Sex is perhaps the most problematic of all human activities. The sex drive is a powerful, natural and necessary force of nature: it creates sexual appetite as a matter of course. It cannot be healthily denied. Rather, it must be embraced and navigated consciously. Yet so deep is it in us that it is not easy to recognise and express its simple, natural place in the overwhelming complexity of our modern lives. Few of us are not suffering the consequences of powerful, and often destructive, cultural forces of sexual conditioning. Few understand the sexual forces that move us. Fewer still integrate them with enrichment into their lives. Nevertheless by becoming sensitive to the depths and subtleties of natural intelligence the most honest and authentic expression of our sexual nature can and will be found.
Sex and yoga are inextricable. Yoga can easily be understood as a process of establishing harmony between the divergent impulses and energies within. It is often understood to involve or require the transformation of sexual into spiritual energy. Even when this is so, it cannot be based on denying nor repressing sexual energy—for it is the basis, the source of human life. To become truly comfortable in life, we must enjoy an open, honest sexuality. The more truly at peace we are with life, the less this will resemble the compulsive, habituated patterns of sexual behaviour to which we have been culturally conditioned.
Yoga posture practitioners are constantly faced by the cultural divide between body and mind. Moment by moment, breath by breath we must choose, even if unconsciously, to follow body or mind. Yet they are not always in harmony. While yoga posture practice can help them to be, it can easily become a way to extend the division that culture has placed between them. This depends on whether we give our practice to learned ideas or immediate sensations; whether we practice in order to realise a cultural goal or to become more intimate with our own presence and nature; whether we are imposing or enquiring; whether we are led by received, speculative knowledge or the intelligence of direct experience.
Yoga posture practice can work because of the nature of the apparent relationship between body, mind and spirit. Within their inherent unity underlies the power of the physical practices of yoga, within which the ‘spiritual’ is accessed through its physical expression, with its driving force being sexual energy. For the body to reveal its nature and relationship to mind and spirit, it cannot be imposed on. It must be released from the distorting power of anxiety, ambition and intention. Only then can it reveal the power and scope of its natural intelligence. Only then can we directly encounter the integrating power of unrestricted natural intelligence: the wisdom of Consciousness as life.
There is only one way that this can happen: by being sensitive to the body. This is the fundamental requirement of yoga posture practice: ahimsa. Being sensitive to the body is to give the flow and direction of our practice to the natural intelligence generating physical sensation. First, we need to feel sensations as clearly and deeply as possible (ahimsa). Then, we need to be honest about the implications of these sensations (satya). This requires that we be open to our experience in the moment (asteya). This will allow us to authentically flow with the movements of life as it actually is (brahmacharya). It is only when we are consciously embedded within the supporting embrace of life’s indivisible wholeness that we are able to let go of self-clinging (aparigraha) and its endless manipulations and exploitations. Without embodying the first limb of yoga within and through practice, the remaining seven limbs will remain nothing other than hopeful cultural ideals. Ideals that in being unrealisable without the diamond power of yama, can only too easily distort and diminish the power of our practice as we impose imagined ideals on the actual textures of our experience, not least of sexual feelings and energies.
Life as a vital principle or force is Consciousness expressing itself.
Without being able to discriminate between safe and dangerous stimuli, amoebas would not have survived, life would not have evolved, you would not exist. The incredibly sophisticated intelligence of life is continually driving your breathing, cleaning your blood, regulating your body temperature and integrating the contraction of motor muscle fibres throughout the whole of your body. At its root, this intelligence is that of Consciousness discriminating organically between opposites in multiple and refined ways. Your body is an expression and vehicle of that Consciousness as your life. This fundamental Consciousness is infinitely intelligent. Three thousand, five hundred million years of evolutionary research and development has left its wisdom—the wisdom of life embedded in your every cell. This intelligence, this wisdom speaks only and always through sensations.
Giving your practice to the presence of sensation, it is not only physical, but sensorial to the point even of sensuality. You will be carried forward, taken inwards, on the flow of sensation intimately encountered, deeply felt. Eventually you will encounter and experience the inner qualities of sensation itself, of conscious awareness itself. Then you will find yourself in the pulsating, throbbing ocean of subtle delight esoterically known as anandamayakosha. This happens by letting go of strategy and intention into what you actually feel. In doing so you will encounter the very same energies experienced, even though differently, in sex. Meeting them with the openness of honest internal enquiry (svadhyaya), you will be enriched by their subtleties rather than driven by their intensities. This makes yoga practice, in effect, internalised sex.
The honest sensitivity of a conscious encounter with internal energies harmonises and resolves them by way of the integrating power of conscious awareness. Yoga can be a way of resolving conflicts and establishing harmony. Harmony between intention and action, structure and function, body and mind, spirit and matter, self and other. This cannot be done if we are not willing, ready and able to engage ourselves fully just as we are. To do this we must embrace our sexual nature and the energies it generates. Yoga posture practice gives us a safe, gradual and effective opportunity to do this, provided we undertake our practice as intelligent enquiry rather than acquisition.
Yoga posture practice is a tantric practice that takes place in and through the body as an acknowledged expression and vehicle of the wisdom of life. Through it you can encounter not only your finite, physical nature, but your infinite, spiritual nature also. Most significantly you will discover that these two, finite and infinite, spiritual and mundane, Consciousness and matter are not separate. Yoga posture practice uses the body to reveal the spiritual nature of all phenomena: not least the body itself. This is tantra. Yoga is solo tantra. Tantra is yoga for two. While sexual energy is central to tantra, in yoga posture practice sexual energy is not targeted, its intentions are not sexual. Yet sexual energy is the source of life: it is the life force. By being sensitive to the intelligence of life expressing itself through physical sensation, the life force, sexual energy is embraced methodically, but without direct reference. By being completely open to the internal energies that we encounter in our practice sexual energy is transmuted spontaneously by the integrating power of conscious awareness itself. No special technique or sexual intention is required.