We’ve all heard about the importance of mindfulness — being more aware of the present moment and living life with intention — and now that practice has spilled over to the bedroom. As women continue to live and love on their terms, we’ve entered an era of sexual empowerment. And that begins with being more mindful of your body, relationships, and sex drive. To help you step fully into your sexual power and start having the best sex of your life, discover how to cultivate sexual mindfulness.
Meet the Experts
Sapna Palep, M.D., MBA, is co-CEO and owner of Journelle.
Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D., is an intimacy expert, sex coach, and author of "From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women."
Diana Leon, M.D., FACOG, is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Long Island, New York.
What Is Sexual Mindfulness?
Sexual mindfulness begins with giving yourself permission to feel worthy of love and great sex and to let go of any feelings of shame. It is about considering sex as an invitation to explore the mystery while being fully present in the moment and immersing yourself in the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing — with a partner or on your own. We are, after all, all sexual creatures and sex is a wonderful part of life that is also good for your health. And there’s no denying that feeling sexual feels powerful — that neurochemical cocktail of feeling turned on makes us feel more confident and vital.
What Is Fueling Our Newfound Lust?
If burning our bras was the first step toward female empowerment, today’s new breed of feminists are now embracing sexy lingerie, sex toys, and their body like a badge of honor. We only need to look at the rise of brands disrupting the intimates market like Skims, Harper Wilde, Journelle, and Cuup, by marrying style with support and most importantly comfort thanks to innovative designs, inclusive sizing and colors, luxurious eco-friendly fabrics and clever comfortable construction (adjustable straps on the front, seamless, wire-free, and plenty of smoothing and sculpting). “Sexuality and sensuality is for everyone, no one should feel intimidated in a lingerie store or be wearing pieces that are uncomfortable, restricting or the wrong size,” says Sapna Palep, M.D., MBA, co-CEO and owner of Journelle, a multi-brand lingerie store on a mission to take sexy to every day. (Side note: They also recently introduced a sexual wellness category complete with sex toys). And then of course there’s Gwyneth Paltrow who gave us Goop’s “This Candle Smells Like My Vagina” and the Viva La Vulva Vibrator, in celebration of female anatomy paving the way for our new found lust for self-pleasure and empowerment.
Smashing Through the Sexual Ceiling
If you’re out there in the dating app game, you’ve probably suffered your fair share of ghosting, dating disasters, and burnout. Add to that that sadly many women — and we’re generalizing here — were raised in an era where there was a lot of shame surrounding sex and intimacy, our body, and its natural urges. “It’s time to shine a light on what is holding us back sexually and know that we don’t have to define our sexual experiences anymore,” says Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D. (best known as Dr. Jenn), intimacy expert, sex coach, and author of From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women.
To do this first mindfully, Dr. Jenn advises reflecting on the messages you received in childhood and your early experiences around sexuality, body image, and intimacy, and recognize that these don’t work for you today. Then examine your current relationships: What are your patterns? When do you shut down? When do you want to numb or distract yourself? Mindfulness is about taking ownership of those interpretations and your emotions and where you feel them. Then opening up with your partner and speaking from a place of vulnerability and authenticity and creating a safe space for your partner to do the same. Lastly, pay attention to your sexual encounters mindfully. Do you have body image concerns or performance anxiety? Maybe you’re worried it’s taking too long for you to come. You can acknowledge these thoughts then choose to bring yourself back to the moment with your partner — that’s when you experience real emotional intimacy and that in itself is very sexy.
Conscious Sexual Coupling
Cultivating sexual mindfulness and having a sensual, intimate experience is the opposite of “wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” In fact it doesn’t even have to involve sex. Start a sexual encounter by just looking into each other’s eyes and breathing in sync for a couple of minutes, and then lightly start touching each other’s arms and face. Any time you notice that you’re distracted (or afraid of feeling this vulnerable), acknowledge that thought or feeling and bring your focus back to your five senses and the emotional connection you’re sharing with yourself at that moment.
Cultivating this skill of presence, focus, and connection helps you better attune to what’s happening inside of you and also what’s happening with your partner. Over time you can bring this level of awareness into experiencing pleasure and giving pleasure, asking for what you want, being curious about their needs without shame or blame and enjoying yourself and each other more. Now look at passion levels. Are you lacking desire? Feeling neglected or pushed? Many people don’t feel horny when they’re stressed or not feeling present or confident in their sexual body. If that’s the case, try a melting hug, hold each other while taking deep breaths together, and literally feel your chests melting together. This creates this little sacred little moment to prioritize connection in your relationship. Sexual feelings will grow from there — we promise.
The Art of Self Pleasure
Perhaps unsurprisingly, spending so much alone time during the pandemic also awakened our desires and led to a sharp spike in the sale of vibrators. And thankfully the sex toy industry has also undergone an awakening. Dame is a burgeoning sexual wellness brand created by a sexologist who aims to inspire women to take matters into their own hands to end the “pleasure gap” — the disparity that has long existed between women and men around sexual pleasure. Dr. Jenn is also an advocate for masturbation and well, there’s no arguments here. Her advice here is to slow down and explore your body more and perhaps experiment with new sex toys. That way you may learn some new things about your sexual responsiveness. For women who want to experience masturbation in a more meditative, mindful manner, Dr. Jenn has also designed a guided visualization which you can download for free here. And if you don’t actually own a vibrator, it’s time to get your buzz on. In addition to Dame, there are plenty of new age vibrator and sex toy brands — like Goop, Lelo, We-Vibe, and Magic Wand — that have mastered the art of female self-pleasure and toe-curling orgasms with stylish, discreet designs. And let’s face it, once you intimately know your erogenous zones and what really gets you off, you’ll be able to explain it easily and guilt-free to your partner.
Vagina, Vagina, Vagina
Being sexually mindful and embracing fun toys is all great but women aren’t stopping there. Dr Palep is also a dermatologist who specializes in vaginal reconstruction, and says more women are coming to her than ever before to have the procedure: “Women are out to seize the day and are freely having more open, shame-free conversations. Vagina reconstruction is liberating for women who have felt insecure about their vagina postpartum, post surgical or generally.” To that end, Dr. Palep is incorporating her education and practice in dermatology into her philosophy at Journelle, creating products inspired by the latest trends in medical and cosmetic dermatology and marrying the dressing room and exam room into a single comfortable experience. Also championing sexual health wellness is Diana Leon, M.D., FACOG, an obstetrician-gynecologist who offers a revolutionary, non-invasive treatment at her Long Island, N.Y. clinic that incorporates sound waves to change how women orgasm, making sex more enjoyable, less painful, and improving orgasm frequency and intensity. “So many women who don’t orgasm and enjoy a full sex life and are embarrassed to address it, are worried that there is no solution, or that the solution involves an invasive procedure,” says Dr. Leon.
Well if all that has you all hot and steamy, go forth and get jiggy. Here’s to having more mind blowing, mindful sex to infinity and beyond.
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