Obesely Speaking

The brain and obesity

4 Ways Yoga Helps Dating and Relationships

Simple healthy solutions for seemingly complex issues

You do not have to be an Olympic gymnast, or even physically fit, to do some simple forms of beneficial yoga; you can even be very overweight.  Most importantly, yoga is the e-ticket for “high-stress populations,” which is another way of saying, “I am human and I live within planet earth’s biosphere.” Yoga increases flexibility, reduces stress, and helps center thinking, by promoting biochemical proficiency through focus and breathing.  For example, here is a yoga exercise that does not require an expensive mat, a “yoga guru” or being double jointed. Lay on your back with your legs slightly apart and your arms extended at your side.  Place your hands on your tummy. Inhale and exhale through your nose.  Follow your breath, as you feel your stomach rise and fall under your hands. The goal is to completely relax your breathing, muscles and thought.

Humans are social creatures, and we pair bond.  Thus, dating and relationships are very important to us for various reasons. Yoga is a great way to improve your dating life and/or your relationships. 

1) Yoga enhances sexual performance.  According to recent studies, yoga can improve your sexual appetite, confidence, performance and ability.  This is true of men and women. 

For example, one study, held at a yoga camp, looked at men ages 24 to 60, and found that after yoga definitely improved sexual performance. There were improvements in: desire, intercourse function, performance, confidence, partner synchronization, erection, ejaculatory control, and orgasm. Considering these findings, I predict vending machines will offer yoga mats in gas-station men’s rooms across the nation by 2016. Seriously, this addresses many issues that cause irreconcilable differences in relationships.  Sexual performance is important.  It is important because at the end of the day sex is communication.  In many ways, it is the purest form of communication.  When a man loves a woman, or another man, taking that person to the height of orgiastic ecstasy is a tremendously rewarding experience.  

Just as you can say things with your eyes that are difficult to verbalize, you can say things with the rhythmic movement of your body for which there are no words. Therefore, mastering sexual performance is like developing a good vocabulary—essential in conveying your feelings accurately. In addition, yoga increases blood flow and cellular communication, which positively affects the physical aspects of sex, as well as the emotional and psychological.  It is also relaxing.  When you are more relaxed, self-awareness and communication are easier.

A study of women between the ages of 22 and 55 years old found that yoga improved sexual function in six areas: desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain.  Interestingly this study found that yoga was more effective in women over the age of 45.

2)   Yoga promotes healthy sleep.  Researchers have found that a few weeks of daily yoga decreases insomnia.  Most sleep issues are anxiety-related, and controlled breathing and mindfulness, which are the key elements in yoga, relieve anxiety. Other studies have shown that practicing yoga twice a week helps survivors of catastrophic illnesses sleep better and feel less fatigued. Sometimes I think humans do not like simple solutions. Sleep is a necessity.  We all know that. Most of us understand that our brains make daily maintenance repairs during our sleep.  We all know what happens when we do not get enough sleep; we become irritable, inefficient, and tired. Now there is a fun date, an irritable, inefficient, tired man or woman.  

Likewise, it is difficult to sustain a healthy relationship with a chronically sleep deprived person, for the same reasons.  There are enough external uncontrollable forces imposing on relationships without adding unnecessary strain. A relationship is a microcosm.  It cannot be any healthier than its constituents and vice-versa.  In some regards, financial management and relationships are similar. In matters of money, if you take care of the pennies the dollars will take care of themselves.  Likewise, in matters of love, if you take care of the simple things the complex issues often do not arise or take care of themselves.  Being as functional, easygoing, and energetic as possible are simple things.

3)    Yoga can help you stop smoking.  People smoke for various reasons.  Studies have shown, however, that the most persistent smokers are depressed people, and individuals under extreme stress.  Again, yoga relaxes you and keeps you in the present.  The more you can remain in the present, as opposed to fixating on the past, or being anxious about the future, the less stressful your life will be, and the less depressed you are. The more you remove the reasons you smoke, the easier it is to give up cigarettes.  How many times have you read in online dating sites, “no smokers”? Besides, smoking ages you, shortens your life, as well as compromises your life while you are alive.  Again, take care of the basics.  We all age fast enough. It is just a matter of time until the lines that you have given your dates over the years show up on your face. You do not want to rush it.

4)    Yoga fights unhealthy eating. The same scenarios that create tobacco addicts create overeaters, i.e. allostatic load, depression and their collateral consequences.  Studies have connected regular yoga practice with mindful eating.  One of the reasons compulsive overeaters overeat to the extremes that many of us do is because we are simply not present when we are eating.  We are in the past being beaten by our parents, in the future worry about things that may or may not come, or across town worry about things that do lie within our jurisdiction. This accrues a stress and depression debt. If not that, we are with our favorite television characters tricking our ventral tegmental area (VTA) into believing that we are socially bonding because the VTA is a subcortical structure. The old mammal brain does not think. It simply processes signals on face value.  It has no way of knowing that you are not really having wine and muffins with Bri Vandekamp, but rather seeing Bri Vandekamp on television and recognizing her like an old friend because that is how your hippocampus has stored her in your memory.  

Overeating is not pleasant if you are aware of your body.  Regrettably, compulsive overeaters are not.  Watching a person overeat or witnessing the concomitant psychophysical and emotional misery does not make for a fun date, a good relationship or a healthy marriage.  Deceit is always unpleasant. When you overeat you are saying, “I am hungry,” which is lie.  You are not hungry.  You are angry, lonely, frightened, hurting, or tired.  That does not make for a fun date, healthy relationship or viable marriage. Yoga helps resolve these underlying issues. 

Breathing is basic in life; when it stops, life stops. Being in tune with your breathing puts you in tune with your self and keeps you in the moment.  That is where life occurs because the past and the future are only valid when they are the present. All you have is this moment, right here, right now, nothing more, nothing less and yoga helps connect you to that basic truth.  Remain fabulous and phenomenal.

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Selected References

J Sex Med. 2010 Oct;7(10):3460-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01930.x. Yoga in male sexual functioning: a noncompararive pilot study. (Dhikav V1, Karmarkar G et al)

J Sex Med. 2010 Feb;7(2 Pt 2):964-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01580.x. Epub 2009 Nov 12.

Yoga in female sexual functions.  (Karmarkar G, Gupta R, et al)

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 Dec;29(4):269-78. Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: a preliminary study with sleep-wake diaries. (Khalsa SB)

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Oct 1;132(3):399-410. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.04.014. Epub 2013 May 8. Mind-body practices: an alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. (Carim-Todd L et al)

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 21;8:CD006102. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006102.pub2.Smoking cessation interventions for smokers with current or past depression. (Van der Meer RM et al)

 

 

Billi Gordon, Ph.D., is Chair of the Advisory Committee for Collective Concerns in Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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