Can Yoga Improve Your Sex Life? A New Study Suggests So

Yoga improves so many aspects of your health and wellbeing, so why not your sex life? Indeed, a new study on the effects of yoga on women with metabolic syndrome suggests that yoga might improve overall sexual function in women.

The study focused specifically on women with metabolic syndrome, who are known to have higher rates of sexual dysfunction, and it’s unknown whether results can be generalized to the general population. Still, the study results are noteworthy. Findings suggest that regular yoga practice could be beneficial to women’s sexual health by improving blood flow and pelvic floor strength, and increasing a sense of wellbeing and mindfulness.

The study is the first comprehensive study of yoga and sexual functioning for woman with metabolic syndrome, Metabolic syndrome is linked to higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and is characterized by a cluster of symptoms, including obesity, hypertension, as well as elevated glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Globally, the prevalence of women with sexual dysfunction is estimated at 40%, but women with metabolic syndrome have considerably higher rates of sexual difficulties.

In the study, a group of South Korean scientists randomly assigned 41 women with metabolic syndrome (30-60 years of age) to either a 12-week biweekly, 1-hour yoga program or a wait-list. Seventeen women in the yoga group and 20 on the wait list completed an assessment before and after the yoga program.  Participants were matched by age, marital status, education, income, menopausal status, smoking, alcohol use, and chronic disease status.

Comparing pre and post-test scores after the study period, the researchers found that women in the yoga group reported statistically significant improvements overall female sexual function following the 12-weeks of yoga classes. They also reported greater levels of change in arousal and lubrication compared to wait list controls.

Interestingly, the women in the yoga group also saw improved scores on several indicators linked to metabolic syndrome. Study results showed improvements in levels of fasting glucose, triglycerides, and HDL-cholesterol, as well as systolic blood pressure. These results are in line with other studies suggesting that yoga may help reduce risk factors for diabetes, and heart disease.

Yoga Postures Used in the Study

To enhance sexual function, the researchers designed the yoga intervention “to develop the strength, flexibility and balance of psychophysical energies in the body based on the teachings of Hatha yoga”. The practices included pranayama (kapalabhati), a yoga asana (posture) sequence, and finished with savasana, or corpse pose, which the authors considered to represent meditation.

The study used a broad variety of yoga poses to improve sexual function, including

  • Forward bends (e.g. bound angle pose, cow-face pose, a wide-angle seated forward fold, and standing forward bend;

  • Backbends (e.g. cobra, locust, and bridge pose);

  • Standing poses (e.g. forward fold and triangle pose);

  • One inversion, as well as plow pose.

A number of poses were selected specifically with the intention of strengthening pelvic floor muscles including cow-face pose, hero pose, locust pose, and bridge pose.

Fourteen poses were held for less than 5 minutes each, followed by 10 minutes of corpse pose. The teacher varied the sequence as needed, and poses were modified for limitations or discomfort.

This practice places a great deal of physical demand and stress relative to most yoga therapy studies, and the use of kapalabhati is generally contraindicated for individuals with hypertension. However, the authors don’t make reference to adverse effects from the practice.

How Might Yoga Improve Sexual Function?

So which are the possible pathways through which yoga improved overall sexual function in the study participants? The authors suggest that the increased mental focus and sense of wellbeing yoga creates might be one pathway. The results support a link between overall wellbeing and sexual health, the researchers note. In addition, the mindfulness skills acquired during yoga practice may offset mental distractions during sexual activity that can otherwise undermine pleasure and satisfaction.  

Further, the researchers suggest, the increased circulation from improved atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries that otherwise reduces blood flow) “may ameliorate the pelvic blood flow leading to engorgement and lubrication of the vagina and vulva. This, in turn, could improve sexual function in women by facilitation of the sexual response cycle”.

Given the short period in which women participated in the study and the lack of long-term follow-up, it is unknown whether or not trends toward improvement in other areas of sexual satisfaction will continue to increase, and whether these results will persist over time.

This is one of the first studies to link regular yoga practice with improved sexual function in women. While the study was conducted with women with a high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, findings suggest that regular yoga may be beneficial to women’s overall sexual health by improving blood flow and pelvic floor strength, and by increasing wellbeing and the ability to be mindful and present.

Given that over one third of women report some level of sexual difficulty, these findings could pave the way for greater sexual fulfillment for healthy women as well.

Source: Ha-Na Kim, MD; Jungsu Ryu, MA;  Kyung-Soo Kim, MD; and Sang-Wook Song, MD.  Effects of Yoga on Sexual Function in Women with Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2013 July 30 (Epub ahead of print) 

Christie Hall began studying yoga in 1995 to cope with crippling back pain. Her home practice started with the book, Yoga: The Iyengar Way. She started teaching in 1997 after studying with Iyengar teacher Karin O’Bannon and she has studied as student and as teacher exclusively with Iyengar teachers, including BKS Iyengar in Colorado in 2005 and Geeta Iyengar in 2007. More of her writings can be found on her blog: Her web site is

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