Part 1 – Where I Got My Start With Yoga
Part 2 – How Sex, Yoga and Intimacy Combine (this page)
How Sex, Yoga, and Intimacy Combine
As an Intermediate to Advanced yoga practitioner, you’ll know yoga is not just about Asana poses.
The goal of yoga as expressed in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 200 CE (I’m paraphrasing) is:
To create divine union between mind, body and spirit, through awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of existence.
And our intimate relationships have a LOT to do with it.
To set the scene, asana’s (body postures) is the 3rd of eight ‘limbs’ of yoga as taught by Patanjali. Namely:
1 Yama: Universal morality
2 Niyama: Personal observances
3 Asanas: Body postures
4 Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana (sex energy)
5 Pratyahara: Control of the senses
6 Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7 Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8 Samadhi: Union with the Divine
I’m ‘going out on a limb’ by doing this, and it’s not meant as narrow-minded westernized dogma… so with humility, here are a few ideas on how the 8 limbs of Yoga correspond with nurturing authentic intimacy in relationships.
(These concepts align with my work on intimacy in my live workshops, one-to-one coaching and online course The Intimacy Code.)
Introduction To The 8 Yoga Sutras For Intimate Conscious Relationship
Yama: Universal morality
In relationship, this involves mutual compassion for each other’s journey of inner truth and connection with our spiritual self.
Striving for complete authenticity of our own character and behavior, along with striving for total empathy for our partner — giving them space to grow and explore their journey, with a commitment to behave in a way that best serves the highest purpose of both partners.
A selfless compassion for your partner.
Niyama: Personal observances
In relationship, the niyamas relate to maintaining conscientious healthy boundaries for your own sanctity and self-ownership, to ensure you have the right personal space to be true to yourself regardless of the relationship with a partner.
This includes the self-responsibilities for cleanliness, good health and fitness, mental attitude and emotional mood, personal power, integrity and effort towards achieving your successes, and developing internal mindfulness to know yourself more fully.
It also includes the recognition of yourself as part of a broader experience and connection with existence beyond the boundaries and limitations of an interpersonal romantic loving relationship.
A selfish focus on your personal experience.
Asanas: Body postures
Asana is the practice of physical postures or ‘positions’. It is the most commonly known aspect of yoga. Patanjali describes the Asana’s this way:
“This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself. … This limb of yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body.”
In terms of relationship this includes three elements:
1. Chi energy cultivation. Literally circulating the flow of chi energy through the body while holding your Asana poses and listening to the messages of wisdom that your body provides.
2. Couples Yoga. Working with a partner on Yoga positions rather than alone.
3. What has come to be known as ‘Tantric Sex’. Think ‘kama sutra’ positions. And yes, there were a few of those books in my Dad’s collection too (as per part 1). Here the focus is not just on ‘sex positions’, it’s the use of sex to engage emotional closeness as well as personal discovery and fulfillment through that shared heightened experience. Many of the physically challenging sexual positions of Tantric lovemaking are actually yoga postures used for personal awakening.
Pranayama: Breathing technique for control of prana
Breath work alone is not just about mindfulness meditation. Some yoga traditions and all of the Taoists taught how breath can be used to circulate chi (life force / sex energy) throughout the body.
Through intimate relationship, this involves circulating chi (sex energy) through breath during love making. Breath control can help delay or heighten the onset of orgasm. Breath work during sex also helps the partners synchronize and harmonize their emotions by tuning in to each other’s sensory experience.
Pratyahara: Control of the senses
Affection is a vital cornerstone of loving relationship. Yet, over-indulgence or neediness for constant physical contact can end up pushing a partner away. Or it can lead to an emotional dependence on the physical aspects of relationship which inhibits the broader psychological and spiritual aspects.
An easy way for a woman to understand ‘control of the senses’ is in her preference for the man to take his time with lovemaking, rather than ‘racing to the finish line’.
In a similar way, men appreciate a woman’s sensitivity to give space rather than becoming ‘clingy’. Men like to spend time in their ‘man cave’ or den.
Pratyahara (control of the senses) in relationship is both about contributing sufficient affection and practical support to the partner, as well as knowing when to withdraw, hold back, and not over-indulge.
Dharana: Cultivating Self-Awareness
Extending beyond pratyahara, dharana means ‘immovable concentration of the mind’.
In terms of relationship, this involves being present and mindful in our connection with, and separateness from, our partner.
In my coaching, women have sometimes expressed their keen desire, almost an emotional need, for their man to be constantly demonstrating that she is ‘on his mind’.
Dharana advises that both partners allow each other to have mental, emotional and physical time apart form each other, allowing organic and holistic growth to occur for both of you separately, and in the relationship.
A powerful phrase about presence is ‘wherever you are, be there’, reminding us to focus our awareness on the reality of our circumstances and fully appreciate and experience what is available to us in each moment.
This always implies that we should let go of any lingering longing for that which is not in our presence, including our partner, so we are not inhibited from pursuing our many responsibilities and aspirations.
This means giving each other genuine space to ‘breathe’, to concentrate, to focus, to clarify.
It also means concentrating and clarifying the contribution of the relationship to both partners. To fully focus on giving your best self to your partner. And making space for them to do the same for you. This is the immoveable concentration of relationship. To nurture both partners through times of separateness and times of fully present togetherness.
Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
Dhyana means worship. In relationship this is about appreciating the divine within the male/female relationship: the convergence of masculine/feminine energies with a resultant mix of strengths, weaknesses, roles and playful games that you each take on, and offer to each other.
Dhyana in relationship has several focal points:
Worship of the partners energy.
If you are the feminine partner, how can you fully admire, appreciate, bask in, and be absorbed by the strong masculine contribution of your partner?
Worship of your own energy.
If you are the feminine partner, how can you fully admire, appreciate, bask in, and be absorbed by the expressive feminine movement of your inner abundance?
Worship of your combined unity.
What clues can you find that illuminate the ‘other worldly’ experiences of deep, abiding, authentic intimacy that pervades a loving harmonious relationship?
Samadhi: Union with the Divine
Union with the divine in relationship means the cessation of conflict and the transcendent ecstasy of absolute emotional closeness achieved in the fleeting moments of shared orgasmic experience — and the emotional closeness that is created through authentic intimacy.
The spirituality of sex is, unfortunately, a hidden area of knowledge in most spiritual doctrines. For example:
“The Kabbalah teaches that … man can achieve total union with God only through sexual intercourse. This is one of the most zealously guarded secrets of the Kabbalah. Because God is made of two principles, male and female, and because they are forever united in perfect harmony, man must also endeavor to achieve perfect harmony in sex with a woman, one woman. According to Kabbalah a man or a woman who has never joined in sex with a member of the opposite sex can never come in contact with God.” – The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic, Migene González-Wippler
And the sexual component of Indian Tantra is often neglected, forgotten or suprressed. (See Kiss of the Yogini)
The only path I know that still openly shares the spirituality of sex is Taoism.
The Tao (The Way) advocates a simple, natural, healthy and happy approach to life. Where our sensuality guides us to holistic integration of self with existence.
To paraphrase the earlier paragraph:
the most complete sense of union or mergence with existence occurs in the loss of conscious identity during moments of orgasmic ecstasy with full release of inhibition and fear, in a momentary, fleeting state of unconditional love and oneness
This is the goal of Yoga in terms of romantic loving relationship as I see it.
Part 1: Where I Got My Start With Yoga
Continue with Sex, Tantra and Enlightenment.