Even if you don’t consider sex a holy sacrament, a regular yoga practice will serve your sex life in ways that other forms of exercise may not be able to.
Yoga’s un-sanitized history has deep roots in sexuality—the kind of sexuality that would likely exceed the comfort levels of (most of) us modern folk. For the original yogis, sexual bliss and spirituality went hand-in-hand: enlightenment was believed to be the result of the ecstatic union between the female and male aspects of the world. (“Yoga,” after all, means union.)
Tantra is the process of achieving this union. From ritual sex (including orgies) to the worship of sex goddesses, some ancient sects of yoga practitioners vigorously engaged their sexuality and likely took sex to its physical limits and beyond.
While this tradition has been largely left behind by modern yoga, especially in the West, there’s a lot to be said for yoga’s connection to sexuality. Study after study illustrates that our sex lives can indeed benefit from yoga—Tantra retreat optional, and orgies definitely optional.
Let’s start with the basics. Yoga, like any exercise, increases circulation and reduces mental stress. Healthy circulation and a mind at ease are certainly good foundations for for a fulfilling sex life. From this starting point, however, yoga breaks away from other exercises and offers unique benefits.
One of the first studies to closely look at yoga’s direct effect on an individual’s sexual health measured the rise in subjects’ testosterone levels following a yoga session. The results were impressive. (Testosterone, the hormone in both men and women largely responsible for sex drive, also plays an important role in memory, attention, and spatial awareness. Although men produce far more testosterone than women, the hormone is vital for sexual arousal in females. Unsurprisingly, production peaks during ovulation—i.e., a woman’s fertile window.) The researchers found that yoga raised testosterone levels by an average of 57% and credited microcirculation of blood in the sexual organs.
While later studies contest this particular average, the research overwhelmingly echoes the finding that yoga boosts testosterone levels. A 2004 study found that after a six-month period of regular yoga, cortisol (the hormone our bodies produce in response to stress) in subjects fell while their testosterone levels rose. Especially noteworthy was the female subject’s testosterone levels, which reached up to 55%.
Amazingly, yoga’s benefits for sex drive are widely accessible. Even new partitioners (men and women alike of varying ages) report improved arousal, satisfaction, and closeness with their partners. A 2002 study found that for women with sexual arousal disorder (SAD), fast breathing, like the kind done in Kapalabhati, improved the arousal of women with SAD compared to the control group (women with SAD who did not participate in the fast breathing).
What about other forms of exercise? Interestingly, endurance sports tend to trigger a fall in testosterone levels, which would explain why runners typically have lower levels of testosterone than non-runners. There are several possible reasons for this. The stress of pavement pounding in running, for example, may cause the body to put a hold on the production of sexual hormones. Survival—not pleasure (or reproduction)—takes precedence. Moreover, endurance sports are more likely to aggressively burn the body’s resources for fuel—including muscles if it comes to that. My husband, in an attempt to defend running, speculated that the bodies of endurance athletes may be conditioned to quickly repair fallen levels, which would make sense given that regular exercise trains the body to more efficiently repair itself. After all, Brendan Brazier’s philosophy seems to be working out for him.
But I think it’s safe to say that yoga may be one of the best, non-pharmaceutical ways to reignite your fire.
Has yoga played a role in your sexual health?
Related: Yoga for a Better Sex Life
How to Embrace Your Sexuality in a Healthy Way
7 Ways to Care for Your Reproductive Health
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Photo: Patrick Hendry via Unsplash