Yoga and Sex

Posted by Steven Russell on Thursday, February 19, 2015

Time for a change of pace.

I know what you must be thinking after you read the title of this post. Two muscled bodies glistening with sweat, in an animated, intimate dance, each one out doing the other in feats of flexibility and agility. So let that thought pass for a moment. It’s a common thought, but one that may prove only to be a momentary distraction from the real subject at hand.

There is a teaching in yoga called brahmacharya, often translated as continence. Some see it as celibacy. Others see it as restraint. In all of my studies in yoga, I have not come across anyone seriously engrossed in what we call yoga to relate brahmacharya in any way to a moral condemnation of sex. It is said that the teaching relates more to wisdom than to morality. If one’s attention is given over often to the release of sexual energy, and let’s admit that one’s attention can be drawn to that subject often, what time or energy would one have for much else? So this principle of restraint is more about retaining energy and spending it wisely. Often that wisdom draws our attention to many productive things that would be lost during a fixation on sex. In fact, a prohibition against sex could fuel that fixation more than fire a productive burst of wisely spent energy.

Because of the reputation of this principle, many people might dismiss ancient yoga teachings as antiquated, preferring a more permissive attitude toward sex. Others may dismiss the mere mention of sex out of fear and embarrassment, preferring not to discuss or even ponder the subject at all. However, the principle seeks neither to promote nor prohibit the topic, merely to instill in the yogi wisdom about its expression.

Yoga and sex naturally go together. Picture a room full of sweaty, mostly naked bodies, twisting and stretching. Picture a young, inexperienced yogi nestled close to an older, wiser teacher, as the master presses against his faltering body, both forms easing deeply into a pose. Let’s be honest for a moment. How about a proposal? An overture from a student. A suggestion that an experienced yogi would make a good lover. Truth? In my mind I see one fairly passive body and one very active. I see one partner getting very tired in the pursuit of the other’s pleasure. It doesn’t sound romantic or enticing to me. Let’s be realistic for a lot longer. Can yoga make sex better? Not if it isn’t good to begin with. What yoga can do is open up the possibility for better health, and better acceptance of where one is with the body as it is. What an understanding of brahmacharya might bring is the wisdom to know when sexual expression might prove to be beneficial and when it might cause more harm than good.

In the words of a very respected writer on yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, in Light on Yoga, “When one is established in brahmacharya, one develops a fund of vitatlity and energy, a courageous mind and a powerful intellect so that one can fight any type of injustice. The brahmachri will use the forces he generates wisely… Brahmacharya is the battery that sparks the torch of wisdom.”

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