article

09.28.11

Are Yogasms Real?

Yoga has long been known for its metaphysical benefits to mind and body, but devotees are talking openly about the orgasmic pleasure they experience during practice. Lizzie Crocker reports.

“The first time it happened to me I was in Sharon Gannon’s class at Jivamukti, and I was in forward bend,” says Kelly Morris, a yoga instructor with a cult following at the Shala Yoga House in New York City. “I was breathing and concentrating and suddenly, ‘Whoa!’”

At first, Morris was flustered and anxious that others in the class might have witnessed her, mid-yogasm. While most people who practice yoga don’t attend class with the intention of reaching the Big O, sometimes they get more than they signed up for.

Rumors of the elusive yoga orgasm have circulated for years, but recently, teachers and students have begun discussing the phenomenon more openly. Sex researchers are also honing in on the subject: “It’s another way that a woman can bring herself to orgasm without touching herself,” says sexologist Dr. Jeffre TallTrees.

There are other non-sexual activities that are said to induce orgasms, such as ecstatic birth, a trend that picked up steam several years ago and culminated in the 2007 documentary, Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret. Across the country, it seems more and more women are discovering yoga’s “best-kept secret.”

“Students open up to me about it all the time!” says Bonnie Saldivar-Jones, a teacher at Ginseng Yoga in San Diego.

In New York City, a woman who chose to remain nameless talked to The Daily Beast about experiencing a yoga orgasm at Pure Yoga, a fancy studio on Manhattan’s Upper East Side owned by the Equinox fitness chain. “I was in lotus pose, focusing on breathing and lifting the muscles of my pelvic floor,” she said. She wasn’t prepared for what happened after her instructor pressed his body against her back and synchronized his breath with hers, lifting her ribs as she inhaled, and pushing down on her thighs as she exhaled. “I was tingling all over!” she gushed. 

The teacher, Marco Rojas, is a famous name in New York City’s yoga circuit. Toned and tattooed, Rojas gives classes that are often packed with women hoping to get some hands-on instruction. He’s not afraid to get up close and personal with his students, giving them a whiff of his patchouli body odor, and quietly urging them in his Venezuelan accent to “lift” this or “engage” that. 

But Rojas’s popularity goes beyond his sexy aura. He studied with yoga masters Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty and teaches a Vinyasa flow derived from Ashtanga, Hatha, and Viniyoga— three different schools of yoga that originated in India. His knowledge of the ancient practice, coupled with his dynamic approach to teaching, has elevated him to near-guru status. His intentions as a yoga teacher are to help students connect to their bodies and their inner selves. What happens beyond that is purely accidental.

“When we work with yoga, we go from the superficial to the subtle. We go inward,” he says. In doing so, one develops a sort of sixth sense, a heightened mental and physical awareness. “I have found that my faithful students have improved their ability to love themselves and ultimately, to give themselves pleasure,” he adds.

One of yoga’s goals is to strengthen the muscles in and around the genitalia, or the mula bandha. It’s like doing advanced kegels, but with an instructor’s guidance and the implementation of specific breathing techniques. Ideally, a yogi engages mula bandha throughout a majority of his or her practice, which is equivalent to heavy weightlifting for the genitals.

“We’ve long known that doing kegel exercises enables women to have more control over their orgasms and to have more intense orgasms,” says Tristan Taormino, author of The Secrets of the Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation.

Dr. TallTrees breaks down the physiology further: “When women engage their PC [pubococcygeus] muscles, the tissue around the g-spot swells, which can lead to climax.”

Even if they’re not yogasming in class, yoga students often claim significant improvement in the quality and quantity of orgasms they have during sex.

“One woman who attended a class where we focused a lot on mula bandha came back the next day and told me she was able to orgasm for the first time with her boyfriend of six years,” says Rojas, seeming slightly flabbergasted himself. “So yes, things can happen! To infinity and beyond.”

One might assume men are missing out on the fun—which may be true for in-class yogasms, but they see benefits, too. The key to engaging mula bandha is to isolate the perineum, a crucial area of sexual pleasure for women and men, according to South African tantric master Alan Finger, founder of ISHTA (Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra and Ayurveda) Yoga. When a man draws his sexual energy in, and up toward his navel, says Finger, he increases his ability to prolong his stamina in the bedroom.

Finger argues that men actually benefit sexually from yoga more than women. “The man starts at a disadvantage because his orgasm is outwards, which makes it briefer and shorter than a woman’s. But if he can engage mula bandha during sex, then he can prolong his climax and make the entire experience more powerful.”

Many modern yoga practices such as Hatha and Kundalini are rooted in Tantra, a spiritual movement defined in ancient Indian scriptures as an expression of joyous divine consciousness. Tantric scriptures say sex is vital for procreation, pleasure, and liberation. The musician Sting, a longtime yogi and advocate of Tantra, once claimed he and his wife had “seven hours of sex every night”. Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of Tantra is not solely to engage in the sex act for as long as possible, but to move sexual energy rooted in mula bandha throughout the body, ultimately leading to deeper ecstasy.

Yogis believe there are seven chakras—vortexes of energy, according to original Hindu texts—in our bodies, the first and second being the “sex” chakras located in the pelvic floor. By connecting to the root of those chakras and channeling them into the “heart” and “mind” chakras, one can experience an intensely meditative (and arguably spiritual) full-body orgasm. “It fills your being rather than just being something that happened in your genital boundary,” explains Finger.

It seems more and more women are discovering yoga’s “best-kept secret.”

For those who practice yoga to get a good sweat and take in the eye candy (tight pants, cleavage), sermons on spiritual enlightenment can be a turnoff. But for serious yogis such as Kelly Morris, one of only five senior Jivamukti Yoga teachers in the world and a devout Tibetan Buddhist, enlightenment is the guiding purpose of the practice. According to Morris, the yogasm isn’t just a fleeting moment of pleasure—it’s an expression of compassion, kindness, and enlightenment.

Curious why the Buddha is laughing all the time in some representations? It is because he’s been having an eternal orgasm ever since he became enlightened, which explains the permanent goofy grin on his face—at least according to one theory, says Morris.

It’s no secret that the mind is a powerful component of arousal—so powerful that it can bring about an orgasmic climax without physical stimulation. “If you can have an orgasm in your sleep, it’s certainly possible to have one in yoga class,” says Morris. “I’ve had women come up to me, usually very embarrassed and freaked-out, and ask, ‘Is this normal? Is this allowed? Is this irreligious?’ I do my best to reassure them that it’s natural. Then I tell them not to waste it, the way you have an ice cream and enjoy it and then it’s gone.”