Sex on Friday

I Took My Boyfriend to Japanese Bondage Yoga

Japanese bondage yoga
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

These days, there are all kinds of ways to get spiritual while acting badass: beer yoga, pot yoga, naked yoga, and now even yoga of the Japanese bondage variety.

Yup -- Japanese bondage yoga is the latest, greatest, sensual, and erotic craze of the yogi-verse. Otherwise known as shibari yoga, it’s based on the 16th-century Japanese art of knots and ropes (warning: Googling shibari will yield some extremely NSFW images!). Once used by samurais to ensnare their enemies, it’s gained popularity today as a form of seductive BDSM play.

To learn more about this strange cocktail of deep breathing, restraints, and stretching, I signed up for a shibari yoga class in... Berlin.

Here are all the hot, kinky, and kind of embarrassing details:

It’s underground

Berlin is a city renowned for being hedonistic, alternative, and sexually free. So basically, shibari yoga is just another layer of a very dense subculture scene, ranging from sex clubs to techno and provocative art.

My boyfriend and I signed up online for the class and headed to Wedding, a neighborhood in Germany’s capital that’s just verging on trendy-cool while still being touted as sometimes rough. The shibari yoga studio was located in a converted hangar complex: a small, cozy room covered in lime green yoga mats and little, neatly wrapped bundles of rope. In the corner was a table piled with books from Japanese manga to The Erotic Bondage Handbook and My Lesbian Eyes 10 (also, with a lot more NSFW images).

Dasniya, the instructor, introduced herself and we chatted a bit about her life as a ballerina, yogi, and bondage artist. Her father was a Thai monk, so Dasniya grew up meditating and practicing yoga. Eventually, her skill-set evolved into performing. Working BDSM into dance choreography was just an extension of that -- which she said came to her naturally.

“Well," she added, smiling, "I also just like getting tied up.”

With a little help from the instructor, I finally managed to clump together a harness that resembled a saggy baby diaper.

Bondage yoga isn't very sexy at first

Soon enough, my boyfriend and I were sitting next to Dasniya and six other people, watching as she looped a rope around her waist. We were to create nooses and tie ropes around our hips and legs until we'd created a harness from scratch.

Right off the bat, I had to give BDSMers major props. Not only was this all very distressing on my lady bits (with clothes on!), all those knots were very difficult to do. I kept getting lost and confused, even acquiring a headache from working and unworking tangled rope like a sailor.

With a little help from the instructor, I finally managed to clump together a harness that resembled a saggy baby diaper. Not exactly turned on just yet, I powered through the process of bracing up ropes around my feet to create more harnesses. We then moved into regular yoga stretches, using the leftover rope on our harnesses to pull us into deeper stretches.

Next were partner exercises, where we were to strike yoga poses and let our other half tie knots all around our body to help us stretch even more.

I hit tree pose, and my boyfriend started wrapping me up. Before long I was laughing, couldn’t breath, and had so much bunched-up rope around my head I looked like Medusa. I toppled over into a twitchy mess across the yoga mat, cackling like a crazy person.

It was around the same time that I heard the sounds of a marching band streaming from a courtyard through the open window. Because there’s nothing more erotic than a tuba solo.

My boyfriend started roping up my hands, before we both got stumped on where to take the knots next.

BDSM can get a little awkward

After a small break for grapes, homemade hummus, and small talk amongst strangers (you know, just the general aphrodisiacs), we got into the knottier stuff.

Dasniya began demonstrating on a friend, starting by tying his hands behind his back until eventually he was lying like a limp fish stuck inside a plastic six-pack ring. “What you can do here is just take a second now and feel their body, the sensation,” Dasniya said quietly, squeezing his mummified arms and legs.

Then she hitched him onto metal hangers and let him dangle from the ceiling for a bit horizontally. Dasniya’s expertise, stealth knotwork, and smooth, calming voice was definitely all hot and inspiring. My boyfriend started roping up my hands, before we both got stumped on where to take the knots next. So we started watching all the pros around us, so mesmerized that it might have just been borderline creepy.

The guy in galaxy print spandex tights next to us was flaunting his skills, alternating between chuckling at his own suggestive jokes and roping up his girlfriend -- a pretty, almost innocent-looking woman who was trying shibari for the very first time -- and before I knew it, he’d somehow worked her head onto my lap.

Across from me, an experienced couple stared into each other’s eyes, looking as though at any second they were about to hump each other. The man had tied a really complex set of knots all around her legs and back, with especially tight ones around her boobs so they stuck out like she was wearing an extra-pointy 1960s bra. It looked freakin’ uncomfortable to be honest with you, but she seemed very hot and bothered.

“You’ve tied it so tight on my pee-pee,” I overheard her whisper, a gigantic smile on her face.

I wondered if it would be inappropriate at this point to go back and hit the hummus table, and just let this woman's head that was still in my lap flop to the floor.

Ultimately, consensual low-level bondage is invigorating

Class ended soon enough, and I was definitely feeling loosened up, uninhibited, and in total awe of BDSMers -- and for that matter, trapeze artists.

Shibari yoga is absolutely an art form, which can be exciting and sensual to watch. You’ve only got to see one of Dasniya’s really interesting art performances to get that -- and on a more personal level, especially when you’ve mastered all the “ins and outs.” As a first-timer trying it out with a partner, it may not be, let’s say, stimulating, for both of you right from the get-go -- but hey, that's why they invented practice.

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Barbara Woolsey is a Berlin-based writer who’ll probably go on to do a boat-knotting class. Follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter.