The subject of Sexual Yoga (Paired Cultivation) is one that can be traced back to the early history of Daoism. It has also at times been controversial. The controversial aspects really stems from shifting social attitudes, this was particularly true when Confucianism was at its height.
What Sexual Yoga actually consisted of has changed over the centuries. Early texts excavated recently show that the initial emphasis was to develop a state of mindfulness during sex. The emphasis, for men, was to learn to delay ejaculation for a long period of time, but it should be noted that the aim was NOT to avoid ejaculation completely. The prevention of ejaculation became an aim in later times it can be considered to be an error in practise, simply because it clearly isn’t a natural thing to do. Strange theories claiming that seminal fluid was somehow circulated around the body and stored in the brain were created to justify the idea of totally preventing ejaculation.
The primary aim for both the male and female was to enhance arousal and maintain arousal for extended period of time. The belief being that the energy generated during the state of heightened arousal nourishes and replenishes the body. So early ejaculation for the man would diminish the level of arousal and because seminal fluid is seen as being a highly refined form of fluid (Jing), losing it before the body has benefited from the energy boost of arousal would result in the man’s body experienced a loss rather than a gain in energy.
A more advanced level requires that both male and female be accomplished in energy cultivation and meditation techniques that promote energy circulation around the body, the aim being that after a state of arousal has been achieved in both parties and maintained, both male and female would then enter a meditative state and circulate their energy, this results in both parties heightening and balancing their energy levels simultaneously. A level of accomplishment in Dao Yin provides a strong basis for Sexual Yoga.
Sexual Yoga does not necessarily have to involve sexual intercourse. A paired cultivation session would usually start with extensive mutual massages. Massage not only enables you to increase your partners sexual energy levels, it is particularly useful in learning to tune into your partner’s level of arousal, whereas a beginner can lose sight of this due to their own arousal if engaged in the full sexual act.
Therefore a practitioner may choose to engage in massage only and not progress onto the full sexual act, as massage, although still intimate, does not require the level of personal closeness that most people find necessary to engage in the full sexual act.
Inevitably, methods of enhancing sexual performance and enjoyment gained an audience beyond Daoist practitioners. Some of the skills were particularly popular amongst leaders and wealthy
individuals (men) who had a large number of concubines. In this context the skill was generally referred to as bedroom arts and there was no thought about energy cultivation or circulation.
Not surprisingly even in these supposedly free and open times there is still a great deal of judgementalism and Judeo Christian guilt connected with sex and the enjoyment of sex, so a degree of discretion is still required and sensitivity to the beliefs and attitudes of individuals and wider society as a whole.
It is crucial to reject this judgementalism and recognise that humans are sexual creatures. As such a healthy sex life is an essential aspect of a person's self identity and therefore it is a core aspect of both mental and physical health.