Loving, connected sex can nourish us very deeply. But, as with anything under the sun (and moon), Ayurveda offers some guidelines about when it’s a good time to get funky and when the cost may not be worth it.
Let’s look at the mechanisms of sex from the perspective of Ayurveda. I’m gonna have to use some terminology here, but the vocabulary itself isn’t too important for understanding the essence.
Types Of Tissues Or Dhatus
According to the ancient Ayurvedic texts, the human body is made up of 7 types of tissues or dhatus. When we eat, the digestive system transforms our food (and drink) into the most unrefined of these tissues, rasa dhatu (well, first it’s ahara rasa, then it transforms to rasa).
Rasa can be seen, in simple terms, as the white part of the blood – the blood serum. Rasa also means the juice of a plant or the sap of the tree, so usually I like to think of rasa as our “sap.”
Over the course of about one month, the body and its agni (digestive fire – each tissue has its own agni) transform some portion of this rasa into increasingly refined forms until our sexual fluids and tissues are produced. Just as in any process of refinement, the volume of this substance comprises a mere fraction of the original.
Sperm and the sexual fluids of both men and women are called sukra dhatu. The female reproductive system, including ovum and reproductive organs are called artava dhatu.
The body goes to enormous expense and effort to produce our sexual tissues, because they form the basis for new life, our creativity, and the production of a further refined substance called ojas.
We can think of ojas as the honey of the body. It is the pure, refined essence of all of the bodily tissues and it is expressed in our vitality, our immunity, and our sense of wholeness. It circulates through the body by way of the heart and supports the natural resistance of all of the body tissues.
At least one further factor plays in the healthy functioning of our sexuality, a force within the body called apana vayu. Apana vayu, one of 5 vayus or “winds” of the body, resides in the lower half of the body. It regulates the movement of the legs, defecation, menstruation, childbirth and orgasm. The downward, outward movement of healthy apana also provides us with a sense of rootedness.
The “Cost” Of An Orgasm
We can probably all agree that there are many benefits to an orgasm. Besides feeling good, research has shown that an orgasm per week can reduce the risk of mild depression and heart disease, boost immunity, and strengthen the pelvic floor. The act of having sex also can trigger a release of oxytocin and connect us more deeply with our partner.
But under some circumstances, sex – especially an orgasm – can have a detrimental effect on our health and well-being. Inherently, sex provokes vata dosha. This means that it has a stimulating (duh!) and slightly (or greatly) depleting effect on our bodies.
When apana vayu becomes chronically imbalanced, it can lead to constipation, insomnia and anxiety.
We can say that sex “costs” the sacrifice of some of that hard-won sukra. This can mean less potential production of ojas and therefore, weakened immunity and a weakened sense of wholeness and integration. Too frequent sex also strains apana vayu, resulting in a feeling of “ungroundedness”.
What’s Too Much And What’s Not Enough
We can draw the most benefit from sex at the lowest “cost” by following some Ayurvedic guidelines. These suggestions vary from advises on where, when, and how to have sex to foods, medicines, and practices to mitigate the vata-provoking effect.
In the cycle of the year, winter and the beginning of spring are the most supportive for sex.
Since sex aggravates vata, the best time to have sex is the time of the day and the year when vata expression (wind and space) recedes and kapha influence (earth and water) increases. In the cycle of day and night, this means in the early evening, before about 10 pm. In the morning after sunrise but before 10 am may also work for some of us.
For someone in good health and with good strength, lots of earthy stability and calm, full, consistent energy, having sex as frequently as 3–5 times per week can support their health during the most kapha predominant times of year. In fact, not having sex (or at least an orgasm) can become a problem for those with ojas to spare.
To quote one of my favorite classic Ayurveda texts, Ashtanga Hrdayam:
“Good memory, intelligence, long life, health, nourishment, acuity of sense organs, reputation, strength and slow aging accrue from disciplined (controlled) indulgence in sex.”
From the end of spring through summertime and into the fall, when vata influence increases, reducing the frequency of sex and orgasm is important. The heat and dryness in the environment leave us dry and depleted. We just don’t have much juice to spare. During the hottest and driest part of this period Ayurveda recommends having sex not more than once every week or two weeks.
This is especially important for those with strong vata in their mind or body. Surprisingly, this can sometimes be the most difficult restriction for individuals with a condition of excess vata. In this case, the “high” of orgasm can temporarily relieve feelings of exhaustion and depletion, only to leave us more depleted than before.
Ashtanga Hrdayam chimes in again with
“Giddiness, exhaustion, weakness of the thighs, loss of strength, depletion of tissues, loss of acuity of senses and premature death(!) occur from improper indulgence in sex.”
Interestingly, modern research supports the essence of these recommendations with some recent studies. One shows that children born in the months of August–December (meaning mom and dad were getting busy in December–March), have up to a 17% lower risk of suicide later in life, than those born between April and July.1 Other studies have established a strong correlation between birth month and risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and Crohn’s disease.
Ayurvedic Recommendations For Healthy Sex
In general, all of these recommendations focus on increasing your exposure to moist, cool, smooth influences and reducing your exposure to dry, hot, rough influences:
- Approach sex as a form of nourishment and opportunity for a deep connection with your partner.
- Choose foods and drinks that nourish rasa dhatu and shukra dhatu (moist, cool, smooth), such as ghee, rice pudding, coconut juice, bone broth, and milk (especially cow, but goat and almond aren’t too bad substitutes).
- Practice abhyanga (self massage with oil) in the morning before bathing, especially during the hottest and driest parts of the year.
- Bucket-bathe with cool water after sex and dress in soft, clean clothes or pajamas.
Ayurvedic Drink Recipe For Sex
Recipe for post-sex milk-tonic: (Serves 2)
- 2 cups of milk
- ½ tsp ghee
- ½ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 6 threads of saffron
- 2 tsp maple syrup or 1 tsp jaggery (Indian raw sugar)
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat gently on a low fire. Bring milk to the barest simmer and then remove from heat. Divide into 2 mugs and enjoy!
|↑1||Salib, Emad, and Mario Cortina-Borja. “Effect of month of birth on the risk of suicide.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 188, no. 5 (2006): 416-422.|