I don’t remember much about my first time, but what I do remember is how good it felt. I hadn’t ever quite experienced such pleasure before but I knew I wanted more. That is why I came back to yoga and that is why I continue to come back to my practice over and over again after 15 years, because it feels so ridiculously good.
Recently I was in a teacher workshop where the instructor made it very clear that as teachers, we should never make sensual adjustments; students shouldn’t get the wrong idea. What is the wrong idea?! That our practice shouldn’t feel amazing? That our teachers aren’t there to help facilitate an experience of pleasure and enjoyment? Of course we all know that in today’s litigious business environment, everyone needs to walk on eggshells in the workplace. Yet it still made me sad to know that yoga has become so professional that teachers can’t participate in the sensual part of the practice, lest someone misinterpret their intentions.
That leaves it up to only one person to make your practice feel good. You. Learning to pleasure yourself is one of the most important tools you will ever learn on the mat. However, for each person, pleasure is unique. There is no one right way to find visceral satisfaction from yoga. It is different for us all. Because of that, I can’t tell you exactly how to make your practice more sensual, but there are plenty of signs that it’s not. If I see a student straining, squinting their eyes, pursing their lips, clenching their jaw or holding their breath, there is a good chance that the student is not enjoying their practice. Simple things like softening your gaze and breathing deeply will help you begin to savor your yoga more. Move into poses slowly. Even when there is tightness and difficulty, try to find a sweet spot. Nobody can touch you the way you touch yourself, so indulge. Give yourself the gift of a sensual practice. Even if you’re taking the hardest class in town, there are still ways to make it feel great. In my experience, it is the students who find this enjoyment that keep coming back year after year and maintain longevity in their practice.