These days, I do yoga because it feels like sex.
I told this to someone recently who said, “Really? You must not have great sex.”
“Maybe,” I admitted, “but could it be that you haven’t had great yoga?”
When I say yoga feels like sex, I don’t mean the penetrating, chaotic, orgasmic side of sex. I mean the pleasure of waking up into an animal body side of sex. The flow of energy in places and spaces aching for action side of sex. The relief of one’s body parts being met with loving focused attention side of sex.
This new relationship with yoga has had unexpected side effects, specifically, sound effects. The sounds are usually so quiet only my own mat or nearest neighbor can hear them. But they are there, sensual and audible.
Along with them comes an experience of freedom in the body, but also of fear in the mind. What will others think? Will they be annoyed? Distracted? Do they think I’m trying to get attention?
Zola Dubnikova, a dance teacher and movement healer, was the first person to encourage me to express the subtle sounds that often accompany pleasure. Before meeting Zola, I didn’t even realize I had subtle sounds. I had thought audible pleasure was reserved for the bedroom or perhaps an exceptional piece of pie. But she was right! When I stopped self-censoring, tiny murmurs began to accompany the pleasure of certain movements.
I began to wonder if sensual sounds have gone the way of so much of our sexual expression—hidden, denied, even disdained.
The more I open to the “yes” of yoga, the more I give voice to the soft poetry of my pleasure. Since learning to welcome these subtle sounds, I’ve noticed how repressing my natural expression actually takes energy—energy I’d prefer to use for expression rather than suppression.
Even more important to me, however, is realizing that when I repress my pleasure, I’m communicating to myself that pleasure is something to be repressed. How can I honestly ask for more pleasure in my life (which I do! I do!) if I’m going to repress it when it’s here? This realization has given me the courage to start this conversation.
For many, yoga is a meditation. Sometimes we hear music, the teacher’s instruction, and the gentle waves of ujjayi. But beneath it all, yoga classes often achieve a sacred silence. Is there an unspoken agreement that sounding our satisfaction would be a class distraction? I don’t want to cost others’ their focus, but I also don’t want to repress my natural expression due to a hypothetical problem.
So I’m wondering: is there a conflict? Do subtle sounds disrupt the sacred silence, or like the synchronized waves of breath, could they deepen it? Sometimes the sound of another’s exhale reminds my own body to breathe. I wonder if it’s possible that we can support each other by sharing the audible reminders that yoga is a practice of allowing, expansion, and release.
Yoga teachers, in asking these questions, I’ve realized it might be helpful to have clear expectations around sound in class. That could mean welcoming students’ subtle sounds or specifying a silent practice.
As students, what do you think about soft vocal allowing? Yours or others’? Have you tried it? Is sound too distracting? Or too stimulating? Perhaps you don’t know what to think or expect. If this is the case, consider giving it a try and see how it feels.
If you need an incentive, did I happen to mention that my yoga practice has begun to feel like sex?
Author: Leah Pearlman
Image: Author’s own via Larsenphoto.co
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina