Yoga and Sensuality: Explore the 5 Senses with Doctor Natiya Guin
Life dazzles with sensuality when we connect to our five senses. Yet when we hear the word sensuality, we often associate it with sexuality, when in fact it is so much more. Learning to nourish each of our five senses can be an adventure in self-care, opening us up to a full expression of every part of who we are. I asked Naturopathic Doctor Natiya Guin to share her wisdom on the subject of self-care and sensuality.
Interview with Doctor Natiya Guin on Yoga and Sensuality
What are your thoughts on the importance of our connection to our sensuality?
When we think about our senses it is important to acknowledge that we experience a duality with sensory input which is happening in the world around us that we respond to, and we also utilize our senses to increase our experiences. As we delve into our senses, we notice that we have the power to choose how we respond to sensory input (the world affecting us) and we also have the power to choose which senses we heighten as we make choices in our own lives (us affecting the world).
Is sensory feedback a choice or is it instinctual?
When we are aware of our experience and we open emotionally, we can more fully experience the world around us. And we can choose how to respond. Instinctually we respond to sounds we hear, lights we see, the smells we take in, the food we taste, and the things we touch. But when we choose to specifically heighten some of these experiences, we have the positive experience of increased sensuality.
How does sensuality go beyond the traditional association with sexuality?
We often think of sensuality as being connected to the person that we have a sexual relationship with, but in actuality, we experience our senses in every connection. An intimate moment with a partner is a simple way to expand on the senses because there is very little outside stimulus. In a quiet shared space partners can increase their sense of sound by only hearing each others’ breathing. Partners are able to be more aware of touch by only having one another’s skin to explore. They can become more aware of smell by using essential oils as they massage. You get the idea.
What if we could take the kind of care and attention that we put into heightening our sensuality with our partner, into our sensory exploration on a daily basis?
Have you ever seen a woman walk down the street and she seems to be enjoying everything more than anyone else you see around you? She has a sway in her step. She is wearing a dress in what must be her favorite color. In her movement you can tell she is loving how the sun she feels on her face, and that she is listening to the sounds of the breeze through the trees lining the avenue, as she takes a bite of strawberry and chews it slowly while smiling to herself?
While everyone else on this same street has their heads down in their cell phones and eating protein bars as quickly as they can while rushing to their next meeting, the woman in her swaying dress seems to have been let in on a secret the rest of us have missed. In actuality, she has just made the choice to take in this moment in time, and experience her senses fully. To be open to her experience, and to choose how to respond using her five senses.
How can we all become more aware of our sensuality in everyday life?
I often ask my clients (and myself) to close their eyes and think about the earlier part of the day, possibly their routine when they woke up, or how they got their kids ready and off to school. Replaying that scene in our mind’s eyes, we can ask ourselves to reflect on it. Could we have tuned outside stimulus down a bit (waited longer to check our cell phones in the morning)? Or could we have hugged our kids more closely before saying, “Wake up, it’s time for school.”
For example, I noticed that I was waking up in the morning and getting into my routine very quickly, allowing in too much outside stimuli, and not controlling my own response. I was feeling the pressure of being a doctor and a mom, and immediately went into business-mode upon waking. One day I realized that I was giving myself a headache each day with this approach. And I really missed my children as I didn’t truly engage with them before sending them off to school.
Now, instead of waking to my alarm and rolling over to immediately check my email and Instagram status and then inching toward the coffee maker, I turn the alarm off. Then I drink a large cup of water I placed by my bed the night before (great for resetting the sense of taste but also resetting metabolism).
I make my way to my three-year-old son where I put my head by his, listen to his sweet sleeping breaths, and then I smell his hair and neck. Next, I make way to my daughters’ room where I take a mental note of the position they are sleeping in because it always makes me smile. (No doubt they have made a 180 degree turn in the night and are drooling on an unsuspecting stuffed animal!) I gently run my index finger along their foreheads to let them know it is a new day and then I head to the coffee machine.
In five minutes, I have experienced all five senses in a beautiful way that starts my day with joy and peace. Had I not made that conscious choice, I may have started my day with the news of people I don’t even know on social media, taken in too much stimuli, and missed the magic right around me.
What many of us forget is that we experience and utilize our senses all day every day from the moment that we wake up and we hear the birds outside, or hear the garbage truck driving by. We take that information in and decide what to do with it. How our senses respond to outside stimuli affects our mood, our health, and our interactions with others.
Please walk us through each of the senses and how we can help choose to awaken them effectively.
Four of our five senses are connected directly to cranial nerves, so it helps to notice that our vision, taste, smell, and hearing immediately affect our brain. Our sense of touch is felt all over the body and is part of the somatosensory system. It is a complex system of neurons and pathways triggered by receptors in the skin, our largest organ. Through our practices, we can connect to all aspects of our sensuality.
Natiya Guin ND is a dedicated mother of three, a passionate yoga photographer and Naturopathic Doctor; encompassing the healing arts with her business Portrait of Health. Natiya’s highly published photography celebrates and shares the stories of health and healing worldwide: natiya.com
Desi Bartlett MS, CPT, has been teaching health and wellness for more than 20 years. Originally from Chicago, she has a degree in kinesiology and her master’s degree in corporate fitness. Desi holds advanced certifications in Yoga, personal training, group fitness, and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist.