There is no shortage of yoga styles, each designed to help with different things. For instance, there are poses for relaxation, for anxiety (we’re looking at you, hot yoga), and even desk movements you can do at the office to unwind after hours spent hunched over a computer. Another yoga style worth trying right now? Sensual yoga.
This specific practice merges — that’s right — yoga and sensuality. It involves being present, engaging all of your senses, and connecting with your sensual body in order to fully experience pleasure, explains Joy Berkheimer, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and trauma-informed sensual yoga teacher.
Sensual yoga is similar to traditional yoga in that it involves many of the same poses and practices. The difference is that sensual yoga focuses more on working with the sacral chakra located below the navel that is associated with pleasure. “In sensual yoga, we place a little more focus on poses that connect us to our pleasure, moving through asanas (poses) designed to open up our sacral chakra — our energetic seat of creative potential, movement, and pleasure,” explains Patrick Ferreri, a Yoga Alliance-certified teacher and group fitness business manager for Crunch Fitness. “Our goal is to foster an environment of safe exploration and discovery where our body can remain open as our mind listens to our sensory responses. We ask: ‘Where does pleasure live in me? How can I unlock my joy? What supports the flow of pleasure and joy through me?’”
The Benefits Of Sensual Yoga
The benefits of practicing sensual yoga are many, Dr. Berkheimer says, including increased self-confidence, especially as it relates to your body — how it looks, moves, and feels. Sensual yoga can also help you feel more comfortable and at ease, she adds, as it helps release stored emotions in the body and increases self-awareness of how you feel — physically and mentally — in different environments. “This process can be a powerful way to give your body back to yourself, especially if you sometimes feel that your actions, choices, work, and body are always in service to others,” adds yoga teacher and astrologer Emily Ridout.
And, of course, sensual yoga also increases your ability to receive pleasure from yourself and others. Dr. Berkheimer describes it as “a dance towards erotic embodiment and connection with partners.” In other words, it’s a practice of embodying your sensual energy and being empowered by it.
How To Practice Sensual Yoga
Below, learn five ways to practice sensual yoga. As Ridout sums it up, sensual yoga is more about the approach you bring to the poses, not necessarily the poses themselves. So as you practice them, remember to move slowly and practice moment-to-moment awareness of the sensations in your body and any feelings that arise.
The classic child’s pose can help unleash your sensual side. Why? “This pose can help one feel in control and safe in their space and body, as you are tucked into yourself,” Dr. Berkheimer explains. To do it, kneel and sit on your knees, keeping them slightly apart. Then lean forward and fold your arms in front of you on the floor. Rest your forehead on your arms as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. Generally, Dr. Berkheimer says sensual yoga poses involve holding poses for longer, which enables you to really sense your body’s reactions and make meaning of them. So allow yourself to hold this pose as long as it feels good.
This is a great sensual yoga practice you can do solo or with a partner. For a solo session, Ridout instructs sitting in front of a mirror. “Feel your base connecting with the earth,” she says. “Place one hand on your heart and one on your low belly and slowly breathe while gazing into your own eyes. Continue for several minutes.” To practice it with a partner, follow the same steps, but instead of gazing into your own eyes in the mirror, gaze into each other’s eyes.
Add the good old downward dog pose to your list of sensual yoga poses to try. This pose, Dr. Berkheimer says, helps you connect to your physical body in the present time while helping create a sense of safety, trust, openness, and freedom. Start by coming to a tabletop position with your hands shoulder-width apart and fingers spread wide. As you exhale, curl your toes under and lift your knees off the floor as you get into an inverted “V” shape. Ensure you lengthen your spine, engage your core, and straighten your legs. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute and return to your hands and knees.
Bow pose helps activate and balance the heart chakra, which Dr. Berkheimer explains is the energy center representing love, acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness. “Performing bow pose can make you feel more lighthearted, loving, kind, and accepting,” she says. Start by laying down on your stomach with your legs hip-width apart and your forehead on the mat. Bend your knees and reach your hands back from the outside to grab your feet. Then lift your legs and chest off the mat. Hold the pose for three to five deep breaths and then release.
For this sensual yoga partner exercise, Ferreri recommends working with someone you trust. Begin seated on the ground, back to back with your legs extended in front of you with toes facing the sky and knees comfortably bent. “Lean into each other, connecting your sacrum bones and shoulders as you tent your fingers by your hips and inhale to lift taller, allowing your upper arm bones to rotate out, exposing your heart,” he says. “You will begin to gently fold forward over your extended legs, and your partner will lean back, providing gentle pressure to your stretch as your body allows them to rest, open, and expand into their front space.”
Take a few deep breaths in this position as you try to sync your inhales and exhales with your partner’s breath. Then return to the starting position and repeat. This time your partner folds forward as you lean back. Repeat the flow as long as you like.