Yoga is a spiritual system based on the 8 limb path, including ethics, disciplines, movement, breath, and meditation. (More here http://ignitewell-being.com/what-is-yoga/ )
Mindfulness is thought to have originated in eastern spiritual traditions, with particular association to Hinduism, yogic practices, and Buddhism. The exact methods and recommendations of mindfulness vary depending on the tradition, but overall, the intent is similar – to be present, in the present. People mistakenly assume that mindfulness means a quiet, still mind. Instead, mindfulness is presence with and awareness of what is and the ability to fluidly let go of distractions. (More here: http://ignitewell-being.com/what-is-mindfulness/ )
Yoga and mindfulness can singularly or together assist with sexual well-being through:
- Supporting the physical body through movement
- Movement can assist with maintaining or increasing flexibility, strength, endurance, and/or balance, client depending
- Sexual activity is a physical endeavor that requires strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, and movement-based practices like yoga can support a client’s sexual activity
- the pelvic floor bhanda utilized in yoga can provide strength training for the pelvic floor, which can assist with continence as well as sexual activity and sensation
- Cultivating presence
- By using movement, breath, and meditation to keep BodyMindSpirit in the moment, yoga and mindfulness can help a client become more practiced at managing unwanted distractions
- Yoga is very body based, acknowledges the power of the body, and even honors the body as a tool to utilize for spiritual practice, rather than working to escape or beat the body down (this differs from many western spiritual techniques which often ignore or denigrate the body as sinful or tempting or unnecessary for spirituality). Bodily sensations and experiences including joy, pleasure, and desire were meant to be worked with, not shamed/avoided/ignored
- Distractions can disrupt sexual well-being too in many ways, by reducing overall satisfaction, limiting connection to one’s partner/s, and/or causing the individual to focus on objective experiences (ex. spectatoring)
- Cultivating presence often involves the parasympathetic nervous system and improving vagal tone, which promotes things like prosocial behavior, a sense of interconnection, and belonging
- Yoga and mindfulness practices can improve self-esteem, body image, self-efficacy, empathy, and compassion for self and others
- Mindfulness of sensation
- Some people have a difficult time noticing the sensations of their body, from hunger, fatigue, or stress to sexual arousal
- People with low desire often experience a difficult time noticing sexual arousal in their bodies
- Practicing movement and embodiment techniques that emphasize awareness of in-the-moment postures and sensations can facilitate increased attunement to what is actually happening in the body, both on and off the yoga mat
- Mindfulness of sensation can promote awareness of the extension of the self beyond the body, as sensation is cultivated beyond the skin as well
Before I was a physical therapist, CHEK professional/personal trainer, or sexuality professional, I was a yoga instructor and reiki practitioner, both are spiritual, body- based and energy-based mindfulness techniques that were, and are, personally life-altering. Already an empath, over the years of practice, I have become a kinder, more communicative, self-aware, and connection (verses competition) driven. Yoga and mindfulness have assisted me feeling at home in my own body by honoring the inherent wisdom of my embodiment as well as helping me feel more connected to others and have a higher quality of life overall. Now as a sexuality professional (counselor and educator), I am combining the techniques of yoga and mindfulness through the lens of intentional sensuality to assist clients with their own goals and journeys of physical, spiritual, social, and sexual well-being.
I offer mild to moderate intensity yoga classes that focus on sensation and breath work as well as spinal movements and trunk strengthening, most of which can be adapted to bodies and abilities of all kinds (however, if you need more hands-on assistance because of specific medical needs such as impaired movements, please consider one-on-one yoga sessions). Movements of the spine and trunk strength are important for supporting the body, including during “adult” activity off the mat. Additionally, we spend the most movement time focusing on the trunk and spine because those areas are associated with kundalini/Shakti (creative/sexual/life force) energy in yoga. I utilize sexuality education in each class, educating participants in how techniques from class can transfer to sexual well-being. Lastly, I offer up a scientific article referencing sexual well-being and mindfulness to participants for additional exploration on their own time.
If you are interested in joining us for class, please see the Upcoming Events tab on the main menu or my EventBrite page for a summary of upcoming dates/times, plus payment information.
The above content is written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT500, sexuality counselor and educator; copyright protected, please cite accordingly. The picture is from Pexels.
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*Please note that none of the above information is specific medical advice, but is meant as educational information only. If you have concerns about your health, please contact a trusted healthcare professional*