by Matthew Remski with Scott Petrie, to celebrate May Day
(a continuation of our 8 Limbs 2.0 series)
1. Libido is the natural outpouring of breathing, eating, digesting, and enjoying our existence. It is the sap of all relationship.
2. This outpouring swells in the heart and the loins. The greatest pleasure comes when these swellings are simultaneous.
3. Libido penetrates to enjoy more, and receives to enjoy more. It also strokes, licks, kisses, wiggles, spurts, and gushes.
4. Libido curves and straightens, dilates and contracts, turns pink, turns red, hardens, and softens. The peak of hardness contains the softest marrow.
5. Libido reaches ever outwards towards three unknowns: a beauty one has never seen, a sensation one has never felt, and a self rarely recognized.
6. Eros begins in the suffering of aloneness, chooses the intimate other that may best complete it, and floods the present with anxious hope. Aloneness is our priceless initiation: driving us toward communion.
7. In the deepest pleasure of self-and-other discovery, humans making love utter the first bija mantras. They say Ohhh, Ohhh… Mmmm, Mmmm.
8. Orgasm temporarily releases individual identity. Mutual orgasm temporarily blends the echoes of released individuality. It can teach us we are both self and other. The question “was it good for you?” can then be asked and answered in silence.
9. Paradoxically, the release of your identity provides the physiological basis for reproduction of yourself. You are you, until you explode with pleasure and become someone else.
10. The Sanskrit word brahmacharya means: “walking the path of expanding creation”.
11. In the age of birth control, this expanding creation can take many forms. Birth control may be the greatest single contributor to fearless sexual pleasure and economic freedom for women (and men secondarily), while simultaneously stemming the crush of our overpopulation. Worldviews that discourage birth control attempt to monetize pleasure and enslave bodies to unsustainable reproduction. This is unacceptable to modern yoga.
12. Yoga has nothing to offer any current discourse on sex if it does not consciously embrace all three waves of feminism, and their concurrent sexual behaviour revolutions.
13. Equally useless is yoga discourse that, confined by cultural modesty, does not address the most compelling sexual issues of the time: gender identity, objectification, pornography, and the meanings of alternative sexual explorations such as bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism (BDSM).
14. We do not live in a permissive society, because there is no one to withhold permission anymore. Some forms of parental control over sexuality may linger even in societies liberated from religious convention. Like widespread corporal punishment, these forms will fade. As education has become child-centered, sex education will become intimacy-centered.
15. All social restrictions of libido attempt to sublimate it into abstract or economic commodities. But sex battles to overflow every channel.
16. Many social transgressions may actually be misdirected orgasms.
17. Sometimes libido succeeds in overflowing, and the person can enjoy recreating herself at will.
18. Sometimes it loses its battle with social oppression, and the person rages within their commodified body.
19. When one’s sexuality is controlled, one’s body belongs to someone or something else: a deity, a state, an institution, or an abuser.
20. When someone or something else controls your body, whatever part of it you retain for yourself will probably feel stolen. You may need to hide it. It may be a mark of shame. It is vulnerable to evil desires, the target of evil agents, and needs constant discipline and defense.
21. Present advice on sexuality in yoga traditions generally evokes a “do no harm” position, but we should remember that for the most part this is a modern stance. Knowing what we now know of the position of women within yoga historically, the notions of “sexual respect” or “mutuality” were never majority drives. For the most part, yoga has sought to control sexuality in order to sublimate libido into the support of metaphysical worldviews. Whereas state-controlled sexuality sublimates libido into the construction of castles, spiritually-controlled sexuality sublimates libido into the construction of castles in the air.
22. The powerful stream of ascetic yoga regards the body as filthy, and sexual pleasure a multiplication of bodily filth. Sutra 2:40 goes so far as to encourage yogis to become disgusted with their bodies. While this view meshes nicely with the Christian neo-Platonism of yoga’s early modern translators, every sane person practicing today rejects it. Yet it haunts the emotions and flesh of many.
23. According to the yoga of dualism, the body is filthy because it is the costume of your spirit’s fall from etheric grace. But how could you love anyone or anything while holding this view? How would you overcome your self-disgust for long enough to feel capable of loving? Which of the disgusting bodies around you could you love? How would your love-making not be tinged with rage and violence, as you subconsciously seek to rip the body of the other to pieces to find the elusive spirit you can never touch? And what then would be the difference between a child and a waste-product – something the filthy body sheds?
24. According to the yoga of non-dualism, the body is unreal, and pleasure is distractive. The best course, it claims, is to abandon the desire that your allegedly illusory aloneness stimulates. Non-dualism asks the human to be fundamentally different from the tree and the cat. It teaches that relationships are illusory. Or worse: that they are means to an end. There is no fucking in nondualism. Nor is there evolution. So have fun there, if you can.
25. But according to the yoga of relationship, the flesh forms itself from the mother’s flesh, and comes to know itself through contact with the flesh of the other: other humans, animals, soils, and plants. This contact can feature petting, fingering, rolling around, thrusting, gazing, or just breathing. Bare feet accelerate the learning.
26. Patanjali also states that those who practice abstinence will gain vitality. This is based on the belief that semen is an essential life-substance of the body, and if it is carelessly wasted, disease will result.
27. But the flower of any plant blooms naturally, given the right nourishment. The bloom is a sign of health, not vulnerability. Whether it is pollinated or falls, the plant is simply happy for the display. Semen and menses, as flowers of the body, rise and are released according to their own daily, weekly, and lifelong season. There is no physical need to withhold them from the earth or from lovers. Maybe Patanjali wasn’t listening when his mother was teaching Ayurveda in the kitchen.
28. Believing that sex is inherently dangerous to health is not just self-punishing. It also conceals the hope that somehow “virtuous” behaviour can overcome mortality. Because the body will naturally die, one should therefore do many unnatural things – abstain from sex, chant day and night, dwell on your sinful nature – and you might have a chance at winning out against cruel, cruel nature.
29. But let’s not go nuts here. As a tree will bloom furiously after a harsh winter, assuming it will die, we may also become compulsive about sex when we are threatened.
30. A different compulsion can develop for orgasm when a person needs continual relief from an unacceptable identity. This compulsion may not be different from drug addiction, or neurotic prayer.
31. Patanjali’s threat of vitality-loss to the sexually active is mainly directed at men, whose sperm was thought to be more biologically precious than the sexual wetnesses of women. This is not a scientific conclusion, of course. Yet, it is a highly effective way of sexually controlling men through a combination of flattery, guilt, and bodily distrust.
32. The social control of male sexuality is perfected in the image of the life-long monk, swaddled in flowing robes, bald as a baby, cuddled into the bosom of metaphysics. The control becomes complete when, after being taught to celebrate his disembodiment, he does so willfully, eventually requiring no superiors to enforce discipline.
33. Before this control is complete, however, the monastic or priest may be a whirlpool of internal conflict, desperately needing what is most evil to him. This may lead to the most harmful types of sexual expression, grounded in guilt, shame, and self-hatred. These people may well abuse others sexually, because they are being sexually abused.
34. The seminal retention practices of some Tantric schools attempt a kind of energetic Aikido: using the inexorable downward gush of orgasm against itself, to send its energy upwards. It can produce some interesting sensations and self-perceptions. It can also cause physical complications, such as prostatic swelling, seminal discharge into the bladder, and general vata (wind-and-space type) aggravations such as constipation and insomnia.
35. The deeper problem with retention practices is that they can be self-obsessed and transcendental to the point of abandoning present contact and intimacy. Because the sexual act is seen as a means to an end, the sexual partner is seen as a help-mate in spiritual evolution. If both partners are practicing orgasmic retention, their intercourse can feel like it’s taking place between two isolation chambers that keeps energetic transference to a minimum. Thus, intercourse – one of our most powerful contexts of intimate growth – can become its own shadow. Mutually selfish sexual contact is alienating, whether in Tantra, or in the bathroom of a dingy nightclub.
36. Tantric sexuality can be particularly cruel in its attitude towards the consort, which is virtually always female, and generally lower-caste – someone who can be discarded after fulfilling the tantric’s spiritual purpose. This purpose is sometimes explicitly stated as stealing the rasa (life-sap) from the consort’s vagina, while retaining one’s own orgasm.
37. The Kama Sutra is a medieval dime-store girly rag. Its narrative instructs the footloose stag-about-town how to set up the ideal bachelor pad, how to seduce women he doesn’t want to commit to, and how to perform the pretense of virtue for the woman he wants to lock into marriage. The sexual positions are generally impossible to execute, except by elite athletes. They do have the advantage, however, of being so awkward that they delay male orgasm, and thus might marginally improve the female’s pleasure.
38. Some cultures go farther than Patanjali and the Tantrics, and initiate neurological modes of control over sexuality. The prime example is circumcision, which hardwires the infant brain to associate genital sensation with utter terror, and to associate love with punishment. This might be a neurological support for monotheistic cults that teach suffering and salvation (cutting and comforting) come from the same source (the parent or God).
39. Genital mutilation is a sexual outrage and human rights issue that yogis of good conscience must protest. Ending routine medical circumcision first, and them religious circumcision gradually, may create an algorithmic explosion in the global practice of ahimsa. How can our children resist oppression when imprinted from birth with the shrieks of their own pain and rage?
40. Circumcision excises the female from the male, removing the soft sheathe that slides on the penile shaft. It also forces the glans to keratinize, depriving the man of a moist inner genital space. Because circumcision can commonly remove up to 50% of the surface area of penile skin-covering, it can create lifelong discomfort or even pain, because the erection is rarely containable by the remaining skin. Circumcision creates a subtle fear around erection. Libido is thus stained with sympathetic nervous anxiety.
41. Jesus was cut. Siva is uncut. Can ever the twain meet?
42. The early lingam of Saivite worship was a realistically carved erect phallus, complete with foreskin, throbbing veins, and etched hairs, which would be bathed in milk and ghee during temple rituals. This gradually evolved into the smooth monolith that we see today, which conservative commentators bizarrely insist carries no sexual meaning. This change represents the long-term circumcision of our embodiment over centuries of dualistic (the body is filthy, the spirit is divine) and non-dualistic (the is body isn’t real) thought. We’ll have no penises in the temple, please. Every man standing around that lingam is in part worshipping a denatured and anorgasmic ideal of his own body.
43. Social forms of sexual oppression and ownership can be mirrored by interpersonal forms. The man whose body was mutilated by god may well hate a woman who is complete, and seek to dehumanize her as he was dehumanized.
44. Romance promotes a form of sexual ownership in which the delusion that another person’s function is to fulfill your needs perfectly is usually accompanied by the insistence upon their sexual devotion to you alone.
45. Romance can constitute an emotional dehumanization of the other, in which the desired image of the other is detached from their subjectivity. This can be said to reach its natural conclusion in pornography, in which the visual image of the other is detached from the flesh, and fixated and projected upon in the imaginary space of the screen or page. That image can then be owned even more easily than the body from which it was taken.
46. The gap between image and body lies at the heart of contemporary alienation. This is why having sex or masturbating in front of a mirror can be either a source of profound anxiety, or deep healing, depending upon whether one feels that gap widen or narrow.
47. When the gap widens, the image begins to cancel out subjectivity. This is one of the reasons that porn stars never perform under their real names. They have no personal identity beyond the display of their unique libidinal style. While this might encourage a celebration of the identity-free energy so valued in Tantric paths, it is questionable whether it fosters empathy, which is more strongly generated through identification with the suffering of an other.
48. Porn allows for intense stimulation, beyond the complexity of relationship. The same could be said for various types of socially-withdrawn spiritual practice. Porn mainly involves the exploration of internal spaces. Problematically, it requires an enormous cast of external agents: actors, directors, editors, and distributors, all of whom can and will be dehumanized during certain portions of the exchange. Similarly, the exploration of spiritual spaces depends on complex infrastructures of social wealth. No one goes off and meditates in the forest without leaving several people behind to take up the slack of their absent labour.
49. Because it does not require the humanizing effort of relationship, porn’s most interesting impact might be its confusion of embodiment (I have desire) and disembodiment (I am alone) principles. For the first time in human culture, intense sexual (non)contact is available to anyone with no more interpersonal effort than it takes to buy a computer and set up internet service. One never has to leave the apartment.
50. But pornography also develops internal relationships between imagination and physiology, fantasy and psychological need. Creation-stage Tantra practice, involving sexual visualizations of one’s own body and the bodies of objectified deities, employs the same technology.
51. The overwhelmingly visual nature of pornography makes it a classic “hot” medium in the McLuhanite sense: designed to flood the senses. But there is only so much passivity in stimulation that we seem to want to abide. Porn itself has entered the 2.0 world, with interactive webcam “intercourse”, creating whole sectors of non-commercial activity in which the wall between the consumer and the consumed has been removed. This increase of direct contact may begin to work against the tide of objectification coming out of the 1.0 era.
52. A photograph of an asana is the pornography of an implied physical virtue.
53. However, the sensual feeling of asana, dear to every practitioner, enhances subjective integrity. It also enhances sex life, not only because it improves mobility and pelvic floor intelligence, but because it imprints the neurology with the knowledge that pleasure can expand exponentially with patience and mindfulness.
54. Modern asana also reflects physically what the last 150 years of feminism has advocated in the social sphere: stronger self-perception, security, confidence, and the right to personal pleasure.
55. At the same time, asana wants to make the male body more pliable, less driven to compete, and more circumspect about sexual drive. This may or may not be desirable.
56. Most asanas, in their forward movement, are masculine in orientation. The first company that produces circular yoga mats will instantly accelerate the proliferation of feminine-centered vinyasa series. The yoga mat is a two-dimensional phallus.
57. Most asanas, having very little lateral hip movement, do not serve the crucial need of the female body for pelvic fluidity, whereas virtually every form of dance does serve this need. Women recognize this, and are quickly creating countless dance-asana hybrids.
58. The roundnesses of the feminine have fractal function. The rounded hip is visible across the savannah. Its sway seduces the gaze. The pelvic wiggle increases orgasmic pleasure, and eases labour. Later, a child straddles that same roundness.
59. The lines of the masculine evoke the fractal rays of geometry, structure, systems, and other abstractions.
60. Through contemporary asana, masculine and feminine aspects explore an exchange of conventional qualities, sometimes revealing an erotic androgyny.
61. Erotic androgyny is further emphasized by yoga fashion targeted at youthful and lithe body-types. Lululemon seems to be ripping off Star Trek fashion, in which men and women wore identical form-fitting but detail-smoothing uniforms. Everybody on the show was hot, unmarried, and equal in technical skill, physical prowess, their understanding of the Prime Directive, and social standing. This is kind of like how yoga culture likes to portray itself. It is fiction, of course.
62. The LuluTrek (LuluStar? LemonStar?) ideal can be a source of profound alienation to the many bodies that populate modern yoga. These yogis, of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, are beginning to reject the flat-seam cinching and push-up porn of asana aesthetics.
63. Asana culture expresses a wide range of growing sensual contact. Adjustments can be intimate. Partner classes are proliferating. Some teachers are actively incorporating massage into class. The days in which your mat was your private phallic sanctuary for solitary transformation may be numbered.
64. Asana in the nude is also becoming more common, presenting the exciting opportunity to witness the body’s form without the homogenizing engineering of LuluTrek fashion.
65. Hot Nude Yoga for Men. You can find it in New York or LA or San Francisco. Classes are conducted in full nudity, and involve contact exercises with partners that raise both kundalini and penises. Contact stops on the unfindable edge between the erotic and sexual, and then postures resume. In the words of one website, the purpose is to “…fine-tune the senses to experience that sublime erotic flow within… and its subtle energetic current, while cultivating a deeper awareness of the Inner Sanctuary.”
66. Where asana meets contact and contact meets the sexual, a new paradigm of both asana and sexuality emerges.
67. It is a unique and exciting feature of our age that there is most likely someone at this moment writing a Ph.D. dissertation on the relationship between lingams and dildos, or between rosaries and strings of anal beads.
68. Also at this very moment, subtle digestive processes are producing sexual fluids in your body. The normal wetness of the mucosa is a holding pattern for bodies that call out for intimacy.
69. A delightful mystery: union dances to the music of separation. Parvati seduces Siva with her glances and her beautiful roundnesses. But Siva is always disappearing to the angular mountains and his solitude. When he is gone, her body aches. Empty, she calls for him. His absence is erotic to her. He turns her on by being absent, and yet everywhere.
Matthew Remski is an author, yoga and ayurvedic therapist and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto. With Scott Petrie he is co-creator of yoga 2.0, a project in writing (one book done, eight more in the sushumna-chute) and the embodiment of all things post-dogmatic.
yoga 2.0: shamanic echoes, is now available for kindle and other e-readers.
hot on elephant
The 4 Stages of a Good Divorce. A Letter to my Children: You do not come from a Broken Home. These People are Rare Gems—Keep Them, Fight for Them, don’t Give Up on Them. Mom, can I Call her Mom, Too? Jon Stewart makes first appearance since retiring—”it’s not your country.” Waylon shares 10 transformingly beautiful Quotes about Love. My Marriage had to End—for my Life to Begin. The Day I Stopped Running. Why your Yoga Goals are (Probably) Irrelevant, if not Downright Dangerous. Dear Woman in the White Car at Margaritas Mexican Grill in West Memphis, Arkansas on July 15th, 2012.