Intimacy and Ecstasy
In her therapy practice, Ogden's clients short-circuit the cultural hard-wiring by talking about what their parents, clergy, or teachers told them about sex. "I find out literally where in their body they're incorporating that," she says. "Often women will feel it in their pelvis. They'll tighten it right up or they'll hold their breath. I can see them breathing just from the chest up instead of taking full breaths." Thus, coming back to the very essence of yoga—the full, deep inhalations and exhalations of pranayama—is a simple way to counter ingrained ideas and feelings that sabotage body and spirit.
Better with Age
If there's an upside to aging, it may well be the greater self-acceptance that comes with the passing years. This softer, gentler approach to ourselves and others may be the reason so many people in midlife and beyond say that their sex lives are better—more spiritual, more varied, more fun—than ever before. "They begin to come from a very clear place of "This is what I want. That is what I don't want,'" Ogden says. "As people get older, they tend to connect spirituality and sexuality more. Sex does not tend to decline at midlife as the pharmaceutical companies would like us to believe." Older people are also likely to redefine what a satisfying sex life is, Whitwell notes. "There may well be a natural inclination to make love less, while the free flow of feeling between intimates remains as strong as ever. A touch of the fingertips may be sufficient, or lying in stillness together."
Like the Crabtrees, Martin and Jordan Kirk have seen sex get better and better over their seven-year marriage. "When we were first together, our sexuality was new and we had lots of sex and were experimenting," says Martin, 46, an Anusara Yoga teacher and the coauthor of Hatha Yoga Illustrated. "Both of us had been married before and had longer-term relationships before, so we knew the cycle that you have sex less often over time, but the depth of our sexuality has increased. It's much richer and more meaningful. I could relate that to our practice of yoga—not just asana—and the deepening understanding of ourselves and each other." Jordan, also 46, agrees: "I feel like I know who I am so much better than 10 or 20 years ago, and with that comes a real comfort level and a confidence with myself and my body that definitely translates into sexuality as I get older."
For men, age loosens what Jeon calls "testosterone's stranglehold," a change that Maril Crabtree's husband has felt firsthand. "The reality of my sex life, versus my perception when I was 40 of what it would be like when I got older, is that it's much more exciting, fun, energizing, and fulfilling than I would have predicted," says Jim Crabtree, 64. "The things that caused me grief or concern in my sex life when I was younger have melted away as I have become more focused on the spiritual aspect. The outcome of that has been that I've just been free to play without performance concerns and I have more fun expressing how I really am, instead of being driven by a part of me that is only a part of me." Or, as Ogden says, "When you combine sexuality and spirituality, a whole new world opens up."