This isn’t another one of those Try These Three Yoga Poses for Better Sex articles. No, I won’t be sharing the hip openers that will get you a spot in the newest Kama Sutra edition. You can find a whole host of those on the internet. But, fortunately, I will be sharing two of the most powerful tools that yoga gives us. Tools that can improve many aspects of our lives, including sex.
Those tools are breath and mindfulness.
But first, let’s backtrack a bit and go to the place where sex all starts: The brain. Sexual pleasure is context-dependent. We could be the stretchiest yogi in the world, champion of pretzely, contortionist shapes, and still be in our heads during sex.
What I’m saying is, being flexible isn’t commensurate with sexual pleasure. Yoga gives us the amazing gift of body awareness. The practice can heal physical pain, help us become more mobile, and leave us feeling limber and liberated. But, we must also take notes from mindfulness practices in order to have a more holistic sexual experience.
Because, like I just mentioned, you could be mega flexible in bed but still be thinking:
Was that weird what I said to my boss earlier?
Hmmm, what should I make for dinner?
Why is it taking so long for my penis to get hard?
Do my tits look weird in this position?
As Emily Nagoski teaches us in her life changing book Come As You Are, these thoughts are completely normal and are a few of the “brakes” we experience when it comes to sex. Nagoski writes,
“The problem isn’t the desire itself, it’s the context. You need more sexually relevant stimuli activating the accelerator and fewer things hitting the brake.”
This dual control model, as outlined by Nagoski, (stop and go) is all about context. To kick on the accelerator you need a low stress, safe, trusting, consensual environment. But what we really need to do is focus on the brakes, because those are more active thanks to chronic stress, the ways society tells us how to look, body shame, no one teaching us how to say what we want or need… you know, the everyday bullshit.
That’s where the real magic of yoga comes in. Yoga’s blend of body awareness, breath, and mindfulness can anchor us back in the moment, allowing us to feel present sensations and slowly let off on the brakes.
Whether we’re enjoying solo sex or sex with another partner or partners, we have to remember that sex begins in the brain. So, if we can use the wisdom of yoga to access and train our brain, we can access more of our pleasure pathways.
In her book Better Sex Through Mindfulness, Lori Brotto writes:
“I believe that stress management and learning to live in the present moment are key to cultivating sexual desire. Mindfulness meditation, which has been found to consistently and robustly reduce stress, may be the single most effective way of attaining sexual satisfaction.”
Breath is a beautiful way into mindfulness. Pausing to listen to your breath move through your body can quell the thoughts that disconnect you from your body. There are many breathing techniques that trigger our parasympathetic nervous system (rest abd digest), which can relax our muscles, slow down our brain waves, and help us feel at ease. As we listen to the breath, we naturally feel the sensations that are present. We ground into what’s here right now. We move away from spectatoring (performance fears, how your body looks, etc.) and we move into how things feel.
Jessica Fern gets specific about what presence is in her book polysecure: “Being present is not just putting your phone down for a few minutes. It is a way of being, from interaction to interaction, where you consciously inhabit your own body and show up with the best of your attention, offering your presence as a gift.”
Here are ways to practice these techniques that can be applied to your yoga practice as well as intimate experiences with yourself and other people.
- Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing. Learning to truly breathe from your diaphragm has a number of benefits. Not only does it take effort and strain out of using your neck and chest muscles (which often engage when we breath in a shallow way), it slows down your breathing, expends less energy, and calms the mind.
- Focus on what you feel versus what you look like. It’s easy to compare our pose to another person in yoga class. Remember that depth can’t be seen by the outside eye. It is not how far you go in a pose or if you can touch your toes. Depth is about how connected you are to your inner landscape. It’s about internal alignment, feeling safe in your body, and meeting an edge that challenges you in an appropriate way.
- Notice. Notice when you leave your body. Notice when you start spectatoring or comparing yourself to another body. The moment you notice is the moment to usher yourself back to what is yours — your body, your sensations, your breath. This too is a practice and it requires consistent mindfulness.
- Call on your mindfulness practices. When you notice you leave the feeling, how do you pull yourself back? You might call on the power of your senses, listing what you feel, taste, smell, hear, and see. You might try a deep, slow breath to bring yourself back. You might scan your body and notice where you feel contraction, density, vibration, lightness. Naming and describing sensations in your inner body can be a great way to root back into the present moment.
With consent, communication, breath, and presence, you’re well on your way to a depth of pleasure that you wholeheartedly deserve.