As a teacher, I am asked all kinds of questions about the practices of yoga. Sometimes they are obvious ones that range from "How long will it take to master a posture?" to "Does it ever get easy?" There are, however, a few less obvious questions such as, "I feel very sexual during the practice. Is this okay?"
This question was regarding the practice of the backbends of yoga because they can arouse sexual feelings. I have been teaching backbending yoga for over 10 years now and interestingly enough this was the first student who had the guts to ask. It is a pretty provocative question but coming from a student whom I know he was facing some challenges and distractions in his practice. He wanted to know if it was: 1) normal, 2) should he continue, and 3) is he the only one?
A few years ago my teacher who is a backbending specialist by having won many championships revealed to me that backbending can elicit very strong energy. In other words, the intensity of the postures combined with increased prana (energy) stimulates many of the vital chakras (in yoga there are 7 located along the spinal cord). One chakra is that of the genitals and procreation (svadhisthana). It is stimulated and activated in backbends because the pelvis is constantly being pressed and pushed forward as well as backward. Depending on the capacity of the student the energy can get "stuck" rather than rising upward and produce strong sexual feelings.
So, yes, it does happen, it is normal and you are not alone.
One example I knew of and an extreme was of a student who started obsessively practising backbends. Over time their energy field was aroused beyond a 'normal' range. It was not just their sexual activities that were excessive but they overate, oversleep and pretty much overextended themselves in many areas of their life. This caused a lot of harm both to their body, mind and nervous system. It also ruined their practice.
If the practice is not tempted with other postures and exercises, it can produce disturbances in the body, mind and emotions. This is why all teachers and in particular more traditional ones adhere to practicing the system of postures as there were intended to be. In other words, you just don’t do whatever you feel like. There is a specific order to the postures. Most systems of yoga do not lead with backbends but are practiced near the end. Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (the Ashtanga Guru) was firm in stating the incorrect method and practice order could weaken the body.
The question and concern about feeling aroused by the postures brings light on what exactly is the student’s practice. Is there a specific system being practiced? Are the breaths counted? Is the sequence irregular? Is it practiced without any continuity? Is it balanced with inversions, rest, twists and forward bends?
Taking a look at some of these areas can help redirect one’s energies and balance the practice. Having sexual feelings during the practice is not wrong. It is about learning how to channel the energy. Saying it is wrong is like saying having sex is wrong. Sexual energy is huge and around us all the time. Even the plants and flowers experience it.
Channelling Sexual Energy
We need to accept the arousal and discover ways to channel it. In yoga, there are many ancient practices that deal with this since having an orgasm is considered a loss of vital fluids called "ojas." In the modern world it is about satisfying desire, which people misunderstand as, "Do whatever the f*_k you want." The teachings of yoga say this is a clear way of repeating the cycle of karma with its various highs and lows.
Many of the teachings have been misunderstood in terms of renouncing our physical desires. When the Buddha talked about letting go of attachment he did not mean go home and throw everything out. An external gesture may not induce an inner change. He was talking about having the capacity and the will to take charge of directing the energy toward nobler planes. This is difficult with an untrained mind because of the inherent tendency to flip flop from one extreme to another. It is either being high on sexual energy or spent. The yogic lifestyle is to learn to ride the waves and keep the energy moving upward.
Yoga postures that balance sexual energies are:
- all forward bends sitting
- the headstand or half headstand
- the head to knee forward bend
- shoulderstand pose
The best method can also be to consult a teacher and ask them! Everyone can learn from such an open and gutsy question including the teacher.