The Yoga of Intimacy: It’s Not One Size Fits All. ~ Erin Nealy

Via elephant journal
on Apr 2, 2012
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Truly owning what turns you on, what your needs are, is doing your yoga.

When our world blew apart, and the allegations were flying like Hanuman to Sri Lanka, honestly one of my first thoughts was uh oh, maybe I can’t be in the seat of the teacher.

I thought I couldn’t hold the seat of the teacher because of the story I am about to share with all of you. All of this coming to light over the past few weeks has been a tremendous gift. It has (hopefully) caused us to take a really hard, but compassionate look at ourselves and how we navigate our intimate relationships.

Now for the story.

As the years of my marriage progressed, things became incredibly challenging. Which is par for the course, no? We had always had our differences, but towards the end of our relationship my desires were so strong for others that just walking through Whole Foods, cute men seemed like freshly killed meat in the African dessert, and I was the lion.

Realizing that these feelings must be addressed, I started to dig in deeply with my life coach. What we uncovered is that I was not being fulfilled intimately, and that there was also the potential that I might not be a fit for a typical monogamous relationship (gulp).

After this revelation, I got really skilled at trying to convince my life coach that I there was no way I could be a yoga teacher. How could I be having these desires and questions about my sexuality? I can’t be a yoga teacher if I’m having sex with more than just my partner!

She would have none of it. She clearly stated like a broken record with sweetness “Erin, you  think that all of these things are detriments to your teaching, but I know for certain that it is these are your assets and what  help you reach into the hearts of your students.”

My biggest “aha” in the John Friend situation was to realize that we need to get better about sharing these parts of ourselves, and bring them to light so that we stop feeling bad about who we are. I’m not saying go run out and tell everyone about your wildest, never told anyone fantasy, but are you willing to open the conversation with those you trust so that you can step into the fullness of being embodied?

Back to the story of my marriage.

On the heels of realizing that something needed to be explored and looked at, we decided that we would expand the walls of our relationship to include others. We mostly invited others into our intimate encounters, and a few times I was with people on my own.

In the end we both wanted to exhaust every potential for us working, especially with little ones in the picture. At first it was really exciting and erotic to investigate a whole new realm of ourselves. Then after a while it felt not in balance, and the questioning began again.

After we “tested the waters” of this new construct, I had a revelation that it was more than just our physical connection that was causing the dissolution to our marriage. But at least now I knew that I had tried everything, which included work way beyond the bedroom.

I know that this is a lot to lay on the table as a yoga teacher, but I am willing to stand for a conversation that needs to be more openly addressed by our society at large.

Some people (including my ex) believe that sex is reserved for only long term, on the way to or already in, marriage. I can totally honor that vantage point.  From where I stand sex is, and can be, whatever you make of it.

I really believe in my heart that not all of us are wired to be monogamous. We can choose to move into those constructs out of love and respect for another.

I can’t tell you how hard it’s been to have married women look down their nose at me because I was “too selfish” to not just stay put and deal.  All the while knowing for certain, these same women were being cheated on by their husbands.

My big point in all of this is we must evolve our conversations around sex as much as the all the other facets of our lives. I see way too many people convincing themselves that being sexually unfulfilled is the norm. We need to get better about talking to our partners about sex!

It hurts  my heart to see people wading through infidelity and lying. I speak from experience, this is not on the easy conversation list. But I can tell you, now that I’m really owning who I am as a sexual being, it feels amazing and I will never go back to sweeping it under the yoga mat.

The yoga of intimacy is just like the yoga everywhere else. Think of all the skills you use to get deeper into who you are in the world and really apply them to investigating who you are in the bedroom. To me it is not the “what” but the “how”.

The “what” may be many, many partners over a life time, some kinky fantasy or an occasional roll in the hay with more than one person (oh my!). The “how” is the yoga. How I am I communicating my needs? How am I conducting myself? How can I honor my partner and my truth at the same time?

Very simply, I think any “model” of relationship can work as long of there is total honesty, openness and willingness for those within that connection.

Yoga is about integrity, truth, and moving towards those things that create greater harmony and beauty. Which, to me has nothing to do with some arbitrary number, or how free we want to be with our sexuality.


Editor: Jennifer Cusano

Erin Nealy was born a raised in the high altitudes of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. She spent her early years traveling the world as a professional snowboarder. She now fills her days with teaching yoga, directing a stand up paddle company and chasing her two little ones. If you would like to contact Erin you can reach her at [email protected]

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10 Responses to “The Yoga of Intimacy: It’s Not One Size Fits All. ~ Erin Nealy”

  1. Thank you for your bravery in going public with this! I can feel how scary it must be and that you had to wade through a lot of shame to get here. I totally agree that our sexuality is a practice and can be a deeply fulfilling journey! It's a noble thing to inquire as to who we authentically are and ask for that. Again, thank you.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  3. bernieb says:

    This is my favorite line: "Very simply, I think any “model” of relationship can work as long of there is total honesty, openness and willingness for those within that connection."

  4. Melissa Murguia says:

    It is hard to tell your partner (who you KNOW does not want to share your intamacy ) that you are not fulfilled sexually in fear of losing your relationship all together. What is even harder is telling yourself that this is just a trade off and detrimentally denying your natural inhibitions whether it be with one or many. From experience, I know this cannot last very long before infidelity rears its head and integrity is lost. Thank You for the inspiration and reminder that yoga is speaking the truth and living in it.

  5. Amy says:

    My favorite line: "…now that I’m really owning who I am as a sexual being, it feels amazing and I will never go back to sweeping it under the yoga mat." Thank you, Erin, for opening this conversation with such honesty and courage. I am really looking forward to more!

  6. you've probably considered this but its not addressed in the article so I'm curious… did your husband know that you were "unfulfilled" by him and was he working on that? I can't help suspect that the desires may have disappeared if he knew how to deepen the intimacy between you and kept doing that…sexually and emotionally.

    for example, my urge to have a child went away when i started working with kids in a school aftercare program… i think because what I really craved to begin with was to nurture… when i was actively nurturing others and growing myself in that way…I felt fulfilled!

    if you were being emotionally and physically met and challenged by your husband, would you still need other men?

  7. Erin Nealy says:

    Nicole, The answers to your question are in the article. I'm not sure about your theory…Substitution theory? So maybe what you are saying is that all of us are meant to be with just one partner and if we really worked hard then everyone would fit into the box of monogamy? I disagree.

  8. […] often think that the darker it gets, the more “real” it is. That the doorway to intimacy is through “processing our stuff.” If we are simply happy we get bored. We judge the happy […]