While it may sound odd at first, BDSM and yoga really aren’t that different in terms of mindfulness, an altered state of consciousness and similar flow states. Dr. Brad Sagarin, a researcher and author from Northern Illinois University found that “flow is an enjoyable and pleasurable state that people get into when they are performing an activity that requires a high level of skill.” He continues, “It’s a state in which the rest of the world kind of fades away and somebody is concentrating very intensely only on what they are doing.”
We’ve looked at subspace and top space before, but as a refresher, it’s the euphoric sensations that a top and bottom feel during kinky sex. Testosterone levels, cortisol levels, mood and feelings of “flow” are all influenced during BDSM encounters. BDSM is also known to be a state of therapeutic recovery for many trauma and abuse survivors. HelloFlo writer, Sebastian Zulch writes, “While some people go to the gym, have a run, or write out their angry feelings, I get choked and flogged in my bed.” Mindfulness plays a key role here, as it’s applied even more so during BDSM scenes because of deeper levels of trust, which then influence closeness during these particular interactions.
A “flow-state” is a nine-dimensional altered state. It is said to make the ego fall away. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi poetically explained to Wire Magazine, “Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” In short, it’s an exercise of the mind and body.
When centering yourself on a yoga mat, intentions are typically set for practitioners. Whether it’s your own or a general intention influenced by the instructor, it helps guide the student into a state of mindfulness.
Kink yoga should not be confused with tantric yoga, which aims to improve your sex life through similar ways, centering on your own body and energy. Tantric yoga focuses on energies in the body. While kink yoga does focus on similar characteristics, it can include props and outfits.
Madeline White was first introduced to kink yoga at Kreuzberg Yoga in Germany. The trend of kink yoga is fresh and very new — as recent as three months ago, people began to discuss and comment on the new practice. White explains that kink yoga’s main goal is to “prepare you for Shibari Japanese bondage ropes. Kink yoga focuses on relaxation…”
Shibari translates in English to “to tie,” and its origins rest in the martial arts training of restraining people or captives from 1400 to 1700. In the late 1800s and 1900s, kinbaku, the art of erotic bondage, came to light. It is still practiced today as erotic spirituality and is called “shibari.” The Independent talked to two shibari enthusiasts, one of whom explained, “Some people say it has a meditative effect. It silences the chatter of the everyday.”
The technique of pranayama is central to kink yoga as a way to better control your anxiety in high-stress situations. Prana is a Sanskrit word for “life force,” and ayama, means “extending” or “stretching.” The term pranayama, then, is the extension of breath or controlling your breath. Breathing properly and controlling your oxygen decreases stress and increases overall mood and physical health.
Kink yoga blends normal kinks with yoga practices. In these classes, participants can come dressed up, dressed down, include accessories or be in the nude while practicing typical poses.
Classes involving kink yoga are said to release stress and tension and increase focus. Downward Dog and ball gags probably don’t appear together in your everyday vocabulary all too often, but dominatrices and instructors around the globe are gaining steam with the new mindful practice.
Mistress Anna from Sydney, Australia, teaches a yoga class that includes spanking, whipping, straight jackets and leather. For most practitioners in the class, it’s a way to blend two of their passions: yoga and kink. She explains, “People are being flogged, whipped and tied up. They hold a pose while their kink stuff is played out.” Most classes are a small group of 10 people. Individuals can come into the classroom and explain their kinks and have those played out. Mistress Anna says, “Any kink gets played out during the yoga class,” from sploshing to puppy play — no kink is ignored with proper consent.
While you may be imagining a dungeon-eseque atmosphere, it’s really quite similar to a typical yoga class. There are yoga mats and meditations begin the class, where Anna begins with a Prayer pose. Just as yoga instructors walk around the room, Mistress Anna is adorned in a latex bodysuit and carries a riding crop.
People participating in kink yoga not only have a way to release tension and live out their kinks, they are able to gain flexibility and core strength while also incorporating bondage.
The crossover between trained yoga instructors and practicing dominatrices results in a new form of meditation.
On her website, Mistress Anna explains, “Kinky Yoga is Yoga without judgement. It’s Yoga that concentrates on the process of creating, moving and releasing energy. Essentially, it’s Yoga that hurts good.”