Ladies, feeling like you want to stoke the sensual fire?
Since the advent of Viagra, pharmaceutical companies have been on the hunt for an equivalent “solution” to female “sexual dysfunctions.” I’m putting those terms in quotation marks because they deserve to be treated critically. I’m opposed to pill-popping and the idea that women’s sexual responses can be analyzed and then labeled—with men’s as the benchmark.
A recent article in Psychology Today suggested that what influences women’s sexual responses is, surprise, more complex than what influences men’s. The article went on to report that for most women some of the biggest barriers to a satisfying sex life are:
– The inability to be present. Women are tending to worry about the kids, wonder if the dog’s been fed, and what the neighbours might think if they overhear.
– Insecurities. Men are thinking “Damn, this feels good.” Women: “I need to switch positions, this one doesn’t flatter me at all.”
It got me thinking about how yoga practices can help.
Here’s 5 practices that came to me to share:
1. Mindfulness. In any moment, we can practice mindfulness: simply staying present and aware of what is is going on in any particular moment, and consciously dropping out of thoughts that take us away from that moment, no matter what they are. Yoga philosophy advocates this, and practicing yoga asanas enables us to practice this. But you don’t have to be a yogi to try it. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime, off a yoga mat.
Bed bonus: Strengthening our mindfulness muscle off the mat means it’ll work better for us in bed–when we want to remain fully present, rather than distracted.
2. Body love. Learning to consciously appreciate all the ways our body serves us–feet that carry us, legs that hold us, arms that reach for our dreams–helps us begin to drop out of the mind-chatter that critiques our looks, especially compared to what’s considered “sexy” in popular culture. People who practice asana often feel this appreciation for their bodies, as they grow stronger and more physically able, through loving-kindness, and more able to drop out of self-criticism through mindfulness. Anybody can practice these techniques, off a yoga mat. One way might be to simply spend some time checking out your body; use your hands to explore your arms or legs and other areas, consciously and with loving-kindness dropping out of negative self-talk when it arises.
Bed bonus: Practicing body appreciation out of bed helps us to stay out of body-criticism during sex.
3. Feeling what is. Then we can take this mindful, loving-kindness practice into our experience of sexual sensations, staying mindful and non-judgemental of what we’re feeling.
Bed bonus: This one’s obvious. If we’re more aware of the pleasurable sensations we’re feeling, and not judgemental of them, we’re more likely to enjoy them.
4. Body lust.Research shows that women’s sense of themeselves as sexual beings comes mainly from one source: themselves. It makes sense then that combining the above practice with a sexualized version of the body love and appreciation practice would help us women better enjoy sex. In other words, practicing being mindful of our body’s sexual responses and our body as a sexual vessel–all through loving-kindness–helps us learn to see and love our sexual selves.
5. Brahmacharya. When I was doing teacher training my teacher, Gloria Latham, summed up the modern yogi’s take on brahmacharya, or celibacy, this way: When you’re having sex, have sex. When you’re not, don’t. In other words, be present and mindful during sex–make it meaningful. And when you’re not having sex, don’t fantasize about it. In anticipation of the critiques I might get on this post, as far as I can tell, teachers of Tantra practices including Kundalini yoga–including me–don’t advocate celibacy, but rather see mindful, conscious sex as a way to tune into and experience Kundalini energy.
For more on this, including Yoga Masters’ Mark Whitwell and Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa’s take on it, read Opening + Closing: Experiments with Pleasure and Pain.