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Yoga and Sex: Yoga Makes You a Little Less Horny (It’s True)

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Yoga

Once it became public knowledge that yoga had taken over my life, people started asking if I’d learned any new sexual positions, largely because they wanted to make fun of me. Someone asked if I was now more “bendy.” Another said, “so, are you like having that Tantric sex stuff for 12 straight hours at a time, you know, like Sting and Trudy?”

Well, I’d definitely grown more agile and more flexible. I wasn’t flopping around like a decked marlin in bed, and didn’t find myself wheezing for breath when I was done. But it’s not like my wife and I continually writhed in sweet Kama Sutra sexual congress, tenderly moving our outstretched hands in a circle while facing each other in half-moon pose. Allow me to quote Sting from a revealing interview he did with a British tabloid: “Yes, you can have sex for six hours, but it includes dinner, a movie and maybe a lot of begging! Tantra is a well-documented science, it’s not just about sex. It’s a devotional exercise to express adoration. Sex is a sacred act and incredible fun.”

What he said. Let me add that I actually hadn’t studied Tantra, at all, so I definitely wasn’t having rock-star intercourse. Plus, if Sting, a physically impeccable world-famous billionaire musician who owns most of Scotland, has to beg his wife for sex, where did that leave guys like me? By the time Regina and I got done with dinner and a movie, all we cared about was rushing home so we didn’t have to pay the babysitter an extra ten bucks, which didn’t really put us in the mood to make the sexy time.

Certain things did change. When you spend ten hours a week or more doing intense yoga, you continually contract and flex your perenium muscles, meaning that the area between your testicles and your anus becomes one of the strongest parts of your body. I found myself learning how to draw my prana, or yogic energy, up through my corporeal center from my nuts. It made all the difference. I may not have been fucking in the lotus position, but when you’ve got the mulabhanda going on, your orgasms are twice, maybe three times longer and more intense. You can’t buy that at the pharmacy.

Still, despite modest pleasure-based improvements, yoga’s main sexual accomplishment involved changes to my attitude toward the nasty. Since the moment I first sprouted pubes, I’d thought of nothing but sex. It had possessed me like a rampaging demon that could only be briefly exorcised in messy intervals. Sexual desire led me to do a lot of stupid things: I hung around in bars long after I should have gone home, made weird, obsessive phone calls, had naughty exchanges with strangers in Internet chat rooms, and, more often than not, found myself pining, miserable, and frustrated.

As with everything else yoga-related, this astonishing change had philosophical underpinnings. The Yoga Sutras, yoga’s Ur-text, understood me perfectly. According to the Sutras, all human suffering stems from something called, in Sanskrit, avidya, or misperception of the true nature of reality. Suffering clouds the “lens” of the mind and keeps us from seeing clearly. And few things cause more suffering than sex, or misunderstanding about sex. Just ask Othello, or any human being ever.

Hence the most unpopular of all the sutras, chapter two, verse 38, which explains the concept of brahmacharya. This sometimes gets translated to horrified listeners as “celibacy,” meaning that the true student of yoga must be celibate to practice properly. Fortunately, TKV Desikachar, the wisest living scholar of the Sutras, explains it this way in his book The Heart Of Yoga:

“At its best, moderation produces the highest individual vitality.”

In other words: Have sex, sure, but stop seeing it as a game, or a goal. Avoid obsession. Go about your sexual business ethically, causing as little harm to others as possible. Amazingly, as I practiced more physical yoga I felt this happen to me as a palpable mental change. Here I was surrounded by more attractive, cool, smart, skimpily dressed women than any other time in my life, and I barely felt a tug toward naughty behavior. Not only had I learned to control myself, the idea of controlling myself came almost naturally. I realized that I no longer needed sex. Yoga had calmed my inner pervert.

Of course, I learned, the physical aspects of sex don’t go away when you practice yoga. When you’re sitting sweaty in your basement in your stretchy yoga shorts all day, certain sensations will inevitably arise. I’m no eunuch. But after a while, though I still found sex infinitely pleasurable, I didn’t desire it any more than three or four times a day, down from a record high of about 45. Learning the tools to control desire, as I lurched into middle age and therefore probably would have substantially less sex anyway, made my life a lot easier.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, writing this has made me kind of horny. To calm down, I’m going to go do some yoga. As far as you know.

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