Hats off to William Broad for his Yoga and Sex Scandal article in the February 28th edition of The New York Times (go here to view the article). I have two observations on this topic. One centers on the sexual/physical nature of the practice, while the other concerns the male ego.
This piece topped The New York Time’s most emailed articles last week. In fact it was number one. No surprise there. It’s a hot topic ripe for conversation.
Yoga as both Sexual/Physical:
Let me start with Day One of my search for a great teacher in 1998. I began my yoga quest by driving around Westchester County in search of the right style of yoga and the right teacher and dragged my buddy Fran along. I was gung how and open minded – she was a bit skeptical but went along with me until … there we were in a down dog being pounded with non-stop chatter from our teacher. She instructed us to lift our tailbones higher and spread our cheeks, and “flower open our anus.” That was it. Fran went wide-eyed, twisting her head toward me from under her armpit and whispered, “Get me out of here.” We almost imploded from giggles and laughed hysterically the whole 30-minute drive home.
OMG, what is yoga — is it exercise or something more?
Eventually I got the “something more” aspect. It was with Jen – who incidentally I stayed with for 10 years where I learned about Mula Bandha or the root lock. Do I have your attention? Yes, we were here to lift the area between the perineum and the anus, and this time we were no longer laughing. Instead, thanks to Jen’s smooth guidance, we were focusing on this yogic kegel, and, quite frankly, it was lovely. This Bandah or root lock became the focus of our practice. (If you need more explanation wikipedia describes the location of the Mula Bandha as “neither the sphincter muscle nor the muscle which cessates urination, but the muscle equidistant between the two.” Get it?)
Post childbearing, Mula Bandha was a chant my husband embraced. He was convinced that yoga had “strengthened” our sex life. In fact, wasn’t this the same thing your OB/GYN tells you post childbirth? The answer, dear BA50s, is yes. How many times have we heard “Do your kegels daily!” But how many of us really do? Well, now, thanks to this new yoga position, we got to do it three times a week — both in class and at home. Best of all, just like William Broad describes in his article, the suggestion of the sexual rewards of this practice became self-sustaining. And though I’ve never heard the term “thinking off,” I’m not surprised that the association of energetically invoking Mula Banda and a sexual awakening is far fetched.
Which brings me to the hypocrisy of gurus preaching celibacy while “cheating.” Oh yes, I was disillusioned to learn this is prevalent in the yoga world. But I was not surprised. On my first visit to Kripalu during those early years, I was told about the sex scandal that almost sunk that institution. And one of my favorite teachers left his wife for a student he was having an affair with. Although bowled over by it all, it confirmed my long held believe that too much power will eventually lead to ruin. It is the human condition to succumb to some form of Shakespearean fall or hubris, be it politicians, yogis or religious leaders.
And yoga is a powerful drug. Anyone who has ever been to a yoga retreat with a superstar teacher can see how adored they are by the numbers of devotees on the mat who follow from retreat to retreat. It is a physical practice like no other – the mind and body let go and being “wide open” is the most satisfying benefit of the practice — culminating in total surrender as yogis slip into their “final rest” shavasana at the close of every practice. It doesn’t mean its ok to preach celibacy while philandering – it’s just not surprising to me any longer that this is what happens.
So, thank you William Broad for bringing great honesty to this topic and bringing us onto the yoga mats to do what we do best there. Just be – without judgment and enjoy the benefits.