Yoga -- will we ever really understand it? Once the domain of what used to be called New Age types, the discipline is now practiced by an estimated 20 million Americans, according to something I read on the Internet somewhere. That means that up to 7 percent of the population could be running around in tights as you read this. Still, yoga somehow managed to elude me. That is, until I discovered a new regimen called Better Sex Through Yoga. Then it started to make a whole lot of sense.
Don't get me wrong -- it's not as though I'm necessarily "getting any," as the young people like to say. But the next time I get called into active duty, I want to be ready. Really, really ready.
Designed to "give your body an entirely new sexual awareness," the Better Sex Through Yoga routine (with accompanying DVD collection), was created by licensed Chinese acupressure therapist and certified yoga instructor Jacquie Noelle and fellow yoga devotee Garvey Rich in 2002. San Francisco Bay Area resident Noelle stumbled upon the idea almost by accident. Having been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 1999, Noelle found herself largely bedridden for two years. In an effort to rectify the situation, she embraced a daily yoga routine. Not only did it gradually restore her energy but -- as in most things that involve a fair amount of gyrating -- she also began to notice improvements in her sexual well-being.
At around the same time, New York City resident Rich was doing a little yoga research of his own. He too began to notice a few changes "down there." One thing led to another, and here I am standing between them in the Manhattan apartment of Better Sex Through Yoga associate and video series costar Jennifer Langheld, trying to find out what the deal is.
Under the guise of journalism, I have persuaded Noelle, who is in New York on a promotional tour, to give me a free hour of personal instruction. To say I am excited is an understatement. Not only will this be my first yoga experience, but as far as women in tight clothing with whom I'd like to be trapped alone in a room go, both Noelle and Langheld are exceptional candidates. They are quite beautiful and, in their tight workout clothes, are showing off bodies that make yoga seem like perhaps the best invention ever. True, Rich is joining us in the workout, but with a bit of imagination and the nonnegotiable demand that he set down his yoga mat several feet behind mine, I am able to convince myself that it's just me and, you know, the two chicks, working together in the name of sexual awareness.
We start off with some light stretching exercises. As some sort of hyper-sexual remix of the Doors' classic "Riders on the Storm" plays on a nearby boombox, we stand on our mats, breathing slowly and deeply, alternately bending over and reaching toward the ground and stretching our hands and arms over our heads. This series of movements is known in yoga circles as a "sun salutation."
"The sun salutations help to warm the body as well as establish connections with heaven and earth," Noelle explains. I'm not sure what this has to do with my penis, but for some reason I'm willing to do pretty much anything Noelle tells me to do, so I just go along with it.
Next we shift into a position called Warrior One. It is a standing position involving a bit of lunging and the outstretching of the arms. Among other things, it is designed to help "open the heart to love" and, one can't help but assume, open the pants to sex.
All the flowery talk and inexplicable involvement of my entire body starts to make a bit more sense when I learn that the Better Sex Through Yoga regimen combines elements of Ashtanga, Hot Yoga (also known as Bikram), Feldenkrais ("a somatic body movement," Noelle clarifies), modern dance and ballet, with a careful consideration of the energy meridian points outlined in traditional Chinese medicine. And while it does provide a full body workout, the Better Sex Through Yoga has been specially designed to focus on the "sexual core."
As it turns out we all have a sexual core, even Jehovah's Witnesses and that one guy from high school with a real gift for solving complex math equations. And while the term itself might make it sound like something that exists in the ether, to be harnessed only when we need it most (like during actual sex, for example), I learn from watching the Better Sex Through Yoga videos at home alone one night that the "sexual core" actually refers to an area on our bodies that includes the pelvis, hips, abdominal muscles and a set of small internal muscles called the pubococcygeus, or P.C., muscles. According to the Better Sex Through Yoga Web site, this is an "often neglected region of the body." I can't imagine who they're talking about when they say this though; without even realizing it I've been paying attention to almost nothing but my sexual core since the eighth grade.
As our workout progresses, we stretch and bend ourselves into various positions with names like Locust and Camel and Froggy. My earlier notion that yoga is just another excuse to lightly mist myself is quickly dismissed. I'm getting a serious workout here, one that will require an outfit change and a cold beverage when it's over.
"There are some teachers that just get quick training and don't understand how the body works and how the energy runs through the body," Noelle says. "You go to some classes and the teacher is just talking."
Fortunately for me, Noelle is doing much more than just talking. She is watching my every move, offering detailed and -- much to my delight -- occasional hands-on guidance. She also makes sure I won't need to break out my insurance card before I leave by noting any signs of real pain on my face and offering suggestions as to how I might make the various contortions a bit more Dave friendly.
As the class progresses, we drop to our mats and begin to assume sexual core-centric positions with names like Sex Kitten and Where's the Tail -- terms one might expect to encounter at a court hearing for some disgraced circus clown. "Finally we're getting to the sex part!" I imagine I am thinking to myself before discovering that I am actually speaking out loud. Sex Kitten and Where's the Tail are supposed to help increase pelvic and sacral flexibility. I'm not entirely sure what any of that means but I'm fairly certain it's awesome.
The Sex Kitten position is the more demanding of the two. It involves getting down on all fours and slowly rolling your hips from side to side, an act I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed to admit I had imagined Noelle and Langheld performing at least a half an hour earlier. (Ladies, if you are reading this, please accept my sincerest apologies. I was born this way.)
"Sex Kitten is great to use during sexual intercourse too," Noelle tells me. Well, here's to finding out as soon as possible.
Our class winds down with a few more passes at the Warrior and Froggy positions before Noelle turns off the sexy music and tells me I can go home now. Despite my frequent visits to a gym that for legal reasons I shall refer to only as a popular fitness center with outlets conveniently located throughout the Eastern Seaboard, I am pretty wiped out. And while it's hard to say whether I am feeling any sexier after my Better Sex Through Yoga experience, I will admit to feeling, well, maybe just a little bit horny. After a few awkward goodbyes, I head out the door of Langheld's apartment, committed to the path toward sexcellence (I just made that up and I don't even teach my own sexy yoga class or anything).
Since taking the Better Sex Through Yoga class, I've tried to keep the improvements coming by exercising along with the Better Sex Through Yoga DVD collection at home. It's not as exciting as taking the class in person and, yes, there is a dude working out with Noelle and Langheld in the videos too (a problem easily solved by draping a towel over the right third of the screen), but I still feel like my sexual core has really never been better. Ironically though, ever since I've become a Better Sex Through Yoga practitioner, I haven't had the opportunity to, ahem, see if any of this is really working, if you know what I mean.
And it is at this point that I reach out to you, the reader. Now, far be it from me to suggest that anybody is going to want to "get with me" just from reading this article. All I'm saying is that if you are open to setting up an intimate rendezvous with a complete stranger through the Internet, you could do a lot worse than to maybe drop a line to the editors here at Salon and maybe ask that they pass the note on to me and, well, we could just take it from there, just the two of us. Look, I've never done this sort of thing before either (OK, once, but I was wasted). It just seems that the world is so crazy sometimes and it just gets so hard to find that certain someone that you can really relate to and when something comes along like this that just feels so -- I don't know -- right, it just seems so insane for us to get all caught up in what anyone else thinks. And sure we've all got a sexual core and everything, but, you know, we've all got something else too, a heart. Now, are you with me or not?
Well, promise me you'll at least think about it.