Please forgive the absurd title here … its just a play on words from a flabby, middle-aged science geek who is as alluring to “the ladies” as an old leather boot.
Like a lot of males (with active fantasy lives I suppose), my interest was piqued by the recent headline, “What Do Women Really Want? Oxytocin” – based on a recent lecture at this years Society for Neuroscience annual conference.
Oxytocin is a small hormone that also modulates brain activity. Many have referred it as the “Love Hormone” because it is released into the female brain during breastfeeding (where moms report feeling inextricably drawn to their infants), orgasm and other trust-building and social bonding experiences. So, the premise of the title (from the male point of view), is a fairly simplistic – but futile – effort to circumvent the whole “social interaction thing” and reduce dating down to handy ways of raising oxytocin levels in females (voila! happier females more prone to social (ahem) bonding).
Of course, Mother Nature is not stupid. Unless you are an infant, there is no “increase in oxytocin” without a prior “social bonding or shared social experience”. Mother Nature has the upper hand here … no physical bonding without social binding first!
So, what the heck does this have to do with yoga? Yes, its true that yoga studios are packed with friendly, health conscious females, but, the practice is mainly a solitary endeavor. Aside from the chatter before and after class, and the small amount of oxytocin that is released during exercise, there is no social bonding going on that would release the so-called “love hormone”. Thus, even though “women want yoga”, yoga class may not be the ideal location to “score with chicks”.
However, there may be one aspect of yoga practice that can facilitate social bonding (and hence oxytocin release). One benefit of a yoga practice (as covered here, here) is an increased ability to “be present” – an improved ability to pay closer attention to your own thoughts and feelings, and also, the thoughts and feelings of another person.
The scientific literature is fairly rich in research showing a close relationship between attention, shared- or joint-attention, trust and oxytocin, and the idea is pretty obvious. If you are really paying attention to the other person, and paying attention to your shared experience in the moment, the social bond will be stronger, more enjoyable and longer-lasting. Right?
Soooo – if you want the oxytocin to flow – look your partner in the eye, listen to their thoughts, listen to your own reactions, listen to, and feel their breath as it intermingles with your own, feel their feelings and your own, slow-down and enjoy the minute details of the whole experience and be “right there, right now” with them. Even if you’ve been with the same person for 40 years, each moment will be new and interesting.
Yoga will teach you how to do this.