Yoga and sex. Let me count the ways:
Historically (meaning pre-20th century), probably not much of a relationship. At various times there have been undocumented connections made between the origins of postural yoga and the exotic practices of itinerant 19th century saddhus (the often naked, bad boys of India). These accusations more likely originated as insults thrown by traditional society (and the British) in order to discredit those threatening and (almost exclusively) male ascetics.
As yoga moved to the west after Krishnamacharya, however, yoga certainly got more “sexy.” It was taken up fervently by movie stars and other beautiful people (most often female), leggings became almost universal and hot yoga classes couldn’t help but remind participants of similar activities.
But what are the real connections?
- Study after study has shown that the regular practice of asanas decreases stress and the levels of cortisol in the body. These positive effects can linger for hours after a yoga routine, minimizing anxiety and making you more open to active lovemaking.
- Study after study has shown that a regular practice not only reduces stress but it also increases a general feeling of well-being. If you feel happy, your self-esteem usually rises, again making you more confident and carefree with respect to your chosen sexual practices.
- Many postures and techniques (including pranayama), and especially those involving strengthening the core and lifting the pelvic floor, increase healthy blood flow to the genital area. Particularly, the pelvic lock known as “Mula Bandha” (very similar to the Kegel exercise) brings strength and increased awareness to those special places that count (in addition to improving balance and spinal alignment).
- A 2010 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine said that yoga improves all sexual functions in men, including desire, performance, erection, and ejaculation control. Much cheaper and healthier than that Viagra prescription!
- Not to get all acrobatic or kama sutra, but yoga’s contribution to most people’s flexibility decreases the possibility of those “I’ve got a cramp, we’ve got to stop!” moments.
- A wise yogi uses his or her practice to bring attention and awareness to the totality of the body. The next time orgasm is imminent, use your mindful awareness training to concentrate that thrill in not only your brain and sexual organs but to also in every portion of your body, from your ears to your toes, from your lips to your finger tips and all points in between. The full body orgasm will be yours.
We here at Inside/Out are just trying to calm the fluctuations of our minds. Come join us for more techniques!
We here at Inside/Out desire to do yoga with you in person. There’s something about a live class. The presence of a knowledgeable instructor and other warm bodies seems to powerfully focus the good and godly vibe. It encourages the discipline needed to not only perform an extended and more active routine (of course none of our classes are “routine”!), but even the discipline necessary to let yourself experience an extended sivanasa.
But few of us can get to class every day. What to do? Just because you can’t make the class doesn’t mean you can’t take at least a few minutes each day to do some asana. Perhaps before or after another kind of workout, or right before your bedtime read. Maybe in the morning before your meditation and prayers, or even beside your work desk, circumstances permitting.
The timing and location may dictate or suggest the kind of postures you can perform. It’s not particularly unique or personal, but my private yoga practice (before bedtime) often consists of the following:
-Mountain pose with arms raised, deeply relaxing the neck and shoulder area, extending the entire torso upward while rooting the feet
-10 forward bends/bows touching the toes and then using alternate sets of leg and back muscles when rising back up
-A few lunges, not particularly deep, followed each time by extending the forward leg and lengthening the hamstrings
– A wind-relieving pose or two, of course
-Happy baby or just few moments of extending the legs toward the ceiling
I’ll also do a modified pigeon kind of thing, both sides, spreading across the bed. The benefits of all of these are greatly amplified by paying close attention to and aligning your movements with your breath. And taking at least a few moments for sivasana.
Life is short and the end of man (and woman) is the worm. Don’t miss a day and a chance to multiply prana whenever you can.
Meanwhile, see you in class!
Kerry Wilson 4.14.22
WHY DO ASANA? PART 2
I’ve been reading an intriguing book by science writer, Annie Murphy Paul. The
Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain (2022) gathers and
analyzes the recent work of cognitive scientists demonstrating how we “think”
and perceive not just with our brains, but also with our entire body (embodied
cognition), our shared spaces (situated cognition) and our relationships with
others (distributed cognition). This isn’t just another book recognizing the reality
of “gut feelings”, but instead a deep dive into what exactly that might mean and
how we can specifically use this recent science to enhance our ability to learn
and, particularly, to think creatively.
Although Paul never mentions yoga, I’ve been struck by her reports of recent
studies and the terminology that has resulted. “Interoception”, a word scientists
are using to refer to our awareness of the inner state of our bodies, is something
yoga instructors constantly urge. We ask (or should ask) ourselves how does a
certain asana or movement make us feel? Even when most of us don’t turn our
awareness inward, she documents numerous studies showing that we engage in
“nonconscious information acquisition”, particularly when we significantly move
our bodies. Many of her insights in this area are linked simply with walking
(Thoreau’s “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin
to flow)”. But she also devotes an entire chapter to the role of “gesture”
(movement of hands, arms and body), citing studies which show that actively
gesturing on our part not only allows us to better communicate with others
(particularly children), but can be closely associated with what and how well we
(and our children) learn from others as well.
It got me thinking: Can we start to somehow equate asana practice with gesture?
When we ask ourselves why we do warrior pose in a certain shape, might it be
that previous teachers have noticed that such shape communicates with us better
than others? Or that the posture stimulates interoception or at least the impetus
to focus our awareness on bodily feeling? When we wonder or worry about the
historicity of yoga, might certain asana in fact be simply gestures from former,
accomplished teachers that instruct us across time without the use of voice or
words? And don’t get me started about mudras or a vigorous power yoga class!
Questions, questions, questions! Come join us for more at Inside/Out!
Kerry Wilson 3.31.22
Bound Tree Pose
I now have a lot of yoga books. But when I started doing yoga many, many moons ago, there were very few books explaining or illustrating asana practice (and precious fewer discussing pranayama or chakra anatomy). The Vishnudevananda and Iyengar folks put out several seminal works in the 1960s and 1970s that contained LOTS of postures and since then of course there have been thousands of books stoking that flame. But there’s one posture that really feels good to me that I’ve never seen illustrated or discussed in print. I’ll try to describe it here.
“Bound tree pose” is a variation of vrksasana, commonly known as just “tree pose”. In the latter, you stand on one leg with the bottom of the opposing foot placed somewhere on the inside of the standing leg. In many ways, this is the ultimate balance posture, depending, as they all do, on your alignment, (in this case) leg and foot strength and your constant attention to and sensory dialogue with gravity. Common variations usually involve your arms, with palms together at your chest, your arms spread wide for better balance, or arms overhead reaching your entire body upward. Each of these arm positions materially affect your center of gravity, making it harder or easier to maintain the posture.
To perform the bound variation, begin balancing on your right leg, and bring the top of your left foot into your right hand so that the left knee is pointed down-ward and your left heel is nestled at the top of your right thigh. Maintaining that grip, stand up straight and feel the whole of your right foot really anchor into the floor while your left knee comes close to your right knee. Your left hand can remain at your waist or (here comes the bi nd) snake across your back so that it takes hold of the inside of your right elbow, probably causing your spine to arch a bit and your shoulder blades to come closer together. Again, think about standing up straight, upwardly extending the trunk another inch and keeping your ribs soft, not jutting out. Hold for however long you’d like and then, as Mr. Kaminoff would say, repeat on the other side so that you don’t go to yoga hell.
This, I think you will find, is a very solid posture. If regular tree pose, with arms overhead, is like an elegant pine tree or swaying aspen, bound tree pose is like a large oak stump, immovable perhaps. And it is a more stable position in which to consider your proprioception (close your eyes if you’d like). If, like me, you have a tight shoulder girdle, it’s an opportunity to loosen that underwear. You might also find that the sore knee of the lifted leg gets a gentle stretch while all the other muscles stabilizing the standing knee get a good workout. Consider how this pose may prepare you for lotus. Observe the movement of your diaphragm-led body and the calm attention you must pay to maintain a dynamic balance.
Got a favorite asana? Practice it joyfully but don’t overdo it. Like many yoga positions, deeper and more frequent is not necessarily better and better.
OK, let’s get down to yoga’s skillful means of increasing happiness–in this case
assistance with the removal of gaseous formations within the digestive tract.
Usually the result of a brew of food, consumed liquids and gastric juices
(collectively, the great word “chyme”), exacerbated by sedentary behavior,
digestive gas can build up in the stomach and/or intestines in a way that hinders
healthy peristaltic action. These gas “bubbles” can be uncomfortable, relieved
only by burping (an upward movement) or “breaking wind” (a downward
movement). If relief does not occur, this lack of movement can result in
increasingly uncomfortable constipation.
Yoga asana is a quite practical and direct approach to living in the world, and
several postures and related movement can often lead to remarkable results
when it comes to removing unwanted gas. Quite aptly referred to as “wind
relieving” poses, various positions that focus on squeezing, churning and twisting
the abdominal area promote escape of these gases (while also promoting healthy
digestion overall). Grasping and ungrasping (pumping) your front thighs to your
chest (“apana” pose), raising one knee at a time toward your nose (and strongly
extending the other leg’s heel), spinal twists like “big toe” pose and Lord of Fishes,
and even bridge pose and “two-legged table pose”, are almost guaranteed to
supplement and stimulate peristaltic action and remove gas to outside the body.
Not surprisingly perhaps, a strong downward dog can be a dramatic finale to a
series of these postures, often producing an audible announcement of success.
Accordingly, if shy, it’s often best to concentrate on these exercises in private
although its perfectively acceptable to make a not overly flamboyant sound in
class if followed by a quiet yet cheerful “Excuse me”.
Just an aside: Pursuant to my curious inquiry about her “secret” to long life, a very
healthy 90 plus year-old woman, not familiar with yoga, recently told me that she
grasps her knees to her chest and rocks sideways, back and forth, “at least 50
times” before she gets out of bed each morning. Said she had done this for over
60 years and attributed much of her good health to the practice. Another example of how yoga can be practice anywhere and be adopted into everyday routine. Try it sometime!
Kerry Wilson 3.3.22
Fellow pilgrims: How about the “simple” cross-legged pose? If you want to sit comfortably for extended periods, perhaps to work on your pranayama techniques or to practice any of the many forms of meditation, you are faced with the question of what to do with your body. Lying on your back or stomach may work, but there is a tendency to fall asleep. Standing has some merit, but you’ll soon find that takes a lot of energy and is hard to hold for a long time. Alternatively, “sitting” has been the choice of many meditators down through the ages, allowing both comfort and extended awareness. This may be performed on a comfy chair or bed (apparently, the Dalai Lama prefers the latter, with lots of pillows), but many serious meditators have chosen variations of padmasana, the “Lotus Pose”. For many reasons, including injury and inflexibility, strict padmasana (with both feet on top of opposite thighs) is not available comfortably to most persons who have sat in chairs all their lives. However, the simpler variation, sometimes called sukhasana, or “easy posture”, is available to almost everyone.
Fundamentally, sukhasana is a balance pose. Like all balance poses, the keys are alignment, strength and attention. Comfortable alignment starts with placing the weight of your upper body on top of the ischial tuberosities, the prominent, rounded portion of bone that forms the lower and back parts of the pelvis. To sit upright on these parts means, for most people, tilting the top of the pelvis forward to maintain the natural, multi-curvature of your spine rather than a single C-shaped curve (flexion). You want look like a toddler first sitting up (butt jutting backward) rather than an old witch hunching over! Again, for most people, it is essential that your knees and upper thighs are lower than your hips with the knees also touching the floor or an appropriate cushion. This often means sitting on another cushion to elevate the hips. Once stacked properly, the body is stable like a triangle, the spine is in a congenial position and, most importantly, the other muscles forming your core do not have to work so hard, thus allowing you to maintain this position, comfortably, for a longer period. Don’t misunderstand. Those core muscles will still be working and you’ll find a strengthened core makes sitting much easier. Keep doing those planks!
Once fundamentally aligned, you can work on your balance. Pay close attention to find your most effortless balance. The top of the bowling ball called your head might feel like it’s light and pulling your spine upward. Where best do your shoulders fall to release tension in your neck? Where do your hands feel most comfortable? Once you find better balance, can you maintain your attention so that you maintain a most unworried position? Maybe focus on a spot two fingertips south of your navel. Feel your spine solidly sinking into those tuberosities and the cushion and earth below you. After a while, you might find sukhasana most akin to mountain pose or tree pose. There are magic spots of balance.
One important side note: Most meditators are seeking stillness, quiet, best to hear God, feel the love flow, manifest inter-being with self or others, experience not just imagine non-attachment, or simply to pray and/or lessen the “fluctuations of the mind.” But if you try to stay perfectly still, you soon notice that there is this large muscle, your diaphragm, constantly moving up and down in your body, changing the shape of your spine, chest and abdomen, and thus affecting your balance. If you try to stop that movement, you’ll soon suffocate or at least feel a lot of tension generated by this natural movement and your goal of stillness. Incorporating this breathing into the alignment, strength and attention you train with sukhasana is worthy of much practice and may be the greatest gift you can give your spiritual self.
Hello, yogis, and welcome to the first of many questions. I raise these questions not to provoke doubt about your postural yoga practice, but rather to strengthen your personal resolve based on answers well thought through. You might call them “yogic koans” — questions that you should face and either answer with your entire being, or just thoroughly drop as you reach for your second glass of wine.
Today’s question is “Why do asanas?” Asanas are of course the bodily poses and postures we perform in class and in private, whether they be warrior poses, forward bends, seated twists or others of hundreds which have now become popular. We know by now that nearly all these poses are essentially inventions of the twentieth century, first created in Mysore, India by Krishnamacharya during the 1920’s and 1930’s, and then sown, grown and magnificently fertilized by his students (like B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar, Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi). And then by hundreds of teachers residing mostly in California. I say this not flippantly, nor to minimize postural practice, but to make sure you don’t think that half-moon pose, for instance, has been practiced for 4,000 years. (The seated meditation poses (asana means “seat”) are of course another story.) Because asana practice is not ancient, however, does not mean that it is less important or effective. In fact, you might decide that its modernity and rapid international spread means that it has been proven and much improved over the last 100 years.
Does asana practice make you healthier? It would seem to and there is good evidence thereof. But so does playing basketball and intelligently lifting weights.
Does asana practice, particularly a more aerobic vinyasa routine, make you happier? Lots of evidence for this, though any good exercise program seems to do the same.
Why is assuming and maybe holding a seated twist, like Lord of the Fishes, beneficial? Does it touch and activate some spot in your body that has a particular healing power?
Does returning to the same posture each day, the same arrangement of bone and muscle, whatever it may be, provide some more effective way for you to check-in with yourself or test your bodily health or demeanor?
Is asana practice, as some teacher once said, simply a beneficial method of learning how to breathe in difficult positions?
Do certain postures make you taller, more flexible, expand your range of motion or just make you temporarily feel taller, more flexible with a greater range of motion?
Is it some magical shape in space, some cosmic configuration of human angle, that melds you physically with Love, the Universe or maybe God in some special way?
Most importantly perhaps, does your posture practice promote what the Patanjali aphorisms long ago stated was the goal of yoga, that is “the calming of the fluctuations of the mind”?
Questions, questions, questions! Come join us for more at Inside/Out!
Kerry Wilson 1.27.22
1) If you have any doubt about this history (and there are many subtleties to the story), read Mark Singleton’s revelatory work “The Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice” (2010).
Alignment is Kathryn’s thing.
* brief warm up
* alignment focus on various poses.
Join us for a Special Event ahead of the Holidays to create your own mala necklace. These mala beads will be extra special because you made them yourself! Bring a friend or relative with you or gift them with the beautiful
mala necklace you create.
This will be a relaxing, fun and unique experience at a time when we all need to slow down a bit.
Mala bead necklaces are traditionally used in meditation as a tool to assist in counting your mantras. A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid meditative concentration. As we pull one bead at a time while repeating our mantra, the mind settles down and we find a calm center. Your mala will contain 108 beads and the significance and meaning will be different for every practitioner. Because the mala can be worn as a necklace or bracelet you can take it with you wherever you go and it can provide a tangible reminder of your intention, thus leading to a more joyful life!
Take this opportunity to infuse your mala with your own unique intention, energy and prayers. You will leave with your own personal mala and the knowledge of how to use it in a japa meditation practice. All materials and japa meditation instruction will be provided.
Address: 219 5th Street SW, Winter Haven, FL 33880