Ayurveda stresses maintaining the health and vitality of the reproductive system. This is not simply to allow for a better sex life. It is also to afford greater vitality for the body as a whole and for the nervous system specifically. Sexual energy can become creative energy and facilitate mental or spiritual work. Many yogis use herbs for the reproductive system for this general energizing effect. Such herbs enhance Ojas, our underlying vital essence; they do not irritate the sexual nerves or promote unwanted sexual activity.
Most diseases involve some wrong use of sexual energy because sexual energy is the primary energy of both body and mind. Most psychological disorders are based upon an inability to form right relationships and are largely sexual in origin. Therefore, the right use of sexual energy is a key to physical and mental health.
Our highly sexually oriented culture is suspicious of any weakening of the sexual drive. Lack of interest in sex, however, is not always a sign of disease. It can be a sign of the development of higher consciousness, with the awakening of detachment. It may be a sign of good health. Toxins in the system irritate the nerves, creating a sexual drive not easy to satisfy. In a body free of toxins the sexual drive is mild and easy to satisfy.
It is natural for interest in sex to decline with age. Constant preoccupation with sex is not necessary; nor is it the highest human good. This does not mean there is anything wrong about sex; it has its place in nature. Guilt and shame about sex causes more problems than it solves.
On the other hand, increased sex drive is not necessarily a sign of poor health or lack of spiritual development the awakening of the subtle energies of the mind, stimulating the lower chakras, can increase both the sexual drive and mental creativity.
This, however, can cause health disorders if not managed properly; or if not transmuted it can be difficult to deal with.
Moreover, abstinence from sex can be a causative factor in disease. If the energy is merely repressed, vitality can stagnate and weaken. For this reason, sexual abstinence usually requires some use of asana, pranayama and meditation to turn it into a positive force. Sex is a creative force that must be used, and that if turned inwardly can transform our consciousness.
Excessive sexual activity causes Vata and Pitta disorders because it depletes the essence of water from the body. It weakens the immune system and makes us susceptible to infectious diseases. Toxins transmitted through sexual secretions can circumvent our defenses and directly lodge in our deepest tissues. Sex without love depletes the vitality and deranges the emotions, causing many human problems.
According to Ayurveda, masturbation can cause diseases because it does not provide the emotional and energy exchange to maintain balance in the system. Disrupting balance, it aggravates Vata. Overstimulating the imagination, it can make us vulnerable to negative psychic or astral forces. Ayurveda also sees homosexual activity as more likely to cause disease than heterosexual activity. It does not create a natural balancing of the system because the two physical and emotional bodies are of the same polarity.
Vata constitutions have the greatest interest in sex but the lowest vitality for it. They are most easily fatigued by sex. They are also more likely to have different or deviant sexual patterns. Kapha types have the best sexual vitality with continuous but moderate interest. For them the family life as a whole is important and sexual activity is seldom exhausting. Pitta falls between with the drama and passion of sex the main things for them.
Vatas need partners who are calming and nourishing to them and help ground them. Love makes them flower and feel secure. Generally Vata people need a Kapha influence in the people around them to keep them in balance. Pittas require partners whom they can work together with to achieve a common cause. They benefit from some Kapha around them to cool them down and counter their anger Kaphas need partners who help stimulate them and get them going. For this they need Pitta or Vata energy to balance their heaviness and inertia. However, relationship as a whole is a way of increasing Kapha which is love, caring and attachment.
Seasonally, sexual activity is best in the winter and spring when Kapha predominates. At this time reproductive secretions are higher. Sexual activity is more depleting in the summer and foil, in Pitta and Vata seasons, when reproductive secretions are low. It is better done at night than during the day when the body’s energies are internalized Sexual energy is also higher when the moon is waxing than when it is waning. Sex is not advisable during a woman’s menstrual period, in which Apana Vayu is active and pushes the life-force downward.
Sexual Abstinence (Brahmacharya Chikitsa)
Abstinence from sex is an important therapy for treating many diseases. It is helpful whenever there is debility, emaciation or underweight, or in convalescence. It is a major part of tonification therapy. Abstinence is valuable in treating mental and nervous system disorders because the extra sexual fluid can lubricate and nourish the nerve tissue.
Abstinence from sex naturally occurs in acute disease conditions like fevers. Disease lowers our interest in sex and causes us to preserve our vitality. Increased sexual activity, on the other hand, is used to treat Kapha diseases such as obesity and has its therapeutic value as well. However, one must discriminate between abstinence as a temporary treatment measure and forced abstinence that can lead to emotional unhappiness. As a therapeutic measure it is only necessary for the term of treatment.
Sexual activity easily increases rajas and tamas, disturbance and dullness in the mind, and reduces sattva, the mental clarity. Therefore, the system of Yoga emphasizes ‘brahmacharya’, control of one’s creative energy through transmutation of the sexual force, as one of the main factors for spiritual development. Such a long-term abstinence is not necessary for ordinary health. It is a special practice for those who want to transcend the ordinary human condition.