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Authors: Laurie Steelsmith

Great Sex, Naturally (9 page)

Balancing Your Sexuality with Yin and Yang Exercises

Balance is the key when it comes to exercise and your libido; for example, you want to get the benefits of both aerobic exercise and resistance exercise like weight lifting (at least 20 minutes of each, three to four times a week). We can also use the principles of Chinese medicine to create balance by thinking about different types of exercise as either yin or yang.
exercises are gentler and may involve concentrated focus or “centering” techniques; examples include some forms of yoga and stretching. When you feel stressed, yin exercise can be especially effective in shifting your energy into a calm, relaxed state—from a sympathetic-nervous-system response to a parasympathetic response.
exercises typically push your body more intensely; examples include mountain climbing with a heavy pack, or running.

Many exercises can be either yin or yang, depending on your approach. Swimming, for instance, can be a mellow yin activity in placid water, or a vigorous yang exercise in rough water. Yoga can likewise be yin or yang; if you take a restorative hatha yoga class, and you hold supported positions while breathing deeply, you’re doing a yin form of exercise. On the other hand, if you practice Bikram yoga for 90 minutes in a heated room, you’re practicing a yang form of yoga.

You can support your entire body, reinforce your chi, and help optimize the health of your libido by creating a balance of yin and yang exercises in your life. Too much yin exercise, without enough yang exercise to balance it, can lead to stagnation, low energy, and diminished libido. Excessive yang exercise, without sufficient yin exercise to offset it, can burn out your energy and disrupt your hormonal balance. Energy and balanced hormones are both essential for keeping your sex drive healthy.

You can use the following list of yin and yang exercises as a general guide for creating balance in your life. Each exercise is categorized on the basis of how it’s typically experienced by the average person. But again, you can make many activities either yin or yang, depending on the degree of intensity you bring to them.


Yin Exercises
Yang Exercises
Gentle hatha yoga
Bikram or Ashtanga yoga
Light weight lifting
Heavy weight lifting
Gentle stationary bicycling
Mountain biking
Day hiking without a pack
Mountain climbing
Low-impact aerobics
High-impact aerobics
Slow hula dance
Tahitian dance
Swimming in a lake or pool
Ocean swimming
Low-intensity cross-country skiing
Downhill skiing
Slow ballroom dancing
Fast dancing
Tai chi
Surfing in small waves
Surfing in big waves
Canoeing in a slow-moving river
Ocean kayaking

Exercise and Your Pelvis: The Libido Link

Your pelvis is your center of gravity, and it’s central to your sexuality. In Chinese medicine, your pelvis is a powerful part of your anatomy—the pivotal area through which all your chi flows from meridians throughout your body. Yet many women feel “blocked,” physically or psychologically, from this part of their bodies. They may have freedom of movement and normal sensation in other areas, but because of chronic pelvic pain, sexual issues, or past trauma—or perhaps as a result of growing up in an environment that didn’t encourage healthy awareness of their bodies and their sexuality—they remain unconscious of the full range of pelvic sensation they’re capable of.

In order to have healthy sex, you need to be comfortable with your body and intimately familiar with your pelvis and sexual organs. One of the best ways to physically and psychologically “reconnect” with your pelvis is through exercises and activities that strengthen and relax your pelvic muscles. This allows you to become more aware of your entire pelvic region and more familiar with sensations in those muscles. It can help you release tensions you may be unconsciously holding in your pelvis, and it may help you discover muscles that you don’t know you have. By incorporating the following forms of exercise and movement into your life, you can improve the health of your entire body and your pelvis in particular:

When the energy of music fills your being and moves your body, no form of exercise is more joyful. And by celebrating your body with dance, you can do more than enhance your health and get in touch with your pelvis; you can dance your way to better sex.

Dance has been practiced by women all over the world since the beginnings of recorded history. In myriad forms of cultural expression, from African dance to the tango, it often involves powerful pelvic muscle movements that can help you maintain core muscle conditioning, increase your pelvic strength, and tone muscles that contract around your vagina.

With so many forms of dance, you can choose whatever fits your personality. One of the best for enhancing your pelvic health is belly dancing. By some accounts, it was taught to young women in ancient Arab tribes for strengthening their pelvic muscles in preparation for childbirth, as well as to ease its effects (although it appears to have originated as entertainment or for erotic purposes). Belly dancing not only tones and strengthens your pelvic muscles, it can also enhance your libido, build your “mind-hip coordination,” develop and flatten your stomach muscles, increase circulation throughout your pelvic region, give you a cardiovascular workout, improve your posture, and help prevent osteoporosis.

Another form of dance particularly good for your pelvic health is hula. The graceful, swaying hip motions of Hawaiian hula can increase your pelvic strength and coordination, maintain your pelvic-muscle vitality, and bring chi to your pelvic region. An added attraction is that you can do hula at any age; some of Hawaii’s most proficient hula dancers are older women.

You don’t need a traditional dance form to enjoy the benefits of this activity. Anytime you feel creative, you can invent your own form of dance right at home: turn on your favorite music, let yourself go, and dance to enhance!

When you join the ranks of the Pilates bodies, you’re usually instructed, even before you begin the exercises, to tighten your core by contracting the muscles of your lower abdomen and pelvis while pulling up on your pelvic-floor muscles, as if doing a Kegel. (We’ll explore Kegel exercises in detail later in this book.) Pilates can be a powerful way of strengthening your core, increasing awareness of your pelvic muscles, and enhancing muscles that contract your vagina during sex.

With yoga, you can change your body, including your core, from the inside out. Iyengar yoga, in particular, allows you to increase the flexibility in your hips, buttocks, abdomen, and pelvis. It also enables you to strengthen and tone the muscles of your pelvic region. And while you’re expanding your flexibility, it can help you increase your awareness of your posture and lower abdomen.

Your Great Sex Detox

What does throwing out your Teflon pans have to do with having great sex? As you’ll discover in the pages ahead, there may be many items in your immediate environment that are compromising your health and affecting your sexual energy. Knowing which to eliminate is part of cleansing your body and enhancing your libido-building lifestyle—which is why we call the cleanse outlined in this section the Great Sex Detox.

If your body is in a toxic state, you don’t feel especially sexy or attractive. You probably feel tired, achy, and as if you have a hangover most of the time. Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t take the garbage out of your living space for months, or years; that’s analogous to what happens to your tissues if you don’t detoxify your body. It’s no wonder if you feel literally “down in the dumps.”

By eliminating toxins accumulated in your body, the Great Sex Detox can recharge your energy, boost your libido, promote clearer thinking, support your brain health, elevate your moods by increasing the synthesis of “happy” neurotransmitters, improve your digestive health, help your liver work better, balance and strengthen your chi, help you lose weight if you need to, and more. It can make you feel more alive, and sexier, than you may have felt in years. After following this unique cleanse, many of my patients report having more energy and improved sleep, and say they feel “born again.” It’s about cleansing your body of impurities on a cellular level, as well as creating long-lasting behavioral changes and giving you a sense of empowerment.

The Great Sex Detox can also improve your hormone metabolism by boosting your intake of cruciferous vegetables, which contain compounds that help break down estrogen in your body. As you’ll discover in a subsequent chapter, you have better hormonal health, and better overall health—as well as potentially better sex—when your body does a good job of breaking down estrogen into its “friendly,” rather than “unfriendly,” forms. (There are many types of estrogen; you want to convert estrogens into weaker, friendlier forms—not unfriendly ones.) The friendly forms of estrogen help moisten your skin, hydrate your vagina, create pleasant moods, and support the functioning of your memory; the unfriendly ones may contribute to ovarian cysts, fibroids, cystic breasts, breast cancer, and a host of other problems.

The Great Sex Detox is easy to implement, and you can continue with all of your normal, everyday activities—your job, exercise, taking care of the kids, walking the dog, and so on—while you’re doing it. It’s a relatively gentle cleanse, unlike some aggressive detox plans that can be physically draining and interrupt your lifestyle. You should feel good while you’re doing the Great Sex Detox, and since you’ll be releasing toxins that may have been stored in your body for many years, you can expect to feel increasingly better as your cleanse progresses.

While you’re doing the Great Sex Detox, you can continue taking prescription medications—for example, if you’re on high-blood-pressure medication—but check with your doctor first. Abstain from all alcohol, recreational drugs, and smoking. It’s best to eat only organic foods, and important to avoid all junk foods, refined sugars, fried foods, and processed food products.

Getting Started: Remove the Obstacles to Health and Pleasure

Some people have the misguided notion that a cleanse involves only your body. But to be effective, it should also involve your surroundings, because some of the pollutants you want to eradicate from your tissues may come from common consumer products you’re exposed to right in your own home. Every day, you may be running a gauntlet of chemical assailants with potentially serious consequences for your health and sexuality. If you don’t remove them
you begin cleansing your body, your cleanse may have limited benefits—like bailing out a leaky boat without plugging the holes.

This is why it’s essential to launch the Great Sex Detox by finding natural alternatives for as many items as you can that may release toxic chemicals in or around your household—including your cleaning products, cookware, personal-care products, food-storage containers, and more.

cleaning products
stocked in many homes are a case of chemical overkill, needlessly laced with powerful toxic chemicals. Numerous household cleaning agents include cancer-causing compounds, neurotoxins, chemicals associated with decidedly unsexy symptoms, and ingredients linked to birth defects. There’s a plethora of safe, natural alternatives you can use to keep your home clean—arguably much
than if you use toxic pollutants—and you probably already have a number of healthy options on hand. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, castile soap, borax, and salt can be used in various combinations, with a little practice, to meet all your cleaning needs. You can find suggestions for cleaning your home safely by browsing the website of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and nontoxic cleaning agents are available at many health-food stores.

—Next, let’s take a look at your
, and those Teflon pans. If you use nonstick pans to cook with, you may be exposing yourself to potential health risks that can seriously subvert your sexual energy. Sure, they’re convenient, but at what awful price? According to a 2006 news release from the EWG, a panel of experts confirmed that a toxic chemical used in nonstick pans can cause cancer, and may be associated with birth defects and other health risks. The chemical, which doesn’t break down in the environment, ends up in your bloodstream when you use these pans. Healthy alternatives to nonstick pans include stainless-steel and cast-iron cookware.

—Another area of concern, your
personal-care products
, includes everything from your shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to your makeup and nail polish. Many commonly used items contain ingredients that are neither health-supportive nor libido-friendly. Some contain phthalates and other potentially harmful synthetic chemicals, including ingredients that could be potentially cancer initiating. Safe, healthy alternatives to chemically laden personal-care items abound at your local health-food stores and online. For information on chemicals in your cosmetics, visit the EWG’s Skin Deep website at:

—And what about your
food-storage containers
? You may not be aware that the chemical
bisphenol A
, or BPA, found in many plastics and commonly used in containers, can be released into foods and beverages, especially with temperature elevations. BPA can compromise your health and sexuality in multiple ways: it has estrogen-mimicking effects; potentially causes hormone disruptions in women and men; and may contribute to infertility, breast cancer, and early puberty in girls. Furthermore, exposure to BPA during pregnancy could negatively affect the fetus. To decrease your exposure, replace plastic food containers with glassware, and avoid canned foods if the cans have epoxy liners—a frequent source of BPA. If you drink from plastic water bottles, switch to glass or stainless steel.

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