We’re suffering from a deficiency of intimacy in our culture. The internet and social media gives us a false sense of connection, but it’s superficial and doesn’t offer the nourishment of real, human intimacy. It’s like junk food for the soul. You’re hungry for real connection, and so you grab something that’s quick and easy, but it leaves you feeling dissatisfied at best, and often worse than before.
Men are suffering most acutely from intimacy deficiency. In a culture where male bonding is largely limited to drinking beer, watching sports, playing sports and talking about sports, men don’t learn how to be truly intimate with one another. They’re not finding what they need in relationships with other men, and so often aren’t finding it in their relationships with women.
Real intimacy requires the ability to be open and receptive to another. There needs to be space for the other person to exist and for them to feel free to express themselves and have their own needs for intimacy met.
When a man can’t listen to their partner without wanting to fix their problem, receive criticism without defensiveness, or offer affection and comfort without it leading to sex, there can be no real intimacy.
Real intimacy is what we’re all looking for, and I think if men can learn intimacy, everybody wins. They’ll be able to give their partner what they’re looking for, and in that, find what they are really looking for.
Tantra offers us men a way to find intimacy, but we’re not going to find it in the exaggerated sexuality of American neo-tantra. Intimacy isn’t about delaying ejaculation or applying exotic manual stimulation techniques on your partner. No woman wants to feel like they’re being experimented on, and obsession over orgasm keeps you from the thing you both really want, true intimacy. I don’t think any woman will be dissatisfied if you come quickly as long as you take care of her needs, before or after.
Yes, it can be nice to delay orgasm by taking your time and switching things up, but thinking about baseball is taking yourself out of the game. Nobody wins.
In the tantra of Hatha Yoga we can learn how to open up, be vulnerable and stay present. Specifically, if we practice receiving the inhalation more fully, we learn receptivity on every level. Most people I meet in my classes don’t have any trouble exhaling. The exhale is related to strength, and in this culture we get really good at exerting strength and force.
You hear it in most classes — it’s all strong exhales and physical effort. People are trying really hard to get somewhere! It’s when I ask people to give as much importance to the inhale that it gets interesting. Often, people have real difficulty opening up to receive a full, deep inhalation. They start to choke and cough, and it can bring up a lot of anxiety and fear.
This is the real beauty of yoga, that it shows us how what’s happening in our body reflects what’s happening inside. The struggle to open up and receive nourishment on the level of the breath and body reflects an inability to open up and receive nourishment on the level of the heart. Once we see that, we can work on cultivating more receptivity in our practice, balancing strength and stability with softness. Effort with effortlessness. Action with inaction. Exhale and inhale. Giving and receiving.
If real intimacy is what we’re looking for, we need to start with what’s closest to us — our own body, breath and heart. It’s through our own practice that we can overcome the fear of opening up and learn that real strength is the ability to be vulnerable and stay present with whatever is happening.
When we’re able to open up, we create space for another to enter into our lives and receive them as they are, realizing union in the full embrace of another. Two become one. This is the yoga of intimacy.