5 Tips for A More Mindful Sensual Experience
We live in a society that is constantly pushing us to go harder, faster, longer. And no, I’m not just talking about sex. Whether it’s our jobs, at home, or even our hobbies, we are continually striving to get better, to go further. We are inundated with messages that tell us to progress, to do more, more, more! It may feel sometimes like we need to be superhuman to even keep up. Often, we get so caught up in reaching our goal that we forget about enjoying the journey, only to find at the end, we’re still not happy. So we set another goal and start the process again.
As it turns out, our hectic lives are a pretty good indication of what’s going on behind our bedroom doors too. Is it any wonder we feel we haven’t found time to really connect with our partner? Is it any wonder sex seems like just another item on the to-do list? That we are too stressed/distracted to achieve that big ‘O’? Is it any wonder we worry we will never feel satisfied or experience a deep and meaningful pleasure?
Luckily, I can offer a few words of comfort and five practical tips to help explore sexual pleasure in a more meaningful way. The good news is that none of us are broken, nor are our intimate relationships in ruins; they were simply set aside as we got caught up in the whirlwind of life. Secondly, adopting these five mindful sexuality strategies will help promote a more mindful and pleasure oriented experience in all your day to day activities.
Yes, it is that simple. When was the last time during foreplay or sex that you really connected with your breath? During sexual activity hormones are flooding our nervous system, blood is being pumped ferociously to our erogenous zones, and we start to quicken our breath. While this is an excellent way to detox the lungs, sometimes we are trying so hard to reach climax that we stop breathing altogether (kind of like when you are holding triangle pose during yoga for the first time and you forget you even have lungs). Before you know it, sex is over and you’re wondering if it was even any good! It was quick, to the point and utterly devoid of mindfulness. Focusing on your breath during sex can help you reclaim that sense of connection to your body, mind, spirit, soul and even partner. Breath, physiologically speaking, is integral to a pleasurable sexual experience; it relaxes our muscles and actually increases blood flow to the genitals, which can result in a more intense and longer lasting orgasm. However, emotionally and spiritually speaking, focusing on our breath reminds us that sex is a beautiful journey; a time to connect, renew, relax and indulge. Try this: During foreplay, lay in spoon position with one of your partner’s hands on your belly and the other on your heart center. Breathe slowly and purposefully. You will feel the day’s tension melt away and you will feel the breath flow to where you need it most. If at anytime during your sexual encounter you start to feel that mad rush to get somewhere, stop and start breathing mindfully with the rhythm of your bodies. Delight in the sensations that you never even noticed before.
2. Look. Don’t touch.
Our eyes are powerful and magical; looking into someone’s eyes can tell you their life’s story, their greatest sorrow or their biggest desire. Eyes are often cited as the most erotic part of the human body, and can offer you the most intimate sexual experience you have ever had, without even getting physical. When was the last time you really looked at your partner? When was the last time you let your partner look at you – with the lights on?Perhaps you have forgotten what a beautiful and magnificent creature you are. Allow me to remind you of your absolute perfection. Really looking at one another during foreplay or sex will force you to ignore the nagging or critical thoughts rushing through your brain and will immediately center you in the present moment. The beautiful moments spent looking into your partner’s eyes gives you access to their soul, allowing you to experience the love and desire they have for you, in turn allowing you to relax and enjoy the moment. Try this: Undress slowly for your partner. Let them look at you. Let them marvel at every inch of your body. Once naked, sit facing each other and spend one minute staring into each other’s eyes with out breaking contact. Allow the feelings of vulnerability to surface, acknowledge them, and let them pass. Maybe you will feel intense desire or maybe you will begin to laugh uncontrollably with your partner. Either way, you will experience an intense sensuality that will likely be more rewarding than a quick-fix romp session.
3. Touch. Don’t look.
Your skin is your largest organ and it is filled with tiny nerve endings everywhere, ready to fire off messages of pleasure to the brain. But often times, most of these sensual spots go unnoticed or unused. Back of your elbows or knees? Fingertips? In between your fingers and toes? Behind the ears? The base of your neck or the top of your bum? When was the last time any of these places received the attention they deserve? Our genitals, nipples and lips get their fair share, but surprisingly, our finger tips are just as packed with nerve endings. I also know of people who cannot get aroused until the backs of their legs are gently stroked. Is it possible that you have a hidden hot spot waiting to be discovered? If we spend the time to explore our naked bodies through touch, we are giving permission to the world around us to slow down. We are proclaiming that our body, our temple, is worthy of pleasure. Try this: Ask your partner to blindfold you (if you feel comfortable with that) and allow them to explore your body through touch. Ask them to massage you, to trail their fingers or tongue all along your body, allow them to kiss your finger tips (and yes even toes) slowly and sensually. Allow them to explore all your nooks and crannies and to keep you guessing as to where they will go next. This results in your whole body entering a heightened state of arousal. You may get goose bumps, and you may make some interesting discoveries. When you are done, be sure to return the favour (bonus points if you use different objects and textures like soft skin brushes, pearls, feathers etc.)
4. Smile and give thanks.
This is a simple one, but it is all too often ignored. We may spend countless dollars on the latest magazine promoting explosive sex, only to be left feeling inadequate and dissatisfied at the end because it fell short on it’s promises. Our insecurity, fueled by the mythical stories of people finding nirvana between the sheets because they finally mastered reverse cowgirl, coupled with unrealistic Hollywood narratives of intensely passionate and ferocious encounters, only leads us into a deeper sense that we are somehow missing out on some big sexual secret. You may start to think you are the only one having slightly awkward functional sex with your socks still on. Hint: you’re not. The only difference between people having miserable sex and people having amazing sex is that the latter half is appreciating their experiences for what they are. It’s no secret that a positive outlook will attract more positivity into your life. The same goes for sex: smiling and giving thanks after each encounter will remind you that there was a part of it that really was enjoyable (you were just too busy focusing on what you “did wrong” and comparing yourself to unattainable ideals). Next time try focusing on all the enjoyable bits of the sexual experience. Reminding yourself about all the possible joys in each encounter will enable you to engage in sexual experiences with less pressure, which in turn will enable you to redefine what it means to have meaningful sex.
5. Don’t orgasm.
You must think I am crazy! Trust me on this one – nothing takes you out of the present moment more than trying to reach a goal. Inevitably, if you are trying to get somewhere, you are likely not paying attention to what is happening in the moment. This is ever so important during sexual activities simply because orgasms can be such powerful experiences; so much so that the smaller pleasures that we experience along the way get ignored and downplayed. This is especially true if we struggle “achieving” that goal; we feel let down, frustrated, guilty and we forget about what a wonderful experience we just shared. When orgasm becomes a by-product of sex, rather than an outcome, we are opening ourselves up to explore our sexuality in a more in depth, all encompassing, curious, and ultimately, more meaningful way. This is especially helpful for people who don’t feel in the mood, are tired, or feel performance anxiety and so avoid sexual intimacy. Try this: Do all the above tips, or pick your favourites, and then make a commitment with your partner to not have a sexual agenda. Instead, focus on sexual play: try new positions, try different paces and rhythms, try different locations, toys, or games, or simply try meditating together during sex by letting your bodies enter into their most intimate position and staying there still and silent until they merge into one. When you don’t have to get anywhere, you learn that exactly where you are is incredibly satisfying.
We all deserve to indulge in sexual and intimate pleasure no matter how busy or rushed we feel. Perhaps we can’t all move to a tropical island to get away from it all, but with a conscious effort, we can create our own paradise or oasis in the comfort of our bed. Allowing ourselves to enter into a sensual sanctuary from time to time will remind us that we are all worthy of pleasure and pampering. No matter how overwhelmed we may feel in life, no matter what we hope for our future, real time only exists in the here and now. Practicing mindfulness in the bedroom gives us the tools and ability to press pause in all aspects of life so that we may actually be able to enjoy the smell of the roses along our way.
The Science of Yoga
Stress has become a way of life. Whether the days are full of multiple goals and endless obligations, traffic jams and transit delays, complex systems of bureaucracy and finance, or an overwhelming array of in-person and virtual relationships, the pace of current human existence is bursting at the seams.
For centuries, sages have relied on yoga to transcend earthly limitations. Each meditative pose is an effort to identify pockets of pain that accumulate inside the body. Each inhale confronts suffering. Each exhale is an attempt to transcend it. Through this process, worry is replaced with loving-kindness.
Now, bodies of research are proving that yoga is more than a niche spiritual force for enlightened beings.
Yoga has the power to heal the world, one human at a time.
The Rise of Yoga
A system of poses, breathing exercises, and meditations that originated in ancient India to inspire physical, mental, and spiritual well-being first started to spread around the world as a form of exercise in the twentieth century.
For decades, in the US, yoga seemed to capture the interests of quirky, white city dwellers and affluent suburbanite moms, but over the last decade, it has expanded from the studio and can currently be found in public parks, hospitals, outpatient clinics, workspaces, elementary schools, military bases, rehab centers, and even airports.
In fact, the 2016 Yoga in America Study commissioned, by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, estimated that more than 36 million people were practicing yoga in the US by 2015, compared to 20.4 million in 2012. A staggering 80 million people are likely to try yoga in 2016.
The Origins of Yoga
Yoga is first mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient collection of Sanskrit poetry that is sacred to the Hindu religion, dating as far back as the second century BCE. Verse 48 of Chapter Two essentially describes yoga as a state of equilibrium.
In the series Introduction to Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman references the authoritative text on yoga to explore what it means to live a yogi life. He teaches that yoga is a path to positive transformation. Through a dedicated yoga practice, one can root out negativity and plant loving kindness. Citing Sutra 1.2, “yoga-citta-vritti-nirodhah,” Bachman describes yoga as a powerful tool for calming the noise.
While the validity of ancient texts may invite skepticism, the first professional-level medical textbook on yoga was released in the US in 2016. In Chapter One, “Introduction to Yoga in Health Care,” licensed medical practitioners recognize the importance of developing habits that balance emotions and modify unhealthy thought-patterns and acknowledge that yoga can play an integral role in preventing disease.