While some press releases catch our eye — and some make us roll our eyes — this one definitely jumped out. It begins: “Yes, enjoy better sex, and not by pills, doodads, or porn, but with pure and natural yoga. Learn the relationship between yoga and sex in theory and in practice with a class of postures to build strength and improve bodily health for a heightened sexual experience. Through yoga, enhance intimacy, confidence, and strength in daily life and in between the sheets.”

We had to know more. With my one friend’s credo “So much porn, so little time” vaguely echoing in my ears, I called Kristen Boccumini, a yoga instructor who will lead a workshop, “Yoga and Sex,” on Saturday, November 7, at Princeton Center for Yoga and Health in Skillman. “Our sexual experience strongly correlates with an inner connection to the self, to our partner, and ultimately to all that is,” says Boccumini. “Any disconnect with our own sexuality is apparent not only in the act of sex, but in areas of our daily life. Sex and yoga go much deeper than physical poses or the kama sutra. Ultimately it starts with the self. If there’s an unhealthy sense of self, the experience of sex will deteriorate.”

Even if you already practice yoga you might not naturally draw such a conclusion. But Boccumini sees a clear connection. “Yoga helps you unite with your higher self and the universe. It starts from within. In the workshop, I’ll talk about how with yoga we start with the self, we start with the relationship we have with ourselves, and then with our partner, ultimately how that’s a sacred thing, and that the act (of sex), like any other act, is sacred. Sometimes it’s intense and sometimes it’s more emotional, and ultimately that is a connection with everything else that exists. Yoga is a tool that helps you grow closer to who you are, then to your partner, then to the universe.”

Boccumini says yoga keeps the body healthy on many different levels, not just physically healthy although she says workshop participants will learn how certain poses can strengthen the body, such as strengthening the pelvic region, in ways that add to the sexual experience. “There is also the philosophy (in yoga) where if you just let go, if your body is fluid through a yoga practice, then your energetic body is the same way; by letting go and relaxing you enhance your experience.” Boccumini even goes so far as to compare orgasm to the metaphor of enlightenment. “When you’re enlightened there’s an uprising of energy through all of the chakras, when it rises upwards through the crown, your energy channels are open and free flowing.”

She says she hopes the workshop will solve some of the mystery surrounding tantric yoga and kama sutra. “The kama sutra is a book with different positions for sex to enhance pleasure. I didn’t want to go towards that (in the workshop) but I wanted to see all the different angles of how yoga can help that.” One key aspect of yoga is the idea of being totally present in the moment, to quiet what yogis call “the monkey mind,” and many people who practice yoga will tell you that that is the single reason they do yoga, to practice attaining that state.

“It’s really allowing the mind — your thoughts — to be quiet so that you’re totally awake, allowing yourself to feel and experience life. That’s hard for people, trying to not to think so much. When you’re a kid and you’re outside and just staring at a blade of grass in the sunshine, that’s being totally aware, rather than thinking, ‘Oh, I have to do this.’” Put that way, it makes sense that being totally present in the moment would enhance the sexual experience. (Looking at the ceiling and thinking, “We really have to paint the ceiling” is just not a big turn-on.)

“The society we live in, all the fancy cars and big home, is a distraction from finding out who we really are,” says Boccumini. “Love and appreciation and care for the self are important, so eventually there’s no judgment of the self or anybody else. There’s also a belief in yoga that what you see in the world is what is going on inside. If there are wars outside, then there are wars inside.”

Boccumini, 26, grew up in South Brunswick. Her father is a scientist at Advanced Biologics, a pharmaceutical contracting company in New Hope, and her mother is an elementary teacher in the South Bound Brook school system. She graduated with a BS in biology from Richard Stockton College in 2004 but quickly realized she didn’t want to do research. “I realized I like interacting with people.” She spent all her savings for the training to become a certified yoga instructor. One of the people she trained with, Seane Corn, is the co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian efforts in Uganda, building schools and birthing centers. Boccumini got on the organization’s website at the beginning of this year and discovered the SEVA challenge. Seva is Sanskrit for selfless service. The challenge is for individuals (many of them yoga instructors) to raise $20,000 by December 15. If Boccumini makes the goal, Off the Mat will send her to Uganda, where she will participate firsthand in their humanitarian efforts and receive leadership training.

She says, “You’re involved from the beginning to the end. The whole endeavor is to get individuals in the community to take on this challenge to become a leader and inspire others to contribute to the world. They’re trying to get people to get away from the minute things in life and do something bigger than themselves.” She already has organized a number of yoga-centered events in Princeton (see “Make Your Oms Matter More,” U.S. 1, October 28), and has more planned before December 15 (see listings at end). At the same time she is completing a one-year stint with AmericCorps, working 35 to 40 hours a week at Big Brothers/ Big Sisters in State College, PA. Her husband, who formerly worked at Michael Graves, has just entered the masters program in landscape architecture at Penn.

She sees yoga, as many others do, as a transformative experience. “I’ve known lawyers who find yoga and change their own career. In our society we’re so involved in a consumer culture, all the fancy cars and big homes, and there are still people who are unhappy. People are realizing this now and are attracted to yoga, starting from the inside.” Why should sex be any different? “It’s all about your connection with yourself. A healthy sense of self will help your connection with others.”

A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. The press release ends, “Oh, and please dress in your sexiest yoga clothes! Aphrodisiac treats will be provided.”

Yoga and Sex, Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, 50 Vreeland Drive, Suite 506, Skillman. Saturday, November 7, 6 to 9 p.m. Philosophy and lovers in Hindu mythology, enhancement of sensuality and sexual experiences, a yoga practice of asanas with benefits for sex, and an introduction to tantric yoga presented by Kristen Boccumini. Music for practice and aphrodisiac munchies. For all levels. Benefit for Off the Mat, Into the World’s African Humanitarian Tour in Uganda. Register. $40. 609-924-7294 or www.princetonyoga.com.

Exploring the Chakras, Sunday, November 8, Noon to 3 p.m. Workshop about chakras and the affect on physical and spiritual levels presented by Kristen Boccumini. Benefit for Off the Mat, Into the World’s African Humanitarian Tour in Uganda. Register. $30.

Holiday Benefit, Saturday, December 12. Yoga, music, food, and fun for the whole family. Vinyasa flow class with live music by Red Hawk Fly at 6:30 p.m.; kids yoga class at 6:30 p.m. Then a concert by Red Hawk Fly and silent auction. Final fundraiser for Off the Mat, Into the World’s African Humanitarian Tour in Uganda. $10 for class and concert.

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