Can yoga turn up your sex life? Yes, girl!

Much more than just a yoga teacher, Nadine McNeil is known as the Universal Empress. Spending over 20 years with the United Nations serving in peacekeeping operations laid the foundation for the global yoga guru she is today. The yogini hails from the island of Jamaica and makes Bali, Indonesia her home as well. As she says, “Jamaican by birth and Universal in outlook, Universal Empress is the re-birth of Nadine…”
Nadine wants women of all backgrounds to know that we have a right to pleasure and should enjoy our bodies and our lives more. The world traveler has a multi-dimensional life as a yoga teacher, inspirational speaker and writer, and transformational coach. According to Nadine, yoga could be the key to setting your sex life on fiyyyah! 

Empress Nadine, you are a champion of yoga for everybody. The commodified media image of a yogini is that of a skinny white woman in very expensive yoga-wear. Can you make the case for black women who may be hesitant to try yoga?

Come to Jamaica! We have some of the world’s most extraordinary teachers on the island. And with a national motto that says, “Out of Many One People,” yoga in Jamaica is all about One Love.

It was never my intention to become a yoga teacher. Yoga entered my life serendipitously. I’d been a gym buff for years. And then one day I noticed that while at the gym, I was simply ‘going through the motions.’ I mentioned this to an Australian friend, who suggested that I try yoga. I was living in Holland at the time. Initially, I absolutely loathed the practice but I kept going. As I often share with my students, each time the teacher would invite us to go into downward facing dog, I’d have a mini-anxiety attack.

Anyway, I stayed with the practice and eventually I arrived at a place where I wanted to know more. That led me to India where I did my first teacher training. In my teacher training, there were nearly 300 hundred persons. Only two of us were black — women — with New York city roots. I still vividly remember being given my diploma upon completion of the rigorous program and the guru whispering to me, ‘You must begin teaching immediately.’ I was shocked. 

If budget is a factor, many studios offer community classes as part of their reciprocity; an integral component of the science of yoga. When we [say] yoga changes your life, it’s true. The more you practice and the more self aware you become you’ll begin to make choices that uplift and sustain you. 

Wonderful! Women have all kinds of body image issues. How can yoga help us to fall more deeply in love with ourselves?

I was a very overweight child. At school the other kids called me Humpty Dumpty or Disco Dumpling. The latter name came about because even though I was fat, I could dance like nobody’s business. In fact one of my dreams was to be a dancer. Clearly that dream transcended into my nearly 15-year commitment to yoga. I regard yoga as ‘the way’ to the way. The practice of yoga is as confronting as it is cathartic. The one place that I cannot hide from myself is on my yoga mat. There have been moments of darkness in my life where without my mat, I might have completely lost it. One of the primary tenets of the teachings of yoga is a Sanskrit word ‘ahimsa’ which loosely translates to mean non-violence. 

As women, we have been at war with our bodies for too long; again a battle that’s been waged upon and against us by what the influential media chooses to bombard us with. If you are fighting with yourself and engaging in yoga one of two things will happen: seamlessly there will be a cease-fire within yourself or you will stop practicing. I believe that the continued growth of yoga in our modern world is a direct reflection of a sacred ceasefire happening within ourselves. 

The idea of a “scared ceasefire” within ourselves is transformational by itself. Let’s talk about sacred sexuality. There are many misconceptions about tantra. What is tantra to you?

It is the sacred, it is the divine, it is that which cannot be explained or understood at a third dimensional linear sphere. To even begin to understand the term we must return to its roots — born in the Indian spiritual tradition. Many of the misconceptions that we hold around tantra is a direct result of us attaching tantra to sex. 

Tantra is rooted in intimacy. And intimacy isn’t a prerequisite for the physical act of sex. Intimacy requires vulnerability. Tantra is not just an act, it is a way of being that emerges as we ascend along a spiritual path. Sex when approached from a sacred standpoint, is perhaps the most spiritual rite of passage that one can engage in. As we deepen in self awareness we can learn how to prolong the pleasure of an orgasam through retention. This is tantra.

Lest we forget, the ultimate creation; i.e., the forming of another human being, is born out of an orgasm. So tantra is in essence life, and life is all about relationship — with self and others. 

With your powerful understanding of self-love, body love and pleasure, what can couples do together to be more orgasmic?

Know thyself and take time to get to know and appreciate each other. Perhaps many couples are suffering from ‘orgasmic anxiety.’ I would invite couples to shift their attention from the culminating climax in the act of sex and more toward savoring each and every moment in the process. An orgasmic state is perhaps the sole moment as multi-tasking human beings, that we are 100% present in the moment. When in the act of passion with your partner, be in a state of perpetual orgasm. I assure you that it will take climaxes to exponential heights. In a modern world where EVERYTHING is easy access and quickly available at our fingertips, we may have forgotten that sensuous gift of foreplay. Bring more ambience to the act through candles, scents, food, role-play, music and whispers. Take the time to explore the delicate nuances of your partner. Create moments of silence too — this builds excitement.

I get many emails to my Intimacy Intervention column about “orgasm anxiety.” What yoga moves do you recommend to improve sex lives? 

More than movement, perhaps the most important element of yoga that one can contribute to their sex life is awareness of and understanding of the breath. Breath retention at the brink of an orgasm is immensely tantalizing. Slow, focused breathing allows you to savor the orgasm more. Again by simply putting one’s body into certain yoga postures isn’t going to automatically improve one’s sex life. Like life, yoga is a practice. Of course the more open and flexible one’s body [and mind] is, the deeper the experience of sex becomes. Hip openers are always great and the physical act of sex is the ultimate hip opener!

Yes, goddess! Noted – let’s go deeper. How can readers unblock sacral chakra energy?

The sacral chakra, located just below the navel is considered the seat of creativity. Chakras or subtle energy centers within the body begin within the perineum or cervix and run all the way through to the crown of head. Because chakras are ascending, if the root chakra is blocked it will have an adverse effect on the opening of subsequent chakras. Our root chakra is where we hold all of our stories around family, money, power and sex. If we have encountered any form of abuse in any of these areas of our lives, we will feel it here. Uterine fibroids for example are a telltale sign of blockage in the root chakra. And oftentimes these growths emerge as a result of disappointment in relationships. So again, we return to the practice and process of yoga. Unblocking the seat of sexuality begins at the root. 

Our sacral chakra governs all aspects of creativity — from conception of a child to the conception of an idea. Again I recommend guided meditation and breathwork for opening up the chakras. A simple technique that one can do several times a day, whenever you feeled call to pause is the 4 x 7 breath. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Inhale for a count of 7, hold the breath in for a count of 7, slowly exhale the breath out for a count of 7 and hold the breath out for a count of 7. Begin this exercise by doing 3 rounds and build up from there. Each time you inhale visualise the breath moving up from the base of the body all the way through the crown of the head. Another super fun and energetic way to unlock your sacral chakra is through dance. For me both dance and yoga are my body’s way of being in sacred communion with God. 

Beautiful. Most Americans are not familiar with groundation. Break it down, sis…

The word groundation is a potent one that comes from Rastafari, the spiritual sect within Jamaican culture. Rasta affirm word, sound and power — consciousness in word, thought and deed. Loosely translated, groundation is about connecting deeply to Mother Earth, the source of all life. When we deeply rooted within ourselves and to nature around us, only then are we able to ascend. Groundation involves balance, connection to Source and above all else, love. Alongside Zen Rebel Sienna Creasy, we will be co-teaching our weeklong life transforming workshop Groundation Celebration, a dynamic fusion of yoga, ecstatic dance, meditation and writing, at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts in July 2017.

Awesome. Thank you, Nadine. What else do you want ESSENCE readers to know about love, sex and yoga? 

Everything begins with self and life is a series of interconnectedness. Go inward to appreciate, understand and love yourself. Only then will you emerge like a lotus from the pond, radiant, beautiful and spreading your petals. Stay open to love and love will open to you.