Two things I like to think about, but like to experience and practice more: yoga and sex.
I read a nice blog a couple days ago about sex and yoga.The author basically said that sometimes yoga is better than sex; containing all the bliss and none of the self-consciousness. It got me thinking about yoga and sex (two things I like to think about, but like to experience and practice more).
Theoretically, yoga (as traditionally taught) takes the nectar that is normally used for sex and procreation (in ‘householders’) and re-dedicates it for the inward journey, as fire for the transformation. In using this powerful energy to become an instrument of the Divine (of Brahma), the yogi/yogini uses the fundamental technique of Brahmacharya. It means ‘being like Brahma,’ in the most basic grammatical sense, but the sages and scholars throughout the millennia have translated it as abstinence.
Today, in our horny western world, we conveniently translate it as restraint or appropriate sexual conduct. Crazy thing is, those sages were pretty astute and had words for those concepts as well, but they chose to use abstinence, a pretty straightforward, unequivocal word, seemingly immune to convenient mistranslations and converse insights by the ego (which we then mistake for our hearts or intellects).
We point at the householder yogis of yore (like Krishnamacharya, Jois, Iyengar and Desikachar), then look at the overtly sexual yoga heroes of our own culture and say, “What the heck? I’ve gotta get to yoga and then back to my lover for some loving”. We convince ourselves that sex is an integral part of our practices, and that we express yoga as much through union with our lovers as we do through union with the Divine.
So I got to wondering—is that true? I practiced Brahmacharya of a sort for (an embarrassingly) long time, but did it help me on my yogic journey?
There I was wondering and pondering, and I suddenly realized how moot any of my maunderings about it were. Whether Brahmacharya is the secret unacknowledged petal of yoga and tool for transcendence or not, the bald fact is that people like their loving, and pretty much no one is going to try abstinence, no matter how much it may help. We just like our lovin’, I guess.
And that’s okay; in fact, it’s more than okay, it’s just how it is.
So with that (sex) in mind, how do we integrate as much as possible anyhow, without Brahmacharya? What connection or similarities does sex have with yoga, and is yoga indeed (at least sometimes) better than sex?
Hmmm, there are so many potentially valid viewpoints on that. If we search for the one truth or the one answer, we’re probably wasting our time. Here’s one view on it:
Yoga is better than sex. All the time. No doubt.
Sex without yoga added is like making the beast with two backs, two animals rutting, a dog licking his balls. Yoga without sex is still yoga. Of course, our ‘Merikan’ paradigm of yoga is highly sexualized, but that’s just us. Our modern yoga practices are highly sexualized on the surface and in the media, but hint at a union far more important, Divine, and all-inclusive.
Yoga is not about the world of the senses. It is much more than that—if we limited our scope to that, yoga would just be a soul-less form of gymnastics, a sort of New Age Pilates at best.
Yoga is about union, not only with one special lover, but with the entire universe and thus with one’s own self. Or should I say Self? I feel it is both, union between the animal in all of us and the angel within all of us.
We can’t deny sex, the beauty of its gift, and the potentiality to point towards (and help manifest) deeper relationships, with ourselves, our lovers, and the entire world.
Here’s another view:
Yoga is not better than sex—the two are incommensurable.
It’s like trying to compare the number three to the color red. Yoga has nothing to do with sex, nor does sex have anything to do with yoga. Yoga is about finding peace and euphoria in things beyond the material world, beyond lovers and attachment to sensual pleasures. Sex is about finding pleasure and meaning in the sensual, and romantic love is quite often about attachment to a lover, in finding fulfillment through a loved one, instead of internally or through the Divine. At its core, sex is about making babies (hopefully in love), not the pleasure it gives us.
In yet another view, both sex and yoga are valuable gifts, ones that must be used carefully and reverently, for a higher purpose. If sex is used reverently, miraculous and cute babies result. If sex is used for pleasure or control, divorces, rapes, and other travesties result. While the two may appear on the surface to be contradictory in aim and goals, perhaps they are not.
The traditional view helps put this apparent contradiction in perspective.
The concept of ashramas helps us set the focus and relative importance of sex and yoga, as they are appropriate to the various natural phases of our lives.
In the first ashrama (birth to twenty five), the person is developing their identity and purpose, growing and beginning to look for a mate. In this phase, neither yoga nor sex is entirely appropriate in any depth, since life energies are naturally directed elsewhere. A yoga practice may begin, and the seeds of yogic philosophy and experience are planted. The beginning practitioner may learn the basic concepts and actions, but a more in-depth practice would not be appropriate in this phase.
In the second ashrama (twenty five to fifty), the person is focused on raising a family, developing a career to support them, and contributing meaningfully to society. In this phase, an in-depth yoga practice is not practical, with ongoing concerns about job and family. However, the person develops experience and wisdom in both sex and yoga, and begins to see the results of misuse of these gifts, either in their own lives or the lives of those around them.
In the third ashrama (fifty to seventy five), the person (typically) retires, and begins to put worldly concerns like jobs and money aside for more important things. As children are grown and menopause approaches, a natural reduction in the importance of and focus on sex occurs. At this time, a more in-depth yoga practice is appropriate, and an intense focus on sex (or other material, sensual things) less so. The person typically seeks out a guru and studies under them in depth during this period.
In the final ashrama (seventy five to one hundred), the focus on active yoga practice falls away, as the focus on sex fell away in the previous ashrama. In this phase, the person becomes the guru, and passes this life’s knowledge on to other aspirants on the path. In this phase, neither active sex nor physical yoga practice is relevant, as one’s energies and efforts are focused on completing a life of practice, passing on the final information, and preparing for death. In this phase, the final withdrawing from the material world occurs.
So both sex and yoga are appropriate, at appropriate times and in appropriate balance.
In some times and places, neither are appropriate, and in others only one is appropriate. The appropriate depth of practice, focus, and manifestation for both vary with life circumstances. Like all balance lessons in yoga, we discover that balance is not a static thing, but instead a process, one of moving in and out of balance, of going through and beyond Center, and returning, again and again.
As we all have learned, each yoga practice is unique and individual, as is each relationship with a love and with the Divine. Only you can know what the balance is and when it is or is not appropriate. Only you can perform and observe the experiment of your life. Only you can perform the ceremony of your own life, moving in and out of balance as you do.
If we keep our focus for both sex and yoga on a higher purpose, on honoring and respecting ourselves and others (in attitude and actions), then I suspect we will be both successful and appropriate at both, at the appropriate times and balance ratios. That’s yoga enough (and sex enough) for me.
So let’s hear it for both sex and yoga, both perfect and Divine gifts.
Mark-Francis Mullen is lucky enough to live in Boulder, Colorado amongst a vibrant yoga community. He is called to be a guide to those who think they are ‘too something’ for yoga (too old, too sick, too fat, etc.). He loves to live, laugh, practice/teach yoga, and write. He prays that all beings experience peace and serenity.
Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Tanya L. Markul
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