by Kate Hanley
You already know yoga can give you greater flexibility, better muscle tone, a surefire way to release stress, and maybe even enlightenment. But better sex? Really? You betcha. Yoga offers myriad physical and emotional benefits that add up to more fun between the sheets and a more fulfilling, meaningful sexual relationship with your partner.
Whether heating up your sex life is the main goal of your yoga practice or just a happy side effect, chalk this information up as yet another great reason to roll out the mat. Here are the major ways it works:
On a more subtle level, yoga helps you develop an awareness of sensations in your body. Learning to feel the weight rolling into the inside edges of your palms in downward dog, for example, teaches you to savor every sensation in your body — including the really delicious ones that happen during sex. It also helps keep you rooted in your body and out of your head, where your swirling thoughts can keep you from enjoying the experience at hand, whether it’s in class, out with friends or between the sheets.
A recent study shows that people who practice yoga gain less weight as they age than people who don’t do yoga at all. And while feeling more fit is an undeniable turn-on, a sustained yoga practice also encourages you to develop a reverence for your body.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever dozed off during sex, or felt the stirrings of arousal but were so tired you opted for bed instead. According to a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation, a full third of women say tiredness causes them to cut back on sex. And a 2004 clinical study at Harvard Medical School showed that just eight weeks of a simple at-home yoga practice significantly improved sleep quality for the toughest audience — chronic insomniacs. It’s a simple exercise to connect the dots — practice yoga, sleep better, have more sex.
Yoga’s effects transcend the physical. It helps us become more comfortable in vulnerable positions — whether it’s a full backbend during class or a heart-to-heart conversation in bed at night.
On a purely physical level, many yoga poses — such as upavista konasana, or wide-legged straddle pose — increase blood flow to the pelvis. In our sedentary world, the muscles that run through the pelvis are chronically constricted. Another crucial aspect of yoga involves engaging and drawing up the muscles of the pelvic floor (known in Sanskrit as mula bandha, or root lock), which strengthens the muscles that play an integral role in orgasm.
Here are two of the many yoga poses that can help boost your enjoyment in the boudoir:
Upavista Konasana (Wide Straddle Forward Bend)
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs wide. Leg muscles are activated and toes and kneecaps point straight up. Lean your torso forward as far as it goes comfortably. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
Sexual Benefits: Increases blood flow (and thus sensation) in the pelvis.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose, also known as Cobbler’s Pose)
How to do it: Sit with your knees bent and soles of the feet touching. Lightly hold your big toes and lean your torso forward over your legs (back is gently rounded). Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
Sexual benefits: Alleviates urinary and uterine disorders. Strengthens the uterus. Eases irritability, anxiety and fatigue, three reasons we might choose not to have sex.
“This article originally appeared on life.gaiam.com. Kate Hanley is the founder of msmindbody.com and the author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide.”