The Enlightening Mat: Fulfilling the Need for Sensuality through Yoga

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There comes a point in your life when you may be alone and without an intimate relationship. This may occur because you broke up, got divorced, or perhaps your lover passed away. In addition, there are other more subtle ways we lose connection with physical intimacy such as when our lover travels for work or may be located away from you for long periods of time. Alternatively, your partner could suffer from a serious illness or be consumed by addiction with a substance or activity (e.g., work, video games, gambling, sports, socializing with friends, taking care of kids, etc.).

Whatever situation may occur for you, this need for sensuality or more specifically sexual expression may be under nourished if you are not in a partnership or experience disconnection within a relationship. Over time an unmet need as vital and life-affirming as sensuality may actually start causing difficulties in your life that show up in the form of strange arguments, overeating, complaining about random things, and criticizing yourself and others. In Chapter 8 of my book Lemonade Mantras I write about how to make personal requests of yourself so as fulfill unmet needs.

Over the course of a year I did this exercise from Lemonade Mantras with my own unmet need for sensuality and discovered some interesting things. First of all, I'm sorry to say (or happy to report!) that I feel there are a few needs that actually require help from someone else. Though I have experienced celibacy and see the value in time alone, human touch -- the simple act of a hug or a gentle hand on one's shoulder -- can't be completely replaced or fulfilled by only you.

Besides the obvious answer for how to fulfill my need for sensuality and sexual expression all by myself, I challenged myself to inquire further. What is at the most basic core of these needs? What could be substituted? What would give me the same feeling? What are some forms of touch that don't require human interaction?

Here's a few things I tried along the way:

  • Experiencing the sensuality of objects through color, texture, and scent.
  • Connecting with the wind as it rushed past me while I rode my bike.
  • Feeling sound enter my body and become a part of me.
  • Developing a love affair with food on my tongue.
  • Letting the sun burn my skin and leave its mark.
  • Walking in the rain and feel it run down my face.
  • Dancing in my bare feet and feeling the texture and strength of the ground against my soles.
  • Singing and feeling the air and sound move against the inside of my throat.
  • Making things and enjoying the sensual pleasure of interacting with materials.

Lastly, I spent hours at Bikram yoga class constructing an alternative sensual relationship with myself. From listening to my breath and feeling it move in and out my nose to becoming intimately aware of the trickle of sweat moving down my leg like a finger tracing the curves of my body, my Bikram yoga class became the number one place where I learned to develop a new kind of sensual experience with myself that was completely my own and didn't require human touch.

I'm not going to say it worked or I was super happy, because honestly it was still painful and extremely difficult to go without human touch. However, going to Bikram yoga gave me a place to re-engage in healthy way with my power to act so as fulfill one of my own unmet needs and experience a sense of abundance instead of complete lack. Experiencing sensuality in the Bikram yoga classroom kept me thinking of my life in a positive way as I was transitioning from being alone to being in connection with others.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures


  1. I know exactly what you mean.. After a relationship ended I found myself getting back into reading- discovering new writers, ideas... I still read while I was in a relationship but once that ended, I found myself looking for authors that were out of my norm..I learned a lot about myself and how I had changed. Believe me that relationship was a roller coaster. Actually, celibacy ain't that bad, it gives one a time to heal and decide what path they want to take in life.

  2. Chris, I think you are so spot on. Celibacy is definitely a gift of time and space for real healing. I love how you took to books and looked for ones that were outside your norm. That's such a neat idea! When I get back to reading again I'll have to try it. Hope you are well!

  3. Aaah, yes...my 20+ year marriage ended abruptly last year and for the first time ever, I felt touch-starved. It's been an uphill battle, but I'm in a better place for having had the time to my self, a return to center, a divine pruning. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Touch-starved is a great way to describe this feeling. Hope you have been finding your center this week!!


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