatus, Ed, 71, took up tennis two years ago. While he was sprite, which allowed him to cover the court, he noticed that he was stiff and that his balance needed improvement. “I used to fall all over the place when I started standing on my toes,” he says.
One of the postures Ed practices is Tadasana or palm tree pose, a basic but important exercise for spinal extension, focus, and balance. While inhaling, he simultaneously raises his arms and lifts his heels to balance on his toe mounds. At first he took support of a wall, but he no longer needs to. Every couple of months, when Ed is ready for more challenge, he follows up with another yoga session.
Although retired, he keeps himself busy practicing permaculture; Ed also built a greenhouse and woodworking shop. A believer in preventative measures, he appreciates having a personal yoga practice that he can do in the privacy and convenience of his own home. “Group settings can be impersonal and somewhat generic since the teacher has a lot of students,” he says. “Having a home practice, then a weekly group class for variation is ideal. The familiarity of the exercises helps in the group.”
Perhaps by accident, Ed has already tapped into the crux of yoga practice: “I always feel better afterwards,” he says. “It’s what keeps me motivated so that I’ll do it again.”
**First published in The Taos News on April 18, 2013