Volume 92, Issue 77
Friday, February 12, 1999
Yoga takes pleasure to a higher level
By Natalie Henry
While riding on the cusp of the millennium's tail, more and more individuals are embracing the ancient practice of yoga as a daily way of life.
With the help of media icons like Madonna, Demi Moore and other "hard-bodied" celebrities who have been recently bitten by the Eastern bug, it appears this is one "epidemic" being welcomed with open arms and minds, not to mention other body parts.
Although previously viewed as a solitary practice, yoga has evolved into an activity which can be done in pairs and or groups; such an example is contact yoga.
"Contact yoga is a yoga system for two where they explore the healing aspects of a relationship," explains Ken "Nateshvar" Scott, the creator of contact yoga and an instructor at The Yoga Studio in Toronto. "Yoga means union or to yolk or bring forth the spirit. In contact yoga two becomes one and involves the partnering of postures or poses."
Scott teaches private or group yoga classes which involve dropping into the essential self and, therefore, attuning and surrendering one's heart.
"It has a lot to do with trust and communication not [physical] strength," says Anastasia, also a yoga instructor at The Yoga Studio. "If it doesn't feel good, you have to be able to talk and communicate."
While partnering with Scott, she explains gravity helps her to move into each pose. "I use to move against or defy gravity and now it helps me to move. At the end of the session, I went through a rebirth, a meeting with the divine. My body was vibrating for almost two to three hours. When I do contact yoga with Ken, it helps to channel with the divine, or what we call 'bliss.' It's the best."
The aspiration to reach bliss or inner contentment can often create a misunderstanding of the defining goals of contact yoga. The possibility of reaching a personal nirvana is often associated with reaching climax or orgasm and Scott strongly argues this is not the aim of contact yoga. "Couples will experience intimacy and closeness that is heart-based," he says.
"Naturally, there are sexual impulses yet, in contact yoga these are intended for distilling in heart healing or opening up the energy centres, also known as chakras, that are found along the spine. The object of the class is to make 'contact' with each other, through yoga."
"Contact yoga definitely intensifies a person's sex life," Anastasia argues. "Ken, for example, can get a whole room full of love. It's funny because yoga means union. We learn to interact with a room full of people. Then there's 'yogassage.' My boyfriend doesn't do yoga but when it comes to yogassage it's like 'do me baby.'"
Lucy Becker, co-founder of The Tantra Centre in Toronto, lectures to individuals and couples about the Tantric philosophies and how to more intensely connect as a couple. "Tantra yoga involves something called tantric sex, which is a body of knowledge that involves human sexuality and sexual energy," she explains. "People learn how to use it for spiritual purposes like growth, giving and receiving sexual satisfaction and keeping love energy in the self."
Becker advocates practicing tantric sex can definitely revitalize a couple's sex life and most importantly, illuminate problems in the relationship. "For example, if a partner wants to 'go deeper' and the other does not want to do so, then there is a realization that their relationship is not working. Therefore, the couple will discover that they need a change. It brings people to the next natural step towards their own highest good to breakup or go deeper."
Proponents say yoga boasts not only the ability to bring individuals closer to self-enlightenment, but also proves to be beneficial for the yoga enthusiasts who are in a relationship. "I could see how it helps couples immensely," Anastasia says. "It's a journey of self-discovery. It brings humility and simplicity into your life. There is no concern for the future since you're always in the present you can't have an argument since you're not living in the past or wondering where you're going. My boyfriend and I have been together for seven years. It's about where we are right now. And we're great right now."
Peter Barnett, a London-based psychologist, has counselled premarital and marital couples for over nine years but has never recommended yoga therapy as a way to help individuals with relationship problems. "I think that yoga could be more useful to alleviate a high level of tension or physical relaxation," he says.
"Yoga might help two people relax and be more in touch with their bodies if it is a shared act but it is not going to help couples communicate better about their feelings. There are better ways to do this. For example, the No. 1 way I have found is through active listening letting your partner speak their mind and letting them know that you understand," Barnett adds.
Tantric yoga involves personal development and starts on a more individual path, then shows the way in a relationship to love and union, Becker argues. "Couples can potentially reach enlightenment or self-realization."
Helen and Dan Davis, a married couple from Toronto, happened upon Lucy Becker's Tantric workshop's advertisement in a local magazine. Their findings lead to the revelation there was something missing from their sexual and spiritual relationship.
"For each of us, we found a real sense of self and where we fit into the grander scheme of things," Helen explains. "Going to workshops helps solidify everything. We have a pretty strong relationship anyway, yet through the workshop each of us felt energies in each other and in combining them, we felt more strength."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999