The Ayurvedic View of Sex

By Durgadas, Veda Kovid, AYT
Ayu. Clin, Ayu. Pharm, AMPKT, AMBT, ALC

(c) Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham / Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd.

All Rights reserved.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any manner, except by direct permission from the author.

Information provided in this article is purely for educational purposes alone and is not intended to prescribe, treat or diagnose or act as a supplement for licensed medical advise and treatment by a Licensed Medical Professional. One should always consult their primary health-care adviser / Licensed Medical Professional for all health concerns.


Sexuality is a most often shunned topic within Yogic circles, or is taken completely out of context due to the modern-day excesses of our materialistic culture that seeks to equate ancient methods of sexual sublimation (brahmacharya) or transformative yogic practices with forceful practices that in either way, can cause issues to the mind-body complex in Ayurveda and also Yoga.

Sex is best during winter to help reduce phlegm (kapha) as a form of vyayama or exercise. In spring it can be moderated but tends to dry the body too much and aggravate vata and pitta in autumn and summer respectively.

The seasons according to the Indian system differ from the west in that India has six seasons that do not directly correlate to the west. However, summer generally increases heat and air (pitta and vata) and hence sex in summer is best avoided by both males and those in older-age, who can suffer more as a result of this seasonal change. It is best to take some kind of tonifying therapy however during the period of sexual activity.

Herbs such as ashwagandha, bala and kapikacchu along with mild spices (as black pepper and ginger for digestibility) can be added to goat-meat soups or chicken-broth soups as aphrodisiacs to help strengthen the sexual systems and provide strength and vitality to the body in weaker constitutions. Alchemical or rasa formulas such as makardhwaj, swarna (gold) bhasma, heeraka (diamond) bhasma etc. are also useful to tonify the system; pravala bhasma (coral calx) can also be used to tonify the semen and also stop bleeding and burning sensations (in cases of infection).

Vaginal sex is the natural form of sex between the male and female as the exchange of the yang and yin forces. The shukravahasrotas or male reproductive system and shukra-dhatu or seminal fluid is more kapha (phlegmatic or sticky) in nature whereas the artavavahasrotas  or female reproductive system is more pitta (bilious) as related to raktadhatu or the blood (the fourth dosha in the Sushruta school as in Hippocratic Greek medicine).

From this perspective, diseases are much less likely to arise in Ayurveda (apart from STIs of course) with a natural interchange of these forces via the natural routes or forcefully displacing natural flow within the srotas or channel systems causing srotavyadhi or vitiation of the srotas and also upadoshavyadhi or vitiation of the sub-doshas and organs related to such.

Historically, Ayurveda actually sees deviant practices such as homosexuality and bisexuality as genetic factors and as a result of incorrect coitus and other factors.

Thus, issues such as homosexuality and lesbianism were also viewed more or less, with a rational and medical approach in ancient India. Sushruta Samhita (Sharirasthana – II.38-44) notes of various types of men who cannot get aroused by conventional methods and thus through more homosexual ones, including the kumbhika or one who can become aroused only through anal penetration and the asekya, who can only obtain an erection when performing oral sex on other males. According to Sushruta, this condition is due to the lack of semen from the father at the time of birth. The sandhika is yet another type that is more passive in heterosexual forms of sex and in addition has feminine features and qualities.

Here, the genetic traits are known to manifest in a female,  (Sharirasthana, II.43) if the mother behaves more as a male during the time of conception – thus giving rise to more “masculine” females. Such is also said to be due to foods, lifestyles etc. of parents, which comes out in the child – which again is based more on medical and genetic factors than anything else – which is how enlightened the ancient Hindus were regarding sexuality and viewing it, as we do today, unlike the modern distortions due to Islam and Christianity!

Likewise, Ayurveda considers the other genetic factor in diseases also, including Lesbianism. Charaka (Chikitsasthana, XXX.34) states that lesbianism is due to a genetic factor in which Vata afflicts the ovaries in the embryo, causing this condition. What is striking here is that there is a link, as modern science has shown a higher rate of Polycystic Ovaries among Lesbian as opposed to heterosexual women [1]. The common term used in the texts to describe genetic defects is bijadosha, which literally means “vitiation of the seed”, sometimes translated as a disorder of the ovum.

The classics also mention other genetic diseases, including hereditary diabetes (Charaka, Chikitsasthana, VII.57, note terms kulaja – familial, jatah – genetic and bijadosha – affliction of the seed); piles (Charaka, Chikitsasthana, XIV.5-8) and even disorders relating to the semen and impotency (Charaka, Chikitsasthana, XXX.190). The ancient science of Ayurveda this has a deep understanding of genetic factors and also the doshas causing the afflictions to the sperm and ovum or embryo, thus creating abnormalities in the foetus, but all of this derived from past-life causative factors, not simply random fate or no explanation for this.

Twins and such, as also difficulties in pregnancy are due to previous karmas (Charaka Samhita, Sharirasthana, II.12-16), causing also differentiation in twins and also bad thoughts or actions of the mother. In cases of hermaphrodites etc., Vata gets disturbed and causes disorders, also due to previous actions (further verses 18-21). The cause here is due to one male and one female zygote fusing, which causes an hermaphrodite – which has also been confirmed by modern science!

The third-sex or transexuals and hermaphrodites have hence been known to India for several thousands of years and the hijra or transgendered community in India is well-respected. Ayurvedic herbs that can be possibly useful to people undergoing transitions from female to male are ashwagandha, which has shown to increase testosterone levels [2] and for male to female transitions, shatavari, which has raised estrogen levels [3] in the respective sexes. Further research however needs to be conduced in these areas and such are mentioned only for educational purposes here.

The Kama-Sutra itself, written long before the advent of Islam, let alone Islamic influences in India, like the Ayurvedic Samhitas, notes of homosexuality in various places (Chapter IX, X.35 especially, VI.50 etc.). The texts also mentions that masseurs and hairdressers in ancient India of this category sometimes got married.

Oral and anal sex would tend to cause vayuprakopa or aggravation of udanavayu (in the throat) and apanavayu (in the colon) respectively, leading to various problems such as loss of ojas or vitality (Frawley, 2000, p.265). We can liken these to excess or wrongful practices of pranayama or excess wrongful movement not done therapeutically in excess as vamana (emesis) and basti (douching).

Ojas or vitality is important to retain in the body which is why orgasm wasn’t always the goal of yogis. Yet repressing such without proper training can also lead to shukravahasrota-vyadhi or vitiation of the semen and reproductive system as well, such as seminally-caused kidney stones (shukra ashmari) and painful ejaculation (disturbing vata’s movement forcefully causing it to accumulate).

Those having a healthy sexual appetite should also consider taking herbs such as guduchi, sariva, gokshura, ashwagandha, purnanava or formulas as makaradhwaj in the winter or others such as ashwagandhavaleha, Brahma rasayana and shilajit to preserve ojas and also for good health of the urogenital system in case of accidental STIs. They (gokshura, sariva, shilajit) help maintain proper flow in the urinary tract (mutravahasrotas). Equal parts of gokshura and sariva to two parts of guduchi can be taken daily for this along with shilajit. The herb brahmi is also good for venereal diseases. Gokshuradi guggulu or chandraprabha in purnanava kashaya or gokshura or sariva (anantamula) decoctions and those as chopchinyadi are useful here for clearing venereal diseases, especially syphilis and gonorrhea (in older classics, these are lumped together as upadamsha, while later ones elaborate more upon them). Chandana or sandalwood preparations are also useful for burning sensations along with this. Garlic,neem, turmeric, brahmi and guggulu themselves are also good as anti-septic drugs and sanjivani vati and such can also be useful. Syphilitic ulcers were cleaned with decoctions as triphala and others and treated with other antiseptic formulas as jaythadi ghrita / taila, commonly used for wounds and ulcers due to the antiseptic and vranaropanika (wound-healing) nature.

Here, Ayurveda offers many alternatives to modern preparations taken by people with a higher-risk of HIV infection such as Truvada and PrEP. One should however not substitute any form of modern or ancient medicine for proper safe sexual practice and by having regular tests.

For those performing oral sex (homosexual or heterosexual), though contraindicated in Ayurveda as discussed, one should use decoctions of turmeric, neem and triphala retained in the mouth afterwards to cleanse the oral cavity and dispel any infection that may arise, as well as take such herbs internally to cleanse the system. Guduchi, brahmi or neem (nimba) and anantamula together are excellent here. Proper hygiene here should be administered and such [practices as oral sex] should as noted, really be avoided.

Those sexually active should consider these, in addition to virechana or purgation therapies with triphala, trivrit or castor oil to dispel toxins from the body.

Those performing anal sex should be like all sex, using protective measures as well as the above herbs to reduce infections in case of breakages or accidental transferal of fluids. Anal douching (preferably following up with or using sesame-based oils afterwards, so as not to dry out the colon too much) should also be performed by receivers for proper hygiene as well as against possible yeast infections of partners in cases of accidental tears etc.

Here, hemorrhoids and fistulas can be created and aggravated as a result of damage to this area where the guda marma resides. Damage to this marma through anal sex and also improper enemas and other insertions can create issues as per Ayurveda. Here, anal sex can create constipation or other issues by disturbing proper apanavayu (downward air movement or elimination) flow as noted. Laxatives and corrective apanavayu formulas such as triphala and hingwashtak (for gas) should be taken over sex to eliminate these issues. Formulas as yogaraja guggulu and chandraprabha can also be taken for hemorrhoids, as can hingwashtak or hinguvachadi (for which can also be used to treat yeast infections and difficulty in urination – the two latter correct proper flow of mutra or urine via correcting apanavayu that expels it from the body).

Some aspects of sex such as kink were historically a part of vajikarana or aphrodisiacs to stimulate the sexual urge between partners. Manuals such as the kama-sutra provided both techniques (and aphrodisiac formulas) and also acted as erotica when being read. It was especially useful in societies where arranged marriages were the norm and couples required some kind of erotic stimulation to consummate the marriage and procreate in more spiritual environments (or those which were culturally conservative an acted as an anaphrodisiac due to guilt and shame) – what would later be abused and come to satisfy or replace base human desire through an obsession. Such obsessions are addictions and involve more vata derangement, though forms such as BDSM and more violent aspects (from the administered) are more pitta traits relating to excess fire and should be treated along such lines.

Classical formulas here for reducing excess pitta accumulating in the liver such as sudarshana churna, kumaryasava, arogyavardhini along with formulas for the mind are useful here as also kshaudradha ghrita, shatavari ghrita etc., especially for females. Formulas for the mind should also be adopted – brahmi ghrita (bindu) or kshirabala (avarthana) can be used as a nasya or nasal-therapy here. One should seek to reduce the fire-element in the body and purify it, restoring it back to its sattvic or pure state.

Other aspects such as sexual-magick and other techniques are derived from village-regions of India and other nations that were never part of the mainstream even within Vamachara Tantra or left-hand Tantra and were consider crude systems of indrajala or sorcery and black-magic. They are driven by shakti (power) and raga (passion) and hence their motivation is not considered spiritual or sattvic in Ayurveda and Yoga, but more likely to derange the mental channels with more rajas and tamas or passion and darkness that would give rise to future (current life or next incarnation) sexual desires or even perversions.

Any aspects of violent sex or those for material gain (even moksha or liberation is a desire) for either giver or receiver are harmful to the body as per Ayurveda, relating to wrongful movement of the body or excessive exercise and exertion. The texts warn against this as also forced yogic postures and wrongful use of exercise.

In either case, reduction in the intake of of excess spices and stimulating foods such as meats (most of which are aphrodisiac), garlic, onions, strong spices as ginger, black pepper and chillies should be be checked. Dairy can be taken, sweetened and with sweet spices as cardamon and cinnamon or in the form of Indian chai and help calm the mind and sedate the nerves.

Herbs such as jatamamsi, shankhapushpi, gotu-kula and ashwagandha or old ghee (purana ghrita) can also be taken to soothe the nerves and calm excess movement of vata in the mind that creates over-stimulation and excitement that causes excessive sexual interest or drive ( as vata pushes pitta as the wind pushes a fire and causes it to spread like desire). Nasya or nasal therapies, especially with brahmi ghrita also help, or a head-massage (or pichu) with calming oils as chandana, bala-hatadi, dhanwantara + kshirabala etc. These help keep excess vata in check and by doing so, also pitta.

Meditation is important here for detachment or development of santosha or contentment within the relationship or life. Have pictures of Lord Krishna, Lalita Devi and Lakshmi about that impart grace, serenity and help calm hyperactive and aggressive hot minds. Vata and pitta types should avoid wrathful and even gaseous deities such as Mahakali, Narasimha, Bhairava etc. as these, while useful to create detachment on one hand, can create excess gas and heat in the body on the other by their mantras. Excess prana or vata in the body causes movement of all other doshas and when excess can invade the tissues, driving things out of normalcy.

Various spiritual methods described by Charaka as manonigraha or methods to sublimate the mind from grasping unwholesome impressions. Much depends on cultures here how we implement these – the above being examples of what was employed traditionally in Indian (Hindu and Buddhist) culture.

Other methods such as cooking one’s favourite dish, visiting a friend etc also work. Do what thing you most enjoy – even going and looking at those classic cars that bring joy to your mind! We can do anything that can help take our mind of the sex-act and transform that rajas or creative desire into something more useful, monumental or creative in nature – even taking up hobby classes. Here, both the idle mind and over-active mind can cause problems by allowing in base-desires to take over the mind.

Surround yourself with pleasant aromas and nothing pungent. Rose, sandalwood along with clearing smells as camphor are useful here. Pranayama is also useful as it helps bring in fresh oxygen to oxygenate the blood and mind, as well as purify the manovahasrotas or mental channels of the malas or wastes such as rajas and tamas that have entered it.

Walking in forests and around lakes and mountains also helps – this detaches the mind from the body and helps transfer our focus of beauty all around us in nature rather than sex or desire and obsession for such. It helps is develop that attitude of happiness that we already live in a world that has true love that not be limited to an orgasm!

Here the vrittis or so-called movements of the mind are important, which are not simply whirlpools of thoughts of the mind, but regulating what we take in relative to diet and lifestyle impressions through diet etc that shape us [4].

The later texts that equated the chitta (mind-consciousness) loosely with the mind has created various misunderstandings. It refers to latent vasanas of the past in the chitta or the higher sanchita– or accumulative karmas from past lives.

These don’t usually move and are not of the physical complex (manas) the physical body experiences and are likened to a pot filled with ash which moves upon contact with wind and scatter, leaving a mess everywhere which; the vrittis are also no so much thoughts or waves related to such per se, but are more primal. Vrittis are also not just movements or revolutions, but also coverings and obstructions – that which unleashes the avaranashakti [5] (veiling power of the mind) and cloaks or clogs up and obstructs the lower levels of the mind, especially the buddhi-manas system. Unless addressed,these can cause issues.

Footnotes:
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15533359
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863556/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3869575/
  4. Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana, XXX.32. Chakrapanyabhasyam here connects vritti to ahara or impressions of the body.
  5. Note the author’s book Vivekachudamani Charvari Sutra Bhashya that adds gloss to this system and movements of the mind relative to avarana-shakti
    References:

    Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham: Arya Nyaya Rahasya, Academy of Tradiional Ayurveda, 2015
    Frawley, David: Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide: Lotus Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2000
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