Sexual Health Benefits of Yoga for Women
Do you feel chronically stressed, tight in a dozen places, and lots of movements you could effortlessly do before now feel uncomfortable or outright impossible?
How well, or unwell, you feel physically and mentally can significantly impact your mood, arousal levels and the pleasure you experience while having sex.
Yoga can improve overall well-being and, perhaps surprisingly, boost your sexual health as well. You don't have to risk tearing a muscle doing complex Kama Sutra poses to achieve the sexual health benefits of yoga.
The connection between mental and sexual health in women.
It can be very hard to feel aroused and allow your body to relax and get in the mood if you are constantly juggling work assignments, worrying about the future and having your mind preoccupied with negative thoughts.
To enjoy sex, women need to get out of their head and into the tactile sensations of their bodies, according to Stephanie Larsen, M.A., an experienced yoga instructor, a certified therapist, licensed mental health clinician and owner of Restore Behavioral Health in Chicago.
"Yoga nidra, as well as any kind of breath or asana practice, will help reconnect a woman to her body, feel safe in her body, be present and grounded in her body, especially since arousal usually comes before desire for women. If you are not connected to your body, you will not experience arousal and, therefore, will not have desire," Larsen said.
Yoga can effectively reduce stress, anxiety and depression because it's an active and movement-based form of meditation.
"Reducing stress, anxiety and depression or otherwise improving your mental health and mood can have a positive impact in many areas of a woman's life, including sexual health," said Anna Passalacqua, C-I.A.Y.T., a certified yoga teacher and co-founder of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy in Northampton, Massachusetts.
"Yoga can decrease cortisol levels, reducing your overall stress. One possible side effect of stress is lower sexual desire. Reducing your stress can make it easier to get into the mood and enjoy pleasurable activities, such as sex," Passalacqua said.
By calming your sympathetic nervous system and removing yourself from being stuck in a chronic "flight-or-fight" mindset, your stress levels fall. Lower cortisol levels can improve your hormone balance, which is particularly important for healthy arousal levels.
Being less preoccupied with stressful thoughts allows more room for you to get aroused, fantasize about your partner and feel your natural desires.
Doing simple, slow and controlled movements with your body in various yoga poses also allows you to get greater control and awareness of your body. Being more aware of how you physically feel helps you to understand your needs better, which can improve communication with your partner.
Greater awareness and a heightened sense of living in the present can enhance the sexual experience as well.
"Improving bodily awareness can help you stay in control of your body better, understand your needs and stay present, all of which can make sex more enjoyable for women," Passalacqua explained. "The first step to communicating your needs with a partner is knowing them yourself, and yoga can help facilitate that self-awareness and mindfulness. By regularly checking in with yourself and your body, you may feel more prepared to talk to your partner about what feels good and what you need in the moment."
Yoga is very accessible and can be done almost anywhere. Starting one healthy habit can create a positive feedback loop, motivating you to pick other healthy activities, such as weight training, sports, eating healthy, pursuing hobbies and more.
Doing yoga is beneficial on its own, but if it gets you more active, that will further improve your mental health and, in turn, your sexual health.
The connection between physical and sexual health in women
Arousal, lubrication, the ability to successfully reach an orgasm and comfort during sex are all greatly influenced by how comfortable you feel in your body, how strong your muscles are and how flexible you happen to be.
"Strengthening and stretching your pelvic floor can sometimes reduce pain or discomfort from sex, as well as increase pleasure for women," Passalacqua said. "Yoga poses like bridge pose, chair pose and happy baby can help women become more aware of their pelvic floor muscles and tone these muscles.
"Reducing joint pain can make it easier to relax and enjoy sex. Even if you don't experience joint pain, you can use yoga as a preventative measure to stay pain-free in your movements. Yoga can help reduce joint pain in your shoulders, arms, wrists, hips, legs, knees, ankles and more," she added.
Discomfort and pain are sometimes neglected factors that may kill the enjoyment of sex. If your joints are aching and your muscles feel numb, tingling with pain and on the verge of collapsing, then not only can't you keep up with your partner, you also can't focus on the physical pleasure and intimacy you're both experiencing.
Similarly, weaknesses in specific muscle groups, such as the pelvic floor, can make sex more uncomfortable and painful, so strengthening them with yoga can be immensely beneficial.
Benefits beyond the mat.
Seemingly, the more studies that are released, the clearer the scientific consensus is on the connection between practicing yoga and improving sexual health in women.
Studies have shown how yoga results in significant improvements in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain, as well as emotional closeness during sex.
Clinical trials have shown how practicing yoga significantly increases arousal and lubrication and decreases blood pressure, according to Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist with Vityl Men's Health Clinic in Maroubra, New South Wales, Australia.
Yoga can possibly help your overall well-being, which improves your sexual function. But if you don't properly take care of your physical health and manage the various stressors in your life, those issues won't leave you, even when you want to have some intimate time with your partner.
Therefore, it's important to be aware of your feelings and to seek pleasure within your body.
"The more we are aware of what we feel physically and emotionally, the more readily we can seek pleasure within our own body," Melancon said.