Now that we’ve got your attention, here’s the real deal on yoga. Yes, it can enhance your sex life, possibly even helping you maintain stronger erections for longer, but yoga’s more subtle boosts to sexual health (improved posture, circulation, and concentration) are more long lasting and meaningful:
1. It all starts with posture. How does standing up straight make you a better lover? For one thing, it makes you look better, says Baxter Bell, M.D., a physician, medical acupuncturist, yoga teacher and educator in Oakland, California. Improve your posture and — presto — your chest expands and your belly shrinks, making you look healthier and more confident. For another, it strengthens your back and core, which means you can actually try those Kama Sutra sexual postures you’ve always dreamed of.
2. Back pain won’t cramp your style. “When men come to me complaining of low back pain, the first thing I do is teach them to stand up straight,” says Bell. He starts with Tadasana or Mountain pose, yoga’s most basic standing pose. He has you stand with your back to a wall and lightly press your heels, buttocks, shoulders, and the back of your head into it. At the same time you tuck your chin slightly, and lift your sternum. “They are blown away by how much better they feel,” says Bell. “Standing up straight pulls the weight out of the lower back and improves circulation to the rest of the body.” Bell uses other standing poses such as Triangle, Warrior I and II, and lunges, to reinforce good posture. He also recommends backbends to counteract the c-curve you get in your back from working at a computer or driving long hours. Practice these poses regularly and back pain will no longer be an excuse not to have sex.
3. Ensure a command performance. Nothing like anxiety (performance of otherwise) and stress to inconvenience even the randiest lover. No surprise, yoga can help with that, too. Several studies show that practicing yoga can activate the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. That’s the “rest and digest” part as opposed to the sympathetic branch, which activates the adrenaline-fueled “fight or flight” response, says Bell. Constant low-level stress overstimulates the sympathetic nervous system, flooding your body with corticosteroids and increasing inflammation and other disease markers. Restorative yoga poses like legs-up-the-wall pose and supported cobbler or bound angle pose, and other reclining and meditative poses, can shift the balance back to the parasympathetic branch. The result? Your heart rate slows, your breathing deepens, and blood flows more efficiently to all the — ahem — right places.
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4. You Can Be the Master of Your Domain. In addition to curbing stress and boosting circulation, practicing yoga can also give you better control of your urges, says Leslie Howard, a yoga teacher in Emeryville, California, who specializes in the health of the pelvic floor. “Women don’t want to be with a jackrabbit,” says Howard. “Most women want to be made love to, not just thrust upon, and that takes time and control.” And, you guessed it, yoga can teach you that. Howard says that supported backbends (lying back over a bolster, block, or blanket) are ideal for quieting your mind and opening your heart, two prerequisites for a relaxed lover, ready to go the distance. If your mojo is missing, Howard recommends arm balances like Crow and low pushup (Chataranga). “Arm balances are testosterone poses that will help rev you up,” she says.
5. Take a Breath. Who knew breathing could turn you into a stud? Breathing is a core tenet of yoga and learning to breathe deeply and fully from your diaphragm and through your nose does several things, says Howard. “Your body will work way more efficiently because you’re getting more oxygen with each breath. You’ll also have more energy.” And more energy translates into more stamina in the bedroom. Breathing deeply and fully also makes you more present, says Bell. “It can help you last longer; it gives you more control over the experience and it can make you and your lover more connected.”
6. It’s All About the Body. If you’re clueless about your body, you’ll discover that quickly in your first yoga class when the teacher asks you to press down on the four corners of your feet and you don’t know what the heck she’s talking about. The more you practice, though, the sooner you discover parts of your body you never knew existed — and the more fully you’re living in your body rather than in your head, says Howard. Making that shift from your mind to your body can only enhance your sex life. Bell agrees: “Being present in your body makes you more attuned to your partner and able to respond in more nurturing ways.”
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Health writer and editor Mary Bolster, the former Executive Editor of Yoga Journal, lives in Connecticut.