John Friend, the founder of Ansuara Yoga, is stepping down and taking a little time to reflect following accusations of sexual impropriety.
Friend is not the first yoga master to be dubbed a hypocrite and be accused of sexual philandering. Of course, the outbreak of sexual scandal in the yoga world should come as no surprise to anyone – yoga’s roots run deep into the world of Tantra. Hatha yoga, the parent style of many current yoga styles practiced globally, began as a branch of Tantra, originating as a way to expedite the Tantric process through poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts – including intercourse.
Around the 20th century, the practice resurfaced, but this time without eroticism and emphasizing health and well-being. B.K.S. Iyengar was at the forefront of this transition. He penned the book, Light of Yoga, failing to mention Hatha yoga’s Tantric beginnings and redefined the discipline as the cure for hundreds of ailments and disease. Modern practitioners quickly embraced and passed down this “pure” discipline.
Despite the façade, the sexuality of the discipline cannot be stifled – the practice of yoga sensitizes the pelvic region and notoriously intensifies orgasm. Although it is the personal experience of many that solidifies this notion, science put yoga under the microscope, observing brainwaves and comparing the practice of yoga with sexual arousal.
Scientists in Russia and India have noted sharp increases in testosterone, the hormone definitively associated with arousal, in both men and women practicing yoga.
In Czechoslovakia, researchers using electroencephalographs to demonstrate how certain poses result in brain wave activity identical to that shared between lovers. Yoga not only evokes a sexual response in healthy individuals, but yoga may very well be the cure for lost libido – researchers at the University of British Columbia observed how fast breathing increases blood flow to the genitals. And in India, studies have shown that men and women that practice yoga experience a vast improvement in their sex lives, including increased pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional bonding.
By far, the most interesting studies have come out of Rutgers University, where scientists revealed that yoga practices can promote autoerotic bliss, or spontaneous orgasm from mere thoughts of sexual ecstasy. Comparisons were also made between yoga and manual genital stimulation in women, both resulting in the characteristics of an orgasm throughout the body.
While the yoga world mourns, feeling betrayed by the masquerade of discipline, purity and meditation, experts speculate that all the distress can be unraveled if students and teachers would take the time to understand the original intent of Hatha yoga and the effects it evokes. Appropriately practiced, yoga does not have to lose its luster as a discipline of health and wellness – those struggling with low libido, sexual dysfunction or relationship challenges related to sexual performance could benefit from the practice of yoga.