Intimacy and Ecstasy
Connecting with ourselves isn't a step any of us can skip, Whitwell stresses. "Your first intimacy is with your own body and breath," he says. "If you try to improve a relationship without developing that receptivity, there is no chance you can receive or be sensitive to another. There is a direct correlation." Without relaxing into ourselves, in other words, how can we truly relax into the body (and soul) of another? If we are only strong (what Whitwell calls a "penetrating" force, rather than a "receiving" one), we haven't set ourselves up to truly accept someone else, and the usual relationship problems ensue. "But," he emphasizes, "if two people are sensitive to their own bodies and their own lives through a yoga practice, and they come together, a natural feeling follows between the two—a sense that their bodies know what to do and how to move."
Jordan Kirk agrees: "If I'm tired or stressed, I see a huge shift when I just do some yoga. I'll do a practice and the whole world looks different. Especially after my twice-weekly two-hour practice with Martin, it seems like it clears out the cloudiness and confusion about what's going on in our relationship and we can get back to where we're in alignment again. Also, I always say Martin looks cuter after yoga," she says with a laugh.
State of the Union
A regular yoga practice adds spice to your sex life in a variety of ways, says Arthur Jeon, author of Sex, Love and Dharma: Finding Love Without Losing Your Way. For starters, it improves stamina, flexibility, and core and pelvic muscle strength, which have obvious physical benefits during lovemaking. Not so obvious is that yoga can enhance your connection to the muladhara (root) chakra at the perineum and the base of the spine, and the svadisthana chakra of the hips, sacrum, and genitals, a connection that makes you more receptive and stimulates your libido. What's more, Jeon says, "yoga gives you a sense of nothing but the present moment, and that translates into one's sexuality and the actual act of making love, not thinking about the future or focusing on the orgasm, but letting it unfold moment to moment, being as wakeful as possible. This allows you to be very in tune with your partner and with what's going on."
While a personal yoga practice comes first, practicing with your partner can add a new dimension to your relationship and to your sex life. "Doing poses together builds trust, strength, intimacy—all the components that go into a relationship," says Patti Asad, 34, a head teacher at Jiva Yoga Studio in Pacific Palisades, California, with her husband William, 35,who is also a head teacher. The two teach couples yoga retreats in Los Angeles and Mexico and have just released a new yoga DVD, Journey to Birth. In practicing with your partner, Patti says, you start to synchronize your breath and move together, and that "creates a very intimate flow that enhances the sexual energy between you."
For the Asads, parents of an 11-month-old and a two-year-old, their practice, together and apart, is essential for fighting stress and that biggest of libido-killers: fatigue. "Sex changes as you deal with real life and you've been married for a while and you're working and having children. Those things really wear on you," Patti says. "If we practice together and we carve out a moment to dedicate to one another, to strip out the rest of the world, to be in our breath, that's something that translates into the bedroom. When partners harmonize their breath and bodies, an effortless sense of intimacy is established."