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Abstract Abstract3 This paper explores yogic approaches to women's sexuality. Acknowledging that sexualized violence against women is a harsh and pernicious reality for women all over the world, the paper adopts an inclusive perspective on women's sexuality that focuses on pleasure. A basic introduction to yoga prefaces a discussion of prana (life force) and concepts of unity and oneness. These concepts provide a framework for yogic concepts of the body, with an emphasis on sexuality. Specific breathing exercises, meditations, poses, locks and seals are mentioned. The experience of one of Canada's most accomplished yoga teachers is also depicted. The paper concludes by affirming that women‟s positive experiences of sexuality may be heightened through yogic practices that assist in living in the body more fully. Given the vacuum of scholarly work in this area, this paper is a small step toward understanding the common ground between the vast subjects of yoga and women's sexual empowerment. Keywords: yoga, women‟s sexual empowerment, oppressive social structures
The Joyous Yoni1: an exploration of yogic perspectives toward women’s sexual exultation
This paper explores yogic approaches to women's sexuality. Acknowledging that sexualized violence
against women is a harsh and pernicious reality for women all over the world, the paper adopts an inclusive
perspective on women's sexuality that focuses on pleasure. A basic introduction to yoga prefaces a
discussion of prana (life force) and concepts of unity and oneness. These concepts provide a framework for
yogic concepts of the body, with an emphasis on sexuality. Specific breathing exercises, meditations,
poses, locks and seals are mentioned. The experience of one of Canada's most accomplished yoga teachers
is also depicted. The paper concludes by affirming that women’s positive experiences of sexuality may be
heightened through yogic practices that assist in living in the body more fully. Given the vacuum of
scholarly work in this area, this paper is a small step toward understanding the common ground between
the vast subjects of yoga and women's sexual empowerment.
The purpose of this paper is to explore yogic approaches to women’s sexuality. My interest in this topic
arises from two lifetime passions: women’s emancipation, including sexual emancipation, and the study of
hatha yoga. In this paper I embrace a yogic theoretical perspective gleaned from my study of yogic texts,
practical studies in India, Canada and elsewhere from excellent teachers and consistent practice of this
mind/body discipline since I was 4 years of age. This is coupled with an anti-racism feminist training in
Within yogic philosophy, sexuality is a normal and healthy part of life. The second chakra, Svadhisthana,
is located between the navel and the pubic bone. Its color is orange and its issues are sexuality, creativity,
relationships and emotions. Within the larger context of yogic approaches to life, the body and sexuality,
the Svadhisthana chakra will be examined.
Massage therapists, naturopathic physicians and other health professionals who work with the body have
told me that the most plagued part of the body, both male and female, is the area around the second chakra.
Yoga has profound potential to heal these repressed and pained emotions and this paper shines a light on
that possibility.
Theoretical perspective: critiquing oppressive social structures
Drawing from an anti-racism, integrated, feminist perspective, this paper is rooted in theory that seeks to
bring empowering and liberating thought-forms from various parts of the world together. As a Parsi
woman of South Asian descent, I feel that part of the political project of freeing ourselves is to collectively
decolonize the mind and body. Valuing aspects of our heritage and its worldviews is one step towards
eradicating the shame and self-hatred that often manifest as by-products of colonialism (Fanon, 1967).
The word yoni is derived from the root YU: to unify, to tie. This term offers a broad spectrum of
interpretations: primordial cause, the source of the changing world, home, sacred place, vulva and so forth.
The yoni is graphically represented as a triangle pointing downwards, towards the vagina, a symbol of the
mystery of creation. Tantric texts prescribe the adoration of the yoni in various ways because it can offer
access to subtle creative, and universal energies. Quite often the yoni is adored with the lingham (phallus).
Women's bodies have been bought and sold in the human marketplace, on screen and in the flesh.
Sexualized violence against women--rape, torture, assault--occurs every minute on the planet. A grave
assault on human rights around the world, violence affects about 1 in 3 women (Pan American Health
Organization 2003). Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women
of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined
(The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women 2004). Virtually every society in the world effectively
condones violence against women. The WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic
Violence against Women (2005) found that intimate partner violence and its association with women's
physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health is widespread and prevalent. Prosecution and conviction of
men who assault women or girls is rare in comparison to numbers of assaults. Only 44 countries have laws
against domestic violence (Sharma and Gupta 2004). While great strides have been made on a national and
global level with regards to the implementation and reform of women’s legal rights, violence continues to
be a means to maintain and reinforce male power over women.
Violence against women is exacerbated by women’s subordinate position, poverty and other forms of
misogyny (Onyejekwe 2004). Canada's national survey on violence against women reported that 30% of
battered spouses had to cease regular activities due to the abuse; internationally, 50% of women had to take
sick leave from work because of the harm sustain (WHO 2005)2. Violence against women has serious
consequences for their physical and mental health. Women who have been abused are more likely to suffer
from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating problems, and sexual dysfunctions (WHO,
2005). Violence may also affect the reproductive health of women through the increase of sexual risk-
taking among adolescents, the transmission of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancies, and
precipitate various gynaecological problems including chronic pelvic pain and painful intercourse.
Consequences such as HIV/AIDS or unplanned pregnancies may in themselves act as risk factors for
further aggression, forming a cycle of abuse (WHO 2005). Violence may also be fatal as a result of
intentional homicide, severe injury or suicide.
Because violence affects women on such multifaceted levels, solutions that work on all those levels will be
the most powerful (Shroff 1995): various social, legislative, political and large scale changes that involve
both men and women. This paper focuses on ways that women can feel more connected to their
bodies/minds and sexualities.
Research shows that pranayama (breathing exercises that increase vitality) have a significant effect on self-
efficacy for women who have been battered (Franzblau, Smith, Echevarri & Van Cantford, 2006).
Blossoming women's sexualities
A critical analysis of the ways in which women's bodies are exploited is a powerful step towards genuine
sexual emancipation. Another step is to implement creative, bold ideas to replace those that currently
As stated earlier, the intent of this paper is to concentrate on the healthy, vital aspects of women's sexual
pleasures. Women's pleasure is defined inclusively. This may incorporate pleasuring of the clitoris or the
internal clitoral roots (often called the G spot3, renamed the Goddess spot by some women!), the vaginal
For statistics on violence against women in Canada, see Statistics Canada (2001). Family Violence in
Canada: A Statistical Profile. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics:
  !
" The G spot is a group of glands, channels, blood vessels, and nerve endings around the urethra. Some
women have discovered this point about 4-5 cm inside the vagina, on the upper anterior vaginal wall, right
behind the pubic bone while others have found it more in the posterior vagina. If a clock image was
superimposed on vagina with 12 in line with clitoris, the G-spot would be between 11 and 13.
canal, other parts of the vulva, other openings of the body such as mouth, ears, or any other parts of the
body that are erotically charged. All parts of the body are potential erogenous areas. An exploration of
pleasure from a woman-centred place is inclusive of masturbation, erotic play with others (male, female,
transsexual and others) and other forms of sexual enjoyment. Lesbian love, intersex/transgendered love,
bisexual love, heterosexual love, and other forms of love are included in this definition. The focus is on
pleasure and not necessarily orgasm although orgasm is a celebratory part of sexual pleasure for many
women. Outercourse and intercourse are also included in women's exultancy.
Women-centred pleasure, passion and joy are possible! Women's struggles necessitate a vision of the
possible. Change is possible now, in the personal and social. Women are not (just) victims. It is possible to
affirm what's right for each of us in self-defined diverse ways.
Many pathways exist to feeling better within our bodies. Counseling, talk, dance, movement, art, other
therapies, being in nature, long walks, dream interpretation are some roads that women may take. These
may be vehicles through which women may choose to express pain and come to some reconciliation about
the body, sexuality and other issues such as disordered eating (Shroff 1993). Each woman chooses a path
that makes sense for her; no rules exist. Here I have chosen to highlight yoga.
The practice of yoga assists aspirants in being fully present in the moment, within time and space. This
grounded approach to life facilitates sexually empowering "YES! This feels great and I know this from
deep within me". Yoga helps us to connect with our inner wisdom, so that a strong “NO!” also comes from
that deep part of our inner knowingness.
Yoga--A brief introduction
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit verb yug, meaning to join or unite; yoga is about (re)uniting mind and body
in the ultimate pursuit spiritual realization and peace. The great yogi Iyenger states that yoga is about
"liberating the soul by bringing the consciousness, the mind and the body to a stage of integration" (Iyengar
1989:86). He notes that yoga's side benefits are health, happiness, peace and poise. Instruction from an
experienced and well qualified teacher is vital yet ultimately the practitioner is the expert and yoga is about
doing for ourselves--joining within .
Yoga helps us to be alive in our bodies, to enjoy sexual pleasure more and resist the unpleasant more
clearly and strongly. Listening to the inner voice and feeling deeply one within ourselves is a central aspect
of yoga. This inner connectedness has profound implications for sexual relations.
Yogic (and related) principles include: mind, body and spirit are intricately connected; the human being is
intricately connected to the natural world; plants which come from the earth are nourishing to the body and
are highly potent medicines; the body is capable of healing itself in many circumstances
Four main branches of yoga exist: jnana (knowledge), bhakti (devotion), karma (work), and raja (action).
All or any of these forms are thought to lead committed aspirants to self-actualization. In the non-Indian
world, a form of raja yoga, called hatha yoga, is the most popularized type of yoga. One of hatha yoga's
internationally acclaimed teachers, B.K.S. Iyengar, explains the purpose of hatha yoga (1989:3):
Ninety per cent of us are suffering in some way, physically, mentally or spiritually. The
science of yoga helps us to keep the body as a temple so that it becomes as clean as the
soul. The body is lazy, the mind is vibrant and the soul is luminous. Yogic practices
develop the body to the level of the vibrant mind so that the body and the mind, having
both become vibrant, are drawn towards the light of the soul.
Yoga is a holistic science that embraces physical, moral, social, mental and spiritual well being. Certain
procedures are established within the eight 'limbs' of yoga (ashtanga yoga) (Shankar 1992:153):
1. yama=ethical discipline; freedom from greed
2. niyama=rules for personal conduct, including cleanliness and clarity
3. asana=postures
4. pranayama=yogic breathing techniques; the art and science of breath, which leads to the creation,
distribution and maintenance of vital energy (Iyengar 1989)
5. pratyahara=withdrawal of the senses (Iyengar 1989)
6. dharana=concentration or complete attention
7. dhyana=meditation
8. samadi=full awareness; diffusing the soul into each and every part of the body(Iyenger 1989); a state of
truth and bliss (Mehtha 1999); absorption in the infinite (sama=balanced, in harmony)
Yama and niyama are often neglected in most yoga classes outside of India despite their crucial
contributions to the pursuit of this practice. Asana (postures) has become a beginner’s point of entry--one
which newcomers and advanced practitioners are encouraged to continue for a lifetime.
Most branches of yoga are meditation of various forms. Hatha yoga, and its various offshoots such as
Iyengar yoga, involves more body movements than other forms; it is the closest to exercise of all the forms
of yoga. Most forms of yoga assist in maintaining vigor and rejuvenating the internal organs.
In hatha yoga, through observation of the natural world, especially animals and some plants, yogis devised
thousands of different asanas (postures). When asanas are performed correctly (Iyengar 1989:56):
[T]he body cells, which have their own memories and intelligence, are kept healthy.
When the health of the cells is maintained through the precise practice of asanas, the
physiological body (pranamayakosa) becomes healthy and the mind is brought closer to
the soul. This is the effect of the asanas. They should be performed in such a way as to
lead the mind from attachment to the body towards the light of the soul so that the
practitioner may dwell in the abode of the soul.
Many asanas are named for the animals who inspired them, such as the lion, cobra, cat, dog, camel, frog,
crow and so on. Each asana is designed to produce a salutary effect on at least one part of the body.
Vipariti karani (a variation of shoulder stand), for example, stimulates the thyroid gland, assists rapid
circulation of blood so that toes to brain are supplied with nutrients. Additionally (Yesudian 1979:59):
"[t]he large solar plexus or surya nadi lies at the root of the navel, while the site of the chandra nadi or
moon centre is at the root of the palate. In the symbolic terminology of the yogi, surya or the sun is said to
be eating the life-giving nectar and thus causing {hu}man's life to be shorter every day. When in the
vipariti karani exercise the bodily posture is ‘inverted’, so that the moon centre is below and the sun centre
above, new life flows into the system and rejuvenates the whole body."
Yogic philosophy categorizes experiences into 3--pleasurable, painful and delusive. These experiences are
determined by past actions. Delusive experience is the result of clouded thinking and impulsive actions.
Living in the world, according to this body of knowledge, is bound to be somewhat painful yet liberation is
possible. Patanjali, the author of the classical and authoritative yoga treatise, describes and explains the
enigma of human existence and directs practitioners to a way out by stopping the wheel of becoming
(bhavna-cakra or samsara). This is related to many other Indian worldviews which purport that the
ultimate freedom is not being reincarnated--not returning to the Earthly world.
Yoga's benefits have been well researched in India (Shankar 1992) and elsewhere. A plethora of scholarly
articles exist on the benefits of yoga for most medical conditions, mental and physical. In summary, they
show that regular practice of asanas has been proven to positively affect ill people. Pranayama (poorly
translated to “breathing exercises” but more aptly a practice that encourages life force to flow within the
mind/body) has assisted people with various disorders such as bronchial ailments. A recent study by
Franzblau, Smith, Echevarria, and Van Cantford (2006) found that these breathing exercises have a
profound impact on self-efficacy, a term that is used to describe a sense of having control over one’s life.
Their study focused on yoga for sexually abused and battered women and among the most effective
strategies to increase self-efficacy in these women was for them to learn pranayama.
Prana is the force that gives life to the human organism. It flows in pathways through the body, which are
called nadis and are akin to energy meridians in traditional Chinese medicine. The seven chakras, meaning
wheels or circles, are energy centers responsible for the regulation of prana in the body. The chakras are
located along the median line of the body, from the crown of the head to the tailbone area. Chakras were
‘discovered’ independently by hundreds of rishis and yogins who were adept meditators; the knowledge of
chakras thus comes from an embodied form of science, derived from intensive discipline. This inner
knowledge has been verified by various other means such as kirlian photographs and various forms of
energy medicine. Chakra healing is often performed for people with emotional, mental or physical distress.
Knowledge of chakras therefore has many applications.
Table I Aspects of the Chakra System
(adapted from Swami Nitya Muktananda 1995)4
ana chakra
Location Bottom of
the spine Near the
tive organs
Plexus Heart
region Neck Between the
Crown of
the head
Color Yellow Orange Red Smoky Blue No color No color
Bhuta Prthvi
(earth) Ap (water) Agni
(fire) Vayu (air) Akash
(ether) No bhuta No bhuta
Lum Rum Yumya Hum Om No mantra No mantra
Function Rootedness,
worldliness Security,
Controls rest
of chakras,
harmony in
One with the
Each chakra denotes form and function in the body; for example, the heart chakra is located near the
region where the heart is located in the upper chest. In yoga and meditation practices, focusing on the heart
chakra may assist someone who is experiencing physical, emotional or spiritual uncertainties which are
connected to the heart chakra’s functions--compassion and caring.
The chart above denotes the second chakra as the home for sexuality. However, male sexuality is rooted,
according to some theorists (eg Conn 2004), in the first chakra, muladara, meaning root/source. This may
explain why sexuality is such a basic need for some men.
Yoga, unity and the body
According to yogic principles, the smallest particle of the universe is the universe in miniature. The
interaction between the universe and the individual takes place through intake and output of matter. The
universe is thus the macrocosm and other entities, including human beings, are the microcosm. This
concept has profound implications. If human beings behaved as if all members of the universe were
connected and the interests of all were the interests of one, then conflicts, wars, colonialism, patriarchy and
other forms of oppression would be greatly reduced if not eliminated. The South African slogan, "an injury
to one is an injury to all" would have genuine meaning in such an ideal world.
Within the yogic theoretical framework, the mind and body are one yet discussing them as separate parts of
the whole is part of the explanatory framework of yoga. Within this framework, the mind is also divided
into intellect (buddi), soul/inner self (atma) and #$!$$
! (manas). All these parts work together. Yogins (accomplished practitioners of
yoga) consider the body to be our true palace/temple, which we listen to profoundly and nurture on a daily
In some yoga classes participants learn to touch their own hips, bellies and other body parts, with their
hands and with inner concentration. Participants touch each other too. In backbends partner work, for
This chart has been developed in conjunction with Swami Nitya Muktananda, an Indian yogi living in
Toronto. Many aspects of the chart may differ from the perceptions of others.
This is not technically considered a chakra by some theorists (Svoboda 1995).
instance, some teachers encourage partners to touch the groin area, making the teaching quite intense, but
nevertheless insightful since major emphasis in the backbend pose is indeed on the groin area. Done
sensitively with an adept teacher this only helps us to accept the normalcy of different body parts and takes
our focus to learning asana.
Working through the Svadisdhana Chakra
Chakra means wheel/circle. As mentioned above, chakras are energy centres of the body that regulate
prana (life force, life energy). They are located at the intersection of the major nadis (energy channels): ida
(the channel of lunar energy), pingala (the channel of solar energy) and sushumna (the central and major
channel in the body, running parallel to the spine) (Iyengar 1989). All of these energetic concepts have
been experienced by various yogins over thousands of years. It is because many of them experienced the
same energetic wheels that these unified concepts have been formulated.
As the above chart shows, not only sexuality, but also emotions, feeling, desire, sensation, and movement
are located in the second chakra. This chakra is related to the element water. When this chakra is
awakened we experience fluidity and grace, depth of feeling, sexual fulfillment, and the ability to accept
Even though the chakras are integral to each other, different chakras might be blocked. Focusing on one
chakra at a time, while being cognizant of the other 6 chakras, helps to release energy blockages, allowing
for a flow of prana throughout the system. Sometimes the pathway to awakening the swadisthana chakra is
by beginning with the anahata chakra which is the heart chakra, responsible for love, compassion, caring,
giving, nurturing and related functions. By allowing the anahata chakra to bloom feelings of love may
catalyse openness in other areas.
Yogic perspectives on sexuality include the notion that sex is a natural function and a beneficial part of a
loving relationship. One of the four aims of live in Hindu cosmovisions is kama (pleasure). Kama is the
pursuit of pleasure, binding to others, regulation and integration of passions. Kama is sensuous love and
emotional feelings of attachment. The enjoyment of life's pleasures predisposes a fit body and mind. Kama
is the Hindu God of Love, whose bow with flower-tipped arrows, sends "desire quivering to the heart"
(Zimmer 1951:38). In ancient Indian thought Kama is recognized as the stimulus of action. This is the
enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling,
assisted by the mind together with the soul. The ingredient in this is a particular contact between the organ
of sense and its object, and the consciousness of pleasure which arises from that contact is called Kama. As
in other aspects of life, moderation in sexual activity is advised. Learning deep relaxation is a central part
of yogic practice. Sexual relations that are rushed and strained often leave women (and their partners)
unsatisfied. When partners in a sexual relationship learn to practice relaxation, harmonious sexual
relationships become more possible.
Tantra and Kundalini--in brief
Two branches of yoga, Tantra and Kundalini, while broad in their scope, include specific foci on
harnessing sexual power. In fact, the first known sexuality advice books were written by Tantric sages in
India about 300 BCE (and by Taoists in the same time frame). In these books, women were respected, even
worshipped, for their live-giving ability. Sexuality was connected to life giving and thus became the thread
that connected birth to life, death and rebirth and was considered the holy rite between human and divine.
Sexual activity was part of the path toward enlightenment. Anthropologists report that elaborate sexual
rituals, involving visualization and breathing techniques specifically geared to the circulation of sexual
energy throughout the whole body, occurred in temples in ancient times. People feasted, drank beer and
wine, ingested hallucinogens and danced ecstatically while others chanted, sang and drummed. Incense,
fire, provocative clothing and other accessories complimented these ancient sexual ceremonies. Within this
setting, women's sexual pleasure was considered foremost, a central part of the sacred responsibility. While
feeling sexual pleasure in this way, all participants experienced a state of altered consciousness which may
have been one step in their path toward enlightenment (Chalker 2000).
Yoni means sacred place in Sanskrit. In Tantric yoga a woman’s yoni is viewed as both erotic and magical;
the yoni is considered a place of wisdom and healing. The yoni is considered the gateway through which
sexual partners may experience oneness with the universe. It is a temple in which the divinity of a woman
may be worshipped. In some systems, there is a yoni chakra that is solely concentrated on female pleasure.
Tantric teachings encourage couples to meditate together before engaging in sexual union. The meditation
may involve concentrating on mantras (sounds) or yantras (visualizations). Once each person has reached
a calm and peaceful state, they are ready to begin intimacy and their own creativity and spontaneity will
guide their path to pleasure. They may choose to start by gazing at each other, then touching each other in a
slow and conscious fashion. For instance they may touch hands, go back to back, touch noses, sitting on
each other or other positions. The next step may entail breathing together (pranayama) or engaging in
asanas. Being with each other in a respectful and loving manner is a vital part of the tantric tradition.
Nothing is done in a hurried fashion. Rather, conscious, authentic and loving sexuality is fostered.
Coitus is considered a catalyst for meditation and spiritual realization. Coitus is one way to join opposites,
helping each individual to become complete. Reaching orgasm this way allows for deep feelings of
pleasure, relaxation and ultimately, spiritual transcendence. Feelings of interconnectedness with others and
within oneself may be heightened through orgasm. Through Tantric sex, individuals transform their bodies
into divine bodies, into gods and goddesses (Eliade 1958a). Practitioners of Tantric yoga have mastered
some impressive physiological functions. There are a variety of asanas that condition and tone the sexual
muscles and organs, improve circulation to the sexual organs, and improve suppleness and mobility of the
spine and waist.
Tantric yoga goals are the same as those of other forms of yoga: spiritual union. Within Tantric Yogic
tradition, engaging in meditation, breathing, postures, in concert with sexual activity, sex becomes a
vehicle towards experiencing self awareness and oneness. It is a way of making sex a sacred and conscious
act nurturing authenticity and deep love; through this practice, people are called to honor themselves and
others and move toward the experience of spiritual bliss.
Hatha Yoga
In searching for resources for this paper I found videos about better sex through yoga which were
commercialized images of mainly blonde women doing yoga and dance-like movements to strengthen their
sexual core muscles: the pelvis, pelvic floor muscles, hips and surrounding area. While these videos may be
removed from yoga as defined earlier in this paper, toning the pelvic area muscles and making the joints
more mobile through asanas would certainly be one approach to enhancing body awareness and would
likely impact positively on the physical aspects of sexuality.
Examples of asanas that assist in awakening the second chakra include: seated forward bend
(Passimotasana); dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana); camel (Ustrasana)*tortoise (kurmasana);pigeon
(kapotasana); monkey (Hanumanasana); corpse (savasana) locust (Salabhasana); bridge (Setu
bandhasana); knee down twist (Supta Matsyendrasana); Goddess pose (Supta Baddha Konasana);
Crocodile (Makarasana*Butterfly (Baddha Konasana); Open leg forward bend (Upavistha Konasana);
Open leg child's pose (Upavistha Virasana); Frog (Mandukasana); Cat (Vyaghrasana); Sunbird
(Chakravakasana); Cobra (Bhujangasana); Bow (Dhanurasana); Boat (Navasana); Yoga mudra with
soles together (Baddha Konasana II) ( 2004).
Additionally, it is possible to work on the second chakra through asanas that focus on moving fluidly, like
water, feeling sensuous with movements, noticing sensation: pelvic breath with wave imagery; pelvic
rocking, rapid pulses and so forth.
Many partner asanas exist, such as: join hands, bent with straight back; lean back to back and roll; side-by-
side tree pose ; foot to foot yoga boat. These asanas may also assist in developing intimate contact with
another person more comfortable.
Bondas for the Second Chakra
Mula bonda, a seal of the anal sphincter/vagina, may also be used to focus on sexual energy and the second
chakra region. Another bonda: pelvic muscle pumps (women: kegels; men, flex the muscles while the
penis is erect) ( 2004). Udiyana banda (seal of the abdominal
region) may also help to bring energy into the second chakra region.
Pranayama for the Second Chakra
Deep abdominal breathing, focusing on the energy around the second chakra is one pranayam. Other
pranayama exercises include nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) and baristrika (the bellows breath).
So Hum breathing (mentally repeating So on inhalation and Hum on exhalation) may be helpful for
beginners while nauli (churning of the abdominal cavity) and agni sara (breath of fire) may be helpful for
intermediate aspirants.
Meditations on the Second Chakra-- Svadhisthana
Meditation (dhyana), means receptivity, passive awareness, in which there is the unity of
the seer and the seen. It means understanding, the attitude of openness in which there is
space for the inner truth to manifest itself. This inner truth that comes from all things in
mediation is itself the mantra...All of nature is the creative meditation of the cosmic
spirit. The basic silence and peace of nature is meditation.
Lad, Vrasant and Frawley (1986:94-5)
In yoga, concentration (dharana) is related to sexual concentration, which is essential for harmony between
couples. Reaching a “meditative attitude” allows connection to oneself in the present moment, stopping
thoughts about other things and focusing on the joyousness of the moment. The act of lovemaking,
approached as a mystical experience, without the involvement of external thoughts, is a form of yogic
Many meditations exist on the second chakra. Starting with a meditation to 'open'6 each chakra may be a
good place to begin, allowing the energy of the chakras to flow through the shushumna channel and
through the parallel ida (on the left side) and pingala (on the right side). Focusing on the second chakra
and noticing what arises emotionally or mentally may be helpful, and writing it down, drawing it, singing,
dancing or talking about these thoughts may deepen the learning process. Imagining the color orange in the
area of the chakra or chanting vam may also be helpful. Visualizing the water element, fluid flow, six
petals, with half moon--imagery of Svadhisthana--may also assist in meditating on this chakra. Some may
find it helpful to chant the vowel sound: Ooo (as in you) and/or work with this mudra: pressing the pads of
the little fingers together. Another mudra: Placing hands in the lap, palms up, on top of each other. Left
hand underneath, its palm touching the back of the fingers of the right hand. The tips of the thumbs touch
gently. Concentrate on the second chakra at the sacral bone (on the lower back).
An affirmation that may assist in this process:
May I be at home and at ease in my body, and find balance in my relationships between myself (or my self)
and others.
Applying these concepts in yoga classes
One of Canada's most accomplished teachers, Gioia Irwin, who's practiced for decades, told me that she has
worked with many women who have experienced sexual trauma and others who experience energy
blockages in the second chakra region. She teaches her students to bring intelligence through the core of
the body, starting with the inner lines of the big toes and moving up the legs, through the pelvis, up the
torso through the head. Aligning the body so as to work smoothly through these core lines helps prana to
move through the body. She encourages her students to wake up the pelvis, balance the 2 sacro-iliac joints,
and feel balanced in the second chakra region through asana (postures), pranayama (breath work) and
dhyana (meditation). For women who have experienced abuse or have blockages in the second chakra
region she found 2 asanas to be particularly helpful: viparita karini--a variation of shoulder stand--which
helps to open the pelvic and navel region by assisting the flow of energy; and supported badakonasana
(butterfly) which releases the groin muscles and opens up the pelvic region. She reflected that women often
found this work to be scary as it opened up parts of themselves that had been shut down for long periods of
time in some cases. Women would be in tears in some of her classes as they were feeling their bodies in a
way that they had not before. Yoga opened their bodies and after studying yoga many women felt their
inner bodies were strengthened. Others found it too intense and then the teacher referred them to her
therapeutic class where she would work more on a one-on-one level with them. As a yoga teacher her
interest was in assisting women to understand their bodies so that they could move the energy through and
be balanced. She emphasizes breath work (pranayam) with her students and has found this to be grounding
and very helpful (Personal Communications with Gioia Irwin June 7, 2004). Furthermore, these breathing
exercises have a profound positive impact on women who lost their sense of control as a result of having
been assaulted (Franzblau, Smith, Echevarria, and Van Cantford, 2006). Women who have been battered
often suffer from depression, low self-efficacy, post- traumatic stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. When a
woman experiences abuse, the lack of support and loss of self-confidence can result in despair. Improving
self-efficacy, the sense that we have control over our lives, is an important first step in increasing battered
women’s sense of self-worth and confidence. This in turn will help enable them to make the changes in
their lives that will free them from the abusive pattern ( Franzblau, Smith, Echevarria, and Van Cantford,
In the words of an abuse survivor, Laureen Smith:
“I am a sexual abuse survivor. When I was 15 years old I was plied with obscene amounts of
alcohol and forcibly raped by my brother's baseball coach. A year later, I was sexually molested
by my church's minister. These were my first two sexual experiences ever. These two ordeals
shaped much of my life from that time on. Through drug use, suicide attempts, crisis therapy,
over-achieving, sexual dysfunction, spiritual isolation, body loathing and more, my life has been
fraught with physical and psychic pain as I tried to "get through" day by day. And it was from
these two experiences that I spent a good deal of my life's energy healing. In my early 30s I was
introduced to yoga. And from that time on, slowly but surely, I have experienced profound healing
from the detrimental effects of the abuse. My body, my spirit, my energy, and my life have been
returned to me, in great part, because of yoga”. ,$%%%$
In summary, within yoga, asana (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises that increase life force),
bondas (seals/locks) and dhyana (meditation) can be used to connect with each chakra. Yogic approaches
to working through emotional, sexual, erotic issues are well complimented with music, movement, talk and
other therapies and counseling as most yoga teachers are not trained in psychology or psychiatry.
Concluding Reflections
This paper has briefly dipped into the vast ocean of yoga and its balanced approach to women’s sexuality.
Swimming in the yogic ocean is one way of experiencing the deliciousness of womanhood. Practicing
asanas, bondas, pranayama, dhyana and other aspects of yoga may be helpful for many women (and not
necessarily for all) on their journey toward wholeness. Focusing on the interrelatedness of emotions and
sexuality, located within the second chakra, using yogic practices, may be empowering. Yogic philosophy
sees sexuality as part of the continuum of life, as a necessary part of experiencing the fullness of our
existence. Journeying along the path of yoga is one which may be difficult and frustrating at times but it is
always one in which we learn about ourselves. This self-awareness is a vital part of being a healthy, sexual
I would like to thank yoga teachers Gioia Irwin and Maalaa for their valuable and encouraging comments
on an earlier draft of this paper. My research assistant, Rehana Nanjijuma, was also a great help! My
partner Roozbeh Mehrabadi, as always, was supportive and caring during the process of writing this paper.
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