The Internet abounds with wellness blogs that recommend yoga for a better sex life, as well as personal accounts of the practice improving sexual experience — often to an enviable degree. Does the research back up these claims, however?
Modern research is only just starting to unpack the numerous health benefits of the ancient practice of yoga. Some conditions that yoga reportedly helps with include depression, stress, and anxiety, as well as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and thyroid problems. Recent studies have also delved into the more complex mechanisms behind such benefits. It turns out that yoga lowers the body’s inflammatory response, counters the genetic expression that predisposes people to stress, lowers cortisol, and boosts a protein that helps the brain grow and stay young and healthy.
Getting in touch with our bodies can feel replenishing, restorative, and physically pleasurable. However, can yoga’s yummy poses improve our sex lives? We take a look at the research.
One often-referenced study that was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that yoga can indeed improve sexual function — particularly in women over the age of 45. The study examined the effects of 12 weeks of yoga on 40 women who self-reported on their sexual function before and after the yoga sessions. After the 12-week period, the women’s sexual function had significantly improved across all sections of the Female Sexual Function Index: “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.” As many as 75 percent of the women reported an improvement in their sex life after yoga training.
As part of the study, all of the women were trained on 22 poses, or yogasanas, which are believed to improve core abdominal muscles, improve digestion, strengthen the pelvic floor, and improve mood. Some poses included trikonasana (also known as the triangle pose), bhujangasana (the snake), and ardha matsyendra mudra (half spinal twist).
Yoga doesn’t benefit just women. An analogous study examined the effects of a 12-week yoga program on the sexual satisfaction of men. At the end of the study period, the participants reported a significant improvement in their sexual function, as evaluated by the standard Male Sexual Quotient. The researchers found improvements across all aspects of male sexual satisfaction: “desire, intercourse satisfaction, performance, confidence, partner synchronization, erection, ejaculatory control, [and] orgasm.”
Also, a comparative trial carried out by the same team of researchers found that yoga is a viable and nonpharmacological alternative to fluoxetine for treating premature ejaculation. It included 15 yoga poses, ranging from easier ones (such as Kapalbhati, which involves sitting with your back straight in a crossed-legged position, with the chest open, eyes closed, hands on knees, and abdominal muscles contracted) to more complex ones (such as dhanurasana, or the “bow pose”).
How does yoga improve one’s sex life, exactly? A review of existing literature led by researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, helps us elucidate some of its sex-enhancing mechanisms.
Scientists explain that yoga regulates attention and breathing, lowers anxiety and stress, and regulates parasympathetic nervous activity — that is, it activates the part of the nervous system that tells your body to stop, relax, rest, digest, lower the heart rate, and triggers any other metabolic processes that induce relaxation. All of these effects are associated with improvements in sexual response, so it is reasonable that yoga might also be associated with improvements in sexual health.
There are also psychological mechanisms at play. Female practitioners of yoga have been found to be less likely to objectify their bodies, and to be more aware of their physical selves. This tendency, in turn, may be associated with increased sexual responsibility and assertiveness, and perhaps sexual desires.
If you want to boost your sex life, try using some of these poses in your regular yoga practice.
- Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) and Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
- Start this pose on all fours. Make sure your wrists are underneath your shoulders and your knees are in line with your hips. Keep your spine neutral and your weight balanced evenly across your body.
- Inhale as you look up and let your stomach curve toward the floor. Lift your eyes, chin, and chest up as you stretch.
- Exhale, tucking your chin into your chest, and draw your navel toward your spine. Round your spine toward the ceiling.
- Move slowly between the two for 1 minute.
2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Lie on your back.
- Bend both knees and position your feet hip-width apart with your knees in line with your ankles.
- Put your arms flat on the floor with your palms against the ground and spread your fingers.
- Lift your pelvic region off the ground, allowing your torso to follow, but keep your shoulders and head on the floor.
- Hold the pose for 5 seconds.
3. One-Legged Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
- Start on the floor on all floors.
- Pick up your right leg and move it in front of your body so your lower leg is at a 90-degree angle from your body.
- Stretch your left leg out behind you on the floor with the top of your foot facing down and your toes pointing back.
- Exhale as you lean forward, shifting your body weight. Use your arms to support your weight. If this is uncomfortable, try folding up a blanket or a pillow and putting it under your right hip to keep your hips level as you stretch.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
FACTS OR FICTION?!
The main benefit of yoga is reducing stress. Studies suggest that regular yoga practice helps reduce stress levels in the body by decreasing cortisol levels. Increased stress can have many negative effects on the body, and decreased sexual desire is one of them.
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