Yoga, Sex & Feminism—What’s the Connection?

Via on Dec 10, 2012

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Yoga, Sex and Feminism: An Interview Series with Vajra Ma and Dr. Melody Moore. {Part Two}

This is part two of a four part interview series examining this year’s newly launched Yoga, Sex and Feminism, Tantra Vinyasa conference.

In this series I talk with Vajra Ma, the conference’s keynote speaker, founder of Woman Mysteries of the Ancient Future Sisterhood and The Tantric Dance of Feminine Power, and Dr. Melody Moore, clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and co-founder of Embody Love Movement

In part one of the series, Vajra Ma and Dr. Melody Moore talk about coming to identify as feminists. 

Melanie: As I said earlier in the interview, feminism and yoga have always gone hand-in-hand for me. An ideology and a practice devoted to raising consciousness and enabling personal and social transformation. Amidst my excitement in receiving the initial announcements promoting this conference and seeing “yoga” and “feminism” being used in the same sentence, I was curious as to why “sex” was included. I wasn’t sure if it was a promotional tactic to create controversy. It put me off at first. And that’s exactly why I wanted to speak to both of you.

Can each of you tell me what you think the connection is between yoga, sex and feminism?

Melody: In my own practice, I know yoga to be, as Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati famously described, “a state where nothing is missing.” [yogash citta vritti nirodha. Sutra 1.2.] Because I have experienced the practice of yoga to be the union between my own mind, body, heart and soul, I recognize that yoga is, indeed, the yoke amongst these things and amongst everything. Yoga is a coming together, a unifier and a union.

As we practice asana, we approximate shapes of poses; as we practice yoga, we approximate the state of I am. I am everything in the universe, and everything in the universe is within me. I exist because you are, and you are because I am. To me, this is yoga.

Melanie: That’s beautiful and I find that to be true in my own experience. What about “sex.” Where does that fit into the equation?

Melody: Sex, similarly, is a coming together—it is a union, a connection, a penetration, and a vulnerability. To have sex with another, we open ourselves up to being seen, felt, heard, and known. We allow ourselves to come outside of our isolation, our sense of being and feeling separate, and are taken in by and given fully to another being. Sex is yoga.

Melanie: And feminism?

Melody: Feminism’s connection to both is clear: the feminist movement is one that reminds us all that we are one; that we are not separate or unequally talented or respectable or valuable, but instead, one love. Feminism is a coming together of society to include all genders as being contributive and meaningful. Feminism celebrates all potential, not just some. Just as yoga is a bringing together of shadow of light, of masculine and feminine, of ego and divine, feminism is an inclusion of both traditional genders, as well as all genders, and those who are beyond gender identification, in society. Feminism, therefore, is yoga.

Melanie: I love that, Melody. Ultimately, they all share the ability to connect and create union, union in multiple ways. What about you, Vajra? What do you see as the connection between yoga, sex and feminism? Why were these three elements brought together and highlighted for this conference?

Vajra Ma:When we look far enough, far enough back in history and far enough inward in the body, we discover they are a naturally interlocking matrix.

Melanie: Can you elaborate?

Vajra Ma: Millenia of cross-cultural association of Woman with serpent indicates the intimate connection of women with the core of yoga—the bodily awakening and ascension of Kundalini (literally serpent goddess). Empirical archaelogical evidence of this association is abundant. One example depicting the yogic implications is a figurine from the Neolithic period in Old Europe, a female in full lotus position. Her head is depicted in an abstract manner as either a snake or bird, thus depicting the successful rise of Kundalini (serpent) from the base of the spine to the region of the brain ignited in mystical flight (bird and/or winged serpent)—the ultimate yoga.

Feminism recovers this kind of information which has largely been erased from history and modern awareness. It restores the understanding that women are the creators of original human spirituality and culture, the evolutionaries of both mystical and practical development of human consciousness. Women are the innovators of the interweaving cultural-spiritual phenomena of art, ritual, music, language, dance and song. Would yoga be far behind?

The sensuous, fluid shapes of yoginis in the temple walls of India also indicate the female origin of yoga, originally fluid and moving, which later became codified into static asanas. Many women today are re-vitalizing Western yoga with the fluidity and inner feeling evident in these yogini images.

As for sex—sexuality is naturally holistic and integral in the female experience of body-mind-spirit. Human sexuality and spirituality naturally interweave in the female experience: the “serpent energy” associated with women includes both the sensual undulations of sexual pleasure and the serpentine flow of spiritual awareness through the spine and nadis of the body. This interweaving leads to embodied awakening and enjoyment of our divine consciousness and natural state of joy—the ultimate aim of yoga.

Look for part three of this interview series next Monday, December 17.

Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein, MA is a writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College, teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She attributes feminism and yoga as the two primary influences in her work. She is committed to communal collaboration, raising consciousness, media literacy, facilitating the healing of distorted body images and promoting healthy body relationships. She has worked with the new citizen journalists of the LA Academy of Global Girl Media and the peer-educators of J.A.D.E (Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating) on ways to tap into the power of their own voice. She is an expert contributor in the areas of media literacy and body image issues for Proud2Bme, a NEDA project. She is the adviser of the Santa Monica College Leadership Alliance and the founder and co-coordinator of WAM! Los Angeles. She founded FeministFatale.com and is a contributor at Adios Barbie, Intent.com, MindBodyGreen and Ms. Magazine’s blog. Her essay on yoga, body image and feminism appears in Curvy Voices and her extended chapter on the same topic is included in the anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice. She has been featured on HuffPostLive, KPFK’s Feminist Magazine and The Point on The Young Turks. She is featured in the forthcoming book, Conversations With Modern Yogis. Twitter: @feministfatale

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7 Responses to “Yoga, Sex & Feminism—What’s the Connection?”

  1. Vic DiCara says:

    I had to stop here when I heard Melody say: "I know yoga to be, as Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati famously described, “a state where nothing is missing.” [yogash citta vritti nirodha. Sutra 1.2.] "

    That is the most inaccurate translation of Sutra 1.2 I could imagine!

    There are four words in the sutra: yoga, citta, vritti, nirodha.

    The subject is "yoga." This doesn't need to be translated. Yoga is practically an English word.

    The action performed by the subject is "nirodha." This word means (see Monier's std. English-Sanskrit dictionary) restraining, controlling and eventually destroying entirely.

    The object on which the action is performed is the "vritti" of the "citta." The word vritti means "occupation, characteristic, the way a thing operates." The word "citta" means heart/ mind/ memory/ intellect.

    Thus, Sutra 1.2 says, "Yoga means taking control of the way one's mind operates."

    Yes literally, yoga means union. And yes, the word for a romantic couple is "yugala" (you can see the sameness in the sanskrit between yoga and yugal). That doesn't mean that Sex is what patanjali is talking about! In fact yoga has 8 steps. I would hope someone who can quote the sutras would know that. The first step is yama. Doesn't Melody know what the 5 yamas are? Here are the first three, since the third is particularly relevant:

    1. Ahimsa – non-violence – practical application: vegtarianism
    2. Satya – truthfulness – practical application: no cheating
    3. Brahmacarya – behaving as a soul, not a body – practical application: celibacy

    The 3rd principle of the first step of yoga is to control how the mind reacts with sex. I don't think "yoga is sex" is a message that gets this point across very well, Melody.

    Sure, there is such a thing as tantra. (1) They are an odd minority in Indian culture, and (2) they are misunderstood by outsiders as a swingers club or some titillating orgy cult. Real tantra would scare the shit out 90% of us. It is a very extreme way to control how the mind reacts with sex by participating in sex in very controlled, specific ways.

    In summary, "Yoga is Sex" really sends a message that doesn't accurately represent ANY yoga tradition – except the ones that started 40 years ago in the free-love soil.

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