10 Tips for Body Confidence in the Bedroom
Whether you’ve been with your partner three times or 300 times, had two dates or 20, getting naked in front of another can be a conflict-ridden experience. Heck, getting naked in front of a mirror can be a conflict-ridden experience. We may try to convince our partner that sex is more intimate with the lights off, or more novel with our dress still on, or that we don’t want to go on top for reasons other than our tummy. Sure, it’s one thing to feel confident in a flattering outfit. It’s another to be confident in lingerie or in the buff. Well, if you’re practicing yoga, you’re off to a good start: Several studies have shown that people who have a regular yoga practice are less likely to struggle with body-image issues and disordered eating; they are less likely to participate in what researchers call self-objectification; and they are more likely to feel connected to and confident with their bodies. So get bendy! And if you’re still feeling shy about rocking your birthday suit in front of your lucky lover, here are 10 more tips for doing it with the lights on:
1. Focus on ability and functionality, rather than appearance. If you’re able-bodied, practice gratitude for that. Think about how incredible it is that we are these biomechanical beings that can bend and run and dance and strut. Now dance and strut!
2. Do number 1. To empowering music. In front of a mirror. Naked.
**3. Three things: Exfoliate, moisturize, bronze. **All-natural and organic, of course. Healthy glow=good. Carcinogens=bad.
4. Find clothes that fit and flatter. Remember, no one can tell what size you’re wearing, but they likely can tell if you’re squeezed into something too small for you. If you anticipate losing weight, you can always get smaller garments in a few months.
**5. Befriend your soft spots. **You have two options: You can despise, detest, and reject your soft spots, your less-than perfect breasts, and your sagging skin; or, you can embrace the imperfections. You change the word “fat” from an adjective to a noun. You can recognize the vital role it plays in your health, comfort, and fertility. You can thank it for allowing you to sit without pain, and you can thank your body for being so efficient at holding onto calories (survival of the fittest! What did you think “fit” meant?). You can smile at your wrinkles, stretch marks, moles and scars, and think about the stories each would tell if it could talk.
6. Let go of expectation and pretend you know what you’re doing. Your partner can only read you from what he or she sees (and as far as they’re concerned, you’re the furthest thing from underconfident). As the saying goes, “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
7. Remind yourself that the models, actors and people in the media who set the standard are not the norm. That is their career. Their income is based on achieving and maintaining a freakishly “perfect” (by western standards) appearance. That is not the rest of the world’s job. It’s probably not your job. So take some of that pressure off. Phew.
8. Anxiety comes from uncertainty. Experience and familiarity builds confidence. Lock the door, turn up the heat, and spend some quality time doing everything in your house/apartment naked. Just make sure the blinds are closed, first, and warn your roommate, or else they might think you’ve lost it. Oh, and maybe avoid opening pickle jars in front your partner in the beginning (Seinfeld, anyone? No?). Want to really dive into your fear? Sign up to be a nude model for an art class. Now THAT’S exposure therapy!
9. Your partner probably isn’t Ryan Gosling (and if he is please ask him why he won’t return my calls). But seriously, they have their imperfections, too. If that doesn’t seem apparent, physically, know that they still have insecurities about parts of themselves, physical, emotional, mental—everyone does. Some are just better at self-acceptance than others.
10. Your lucky partner is pumped to be there. Let me ask you this: When in the history of ever has one partner watched the other disrobe then said, “Sorry. I actually don’t want to have sex with you, now. I expected you to look different underneath your clothes”? My point exactly. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re going to be naked in front of the privileged other, they’re going to be far more turned off by your distracted attempts to contort yourself into a flattering position or refusal to be anywhere but concealed under several blankets. The hard part’s over! Now have some (safe) fun!
Naljor: A Buddhist Approach to Yoga
The current popularity of yoga stands at all time high in the 5,000 years of its existence. Numerous celebrity endorsements, features in mainstream media, and the proliferation of online resources have introduced millions of people to the potential benefits of a regular practice. As a consequence, people around the world are picking up yoga mats and heading down to their local studios for weekly rounds of sun-salutations and warrior’s poses in the hopes of achieving stress relief, balance and improvements in overall health and well being.
Of course, anyone who spends time on the mat realizes that yoga is about much more than just the poses. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras define yoga as a “cessation of vacillation of thought”. Other translations include “yoking” or “union”. That which must be yoked or harnessed, according to the late yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein “is attention, which ordinarily flits from object to object”. The ability to concentrate attention is what allows the yogi to work directly with the mind and ultimately to unify the lower self with the higher self.
The Golden Statue Wrapped in Rags
Tibetan Buddhist practitioners define yoga slightly differently than their Hindu counterparts. The word yoga, according to the Tibetan Buddhist Master Namkhai Norbu is rendered “naljor” in Tibetan. According to Norbu, “nal literally means original or authentic and jor means to discover or possess this condition. Accordingly, the meaning of naljor is to discover our real condition.”
The story of the “Golden Statue Wrapped in Rags”, which can be found in Arya Maitreya’s “Uttara Tantra”, illustrates this process of inner discovery through metaphor:
A god, having discovered by the road a precious [statue] of a Tathagata [Buddha] all wrapped in smelly tattered rags, would tell someone the fact of it lying there at the roadside, so that it might be recovered. Similarly, when the Buddhas, of unhindered vision, see the very substance of the Tathagatas [Buddhas] even in animals present but wrapped within the envelope of defilement, they also show the means by which it may be set free.
Encountering The Buddha Within
In Buddhist practice, there are many Buddhas, some male and some female. However, these Buddhas are not representative of an external God or object of worship – rather, they serve as a symbolic representation of our own inner potentialities for limitless wisdom, love and compassion. Collectively these qualities are known as our Buddha nature.
Our Buddha nature is pure and beautiful – much like a golden statue. When our mind is untroubled, our body is relaxed, and our breath is calm and quiet, we can sometimes even catch a glimpse of the Buddha within. As we come to rest in the quiet of our inner space, we quite naturally and spontaneously find ourselves able to feel more open, loving and able to see things from a broader perspective.
Unfortunately, the converse is also true. When we’re stressed out or threatened in some way, or when we have a lot of mental chatter, we can also see that we have the potential for hatred, obsessiveness, ignorance and many other destructive emotions within us. In many ways, these destructive emotions are very similar to a set of “tattered rags” that obscure our inner potentialities.
If these destructive emotions become strong enough, they can make it difficult to make meaningful contact with our Buddha nature. In fact, if our minds are deeply obscured by destructive emotions, those emotions can even make us forget that we, or others, have a Buddha Nature at all.
The Buddha is Present in Every Living Being
According to the metaphor, a God, or a Buddha has the divine vision and wisdom necessary to see that the mind of every living life form is ultimately pure. Supported by this vision, the gods and the Buddhas are able to see beyond our obscurations in order to ascertain our true inner value.
According to Tibetan Buddhist teacher Thrangu Rinpoche, the Buddhas in particular remind us that we should “remove the tattered rags so the Buddha nature can manifest in its complete purity”.
How Do We Uncover the Golden Statue?
In order to “remove the tattered rags”, a yogi or yogini in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition practices naljor. In this context, naljor (or yoga) refers to the methods employed during the process of purification. In order to be considered authentic, these purification practices have to come from an enlightened source – namely a Buddha that originally achieved enlightenment through their practice.
Naljor: A Diverse Set of Practices
The yoga utilized in naljor practice can generally be categorized in three separate ways.
Practices for the Body
Many emotional obscurations can be linked to energetic blockages and damage to our energetic channels (nadis). When a yogi or yogini experiences ill health emotional disturbances, or difficulties in meditation, physical asanas can be used to move energy and repair damage to the energy system. In my tradition, these techniques are called “Mangalam Yantra Yoga”. Some schools also refer to these techniques as “Trul Khor” or the magical wheel.
Practices for Speech
Breath is life and the wind that gives voice to our speech. As such, purification of speech is heavily dependent on conscious breathing exercises (Vayu Yogas) and the repetition of mantra.
Practices for the Mind
In naljor practice, meditation serves as one of the primary yogas used to purify the mind. At the initial stages of practice, one uses concentration to create a calm abiding state of mind (shamatha) to develop deeper insights into the true nature of the self and external reality (vipassana). In addition, naljor practitioners also use meditation to cultivate the altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings (Bodhichitta). Typically, this is done by meditating on loving kindness, compassion and giving and taking (tong len).
At the higher stages of practice, a yogi/ni learns how to meditate directly on the Buddha within by visualizing themselves as a Buddha. It is said that by practicing visualization in this way, the immense qualities of the Buddha can arise within a practitioner within one single lifetime.
Yoga All Day Every Day
Naljor practices are designed to be fully integrated into all aspects of daily life. Some are practiced during waking hours, and others, such as dream yoga are practiced during sleep. Ultimately, when these techniques are blended with daily living, naljor becomes a 24-hour per day practice that can be extended over a lifetime.
By practicing in this way, every moment becomes an opportunity for positive transformation and awakening.
Does Buddhism Belong in a Yoga Class?
These days, most people associate yoga techniques with “Hindu” yoga practices. This is partly due to the fact that many of the modern yoga teachers responsible for popularizing the practice were Hindu practitioners, such as Parahahansa Yogananda, B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. As a consequence, many people have come to think of yoga as a distinctly Hindu discipline.
While it’s true that many yoga practices can be traced to Hindu origins, there are also yoga practices with Jain and Buddhist roots. According to the contemporary Buddhist Master H.H. the Sakya Trizin, yogic practices were used by practitioners from both Buddhist and Hindu religions in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. and reached their peak in India in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Fortunately, early yogic practitioners from Hindu and Buddhist lineages were not hindered by differences in their respective traditions. In fact, H.H. the Sakya Trizin states that “they were not interested in labels, any more that a nuclear physicist cares about his nationality when he compares notes with a foreign colleague.”
Since these practitioners were primarily interested in meditative realization, they regularly interacted with one another and regularly debated on the effectiveness of their methods and techniques. In fact, one of the earliest recognized figures in Hatha Yoga, the MahaSiddha Gorakshanath, is known to have practiced both Hindu and Buddhist yogas.
Thus, the exchange of ideas between Buddhist and Hindu yoga practitioners is nothing new and has been an accepted practice for centuries. In fact, it is widely known that T. Krishnamacharya himself, the teacher of both Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, traveled to Tibet in order to study yoga directly with a Tibetan Guru for over seven years in the early part of the 20th century.
Empowerment and Introduction to the Buddha Nature
Traditional naljor practices are typically done as a daily practice (sadhana). A sadhana is an incredibly powerful tool, and one of the most sophisticated methods of physical and psychological transformation ever taught. When practiced daily in its unaltered form, the potential for transformation, insight and healing that it unleashes is unparalleled.
Most sadhana practices are secret practices that are transmitted directly from a Buddhist meditation master (Vajra master) to a student in the form of a ritualized ceremony called an empowerment (abhishekha). During the empowerment, the Vajra master symbolically introduces a student to his or her Buddha nature, confers a mantra, and extends permission to undertake yoga practices associated with a particular Buddha or Buddha family.
Naljor-Inspired Yoga Practice
Traditionally, undertaking the empowerment ritual requires a formalized commitment to Buddhist practice and study, the undertaking of vows, and a commitment to serve the lineage from which the practice derives. This is not always possible for a number of reasons.
If you wish to explore a naljor practice inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, explore David’s four-video practice (coming soon).
Each video in the series begins with a simple breathing exercise to purify your speech, continues on to a set of simple physical poses designed to release physical blockages from your body and ends with a traditional meditation from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to purify the mind.
Accessible Practices for Everyone
While the breathing exercises and physical practices contained in these videos are drawn from common, every day yoga techniques that you may be familiar with, the meditations themselves are drawn directly from Buddhist contemplations which can be found in many traditional sadhanas. Practicing these meditations requires no formal commitment, and their focus on the cultivation of very human qualities such as love and compassion makes them applicable to practitioners from all faith and backgrounds.
These profound contemplations will guide you through the process of mental purification and will connect to yourself and others in a genuine and meaningful way. Over time, these powerful practices will help you make contact with the Buddha within and will help you begin the process of uncovering the limitless love, compassion and wisdom that exists within all living beings.
May your practice bring you peace.