by Leslie George
Scientists claim to have found the chemical reactions in our brains that cause sexual desire, but seem to know little, if anything, about what causes 21st century sexual dysfunction ?- attraction without affection, passion without tenderness, attachment without closeness, infatuation without love. “What’s missing from our culture,” says Mark Whitwell, the author of Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection (Lantern Books, 2004), “is sexual intimacy that is truly loving and healing and gracious from both sides. That’s the only satisfactory sex, the only actual turn-on. The rest is painful.”
Whitwell, who has been teaching yoga for more than 20 years, says practicing yoga can get couples to a place of sexual healing and love. “Normally, couples rush at each other and focus on orgasm, using sex as a stress-release mechanism,” he says. Instead, he claims, sex can be more intimate and loving if both partners commit to a daily 20-minute yoga practice. “You begin to have better sex because you start to feel your whole body. Sex becomes about enjoying your partner as life, as feeling,” he says. “That’s the point.
Leslie George: In your book Yoga of Heart you write that practicing yoga can bring intimate couples closer, which results in better sex. How does it work?
Mark Whitwell: Practicing yoga ?- moving your body to your breath ?- energizes your system, just as a lover does. Your breathing is related to lovemaking in the way that it teaches you to love and feel as a whole body. You feel the intimacy of your own body, breath and life, and that allows you to move with ease into a relationship with another with energy and full participation. It is loving bodily like this that heals the wounds of unlove.
LG:How does breathing create more intimacy?
MW:Inhaling develops your ability to receive, acknowledging your feminine aspects of nurturing, receptivity and softness. Exhaling comes from your base, acknowledging your male quality of strength. The energetic movement of the inhalation moves from above, down the soft front of your body and can be felt through the whole body. The movement of the exhale moves from the base up your back. The downward movement of the inhale merges with the upward movement of the exhale at your heart. When you breathe and move in a yoga practice, you participate in unifying these polarities. Yoga moves the energy in you and makes you more sensitive to your own body and breath. Hatha [a combination of the Sanskrit words for “sun” and “moon”], strength-receiving, the merging of opposites. It brings the opposites within you into balance and has a wonderful and immediate effect. You feel peace, completeness, wholeness, autonomy. Everything you need in life is already given by nature and you feel it. You get the sense you have already been given everything that you neeed.
LG:What are the polarities of life which you talk about in your book?
MW:We each have the full range of female/male, yin/yang qualities in us and yearn to express both. The fact is we are opposites in union in every way. That’s how the universe works. The negative and positive poles, the left and the right, the front and the back, above and below, inner and outer, inhale and exhale, the female and male are all in union as the form of life itself. This is how the universe works. Participating in these polarities, it reveals the heart. Yogic awareness is the heart, not the head. The openness of the whole body reveals the open heart.
LG:What do you mean by “whole body” loving?
MW:That’s when we embrace as the whole body, and everything is in cooperation with everything else. Unlike conventional sex, there is not a focus on the genitals. We embrace from the heart and head as the area of primary focus. The whole body relaxes. The pleasure of making love is in the desiring and the flow of feeling, the circulation of energy between mutual lovers, not in the fulfillment or ending of desire. But, don’t think of this as method, technique or attainment of anything. It is about love. It is about what two bodies do who love each other. Our bodies know what to do.
LG:Besides yoga what are the other ways to create intimacy?
MW: Nothing can replace sincere feeling and heartfelt attention to your lover. A vital part of intimacy is relaxed time together. Make appointments with each other and see that you are practicing your loving. In the context of intimacy, in every kind of play, make love. Do everything that brought you together in the first place ?- your shared interests ?- and make love. Just like yoga practice, it is a very natural discipline of pleasure, but it requires attention. Do your loving; make a tangible physical link. The energy will move.
LG:Why is sexual intimacy so difficult to achieve for many couples?
MW: Many people feel guilty about their sexual need and feel bad about themselves when they have sexual feelings. Guilt must be removed from each person’s desire to feel sexual! We must learn and understand that sexual desire is a good, honest, natural, positive and loving human activity. Sex is a function of the human condition. Experience it and don’t deny it. Let the desire happen. Let us become sensitive to what our bodies feel and become intimate with our bodies as feeling systems. Let us end the suppression around relationship, including and especially sexual intimacy ?- which is yoga.
LG:What’s the best way to begin a yoga practice?
MW: Find a teacher who can adapt a yoga practice to you. Yoga needs to be fitted to exactly who you are. Just remember that yoga should not be a struggle. It should not be obsessive. It should naturally support your life, like a daily shower or breakfast. The only reason to do yoga is for the pleasure, the literal pleasure of your system relaxing and filling with energy.
LG: How do you find a good teacher?
MW: Look for a teacher who practices yoga themselves. Make sure they have a good teacher. And find a teacher who cares about you and is not arbitrarily imposing a standardized practice, philosophy or culture on you. Also, find a teacher who understands and places importance on the breath. You do the postures (asanas) for the breath, not the other way around. Your body’s movement is the breath movement, and the breath movement is the body movement. Let the breath initiate and envelop each movement. It’s true that your inhale and exhale move to and from the core of your body, but your whole body, extending from your spine, also participates in each breath.
Mark Whitwell says he is interested in developing an authentic yoga practice for the individual, based on the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya and his son TKV Desikachar. Whitwell has taught yoga in the United States and abroad for more than 20 years and was the editor and contributor to TKV Desikachar’s classic book, The Heart of Yoga.
Whitwell is the author of Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection. For more information, go to YogaofHeart.com
Article taken from iVillage, who recently spoke to M. Whitwell from his home in New Zealand