Somehow, I’ve been blessed with a boyfriend who not only knows how to make crab Rangoon from scratch, but with whom I enjoy a very satisfying sex life. Now that we’re two years into the relationship, though, sometimes when things heat up, I find myself thinking about the work email I should respond to, or the text from my cousin that I’ve ignored for four days, or whether I turned the stove burner off, or what I want for breakfast instead of what I should actually focus on: the sex. It’s not him. It’s me. My mind usually feels too fried to focus on the matter at hand, and it takes me forever to get into it — to the point where I get frustrated and call it off.
So when I learn about a new Sex Meditation series available on the app of NYC meditation studio Inscape, I’m intrigued. The idea behind it stems from “slow sex” — that is, focused, more conscious sex. Even meditation alone can give your love life a boost. “Meditation improves sex in an array of ways, from decreasing stress, increasing the mind-body connection, and by cutting down on something called the ‘I’ll be happy when’ syndrome,” says Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation. “When you stop looking to others for fulfillment and realize that fulfillment lives inside of you, it makes your relationships a lot more enjoyable because you’re approaching them from a place of abundance as opposed to lack.”
Turns out, meditation can lead to better orgasms and deeper emotional connections.
Part of the mind-sex connection concerns stress, which can put a major damper on intimacy. “Studies have found that cortisol levels that are too high can lead to erectile dysfunction for men and can cause women to become physically incapable of orgasm,” Fletcher explains. (Woof.) By easing this stress — and therefore reducing cortisol levels — via meditation, you leave yourself open for more intense or frequent orgasms. Or both!
Meditation can also help you and your partner stay in tune. “It increases something called mirror neuron functioning, which means you’re more likely to be highly attuned to what your partner is feeling,” Fletcher explains. “Mirror neurons are like tiny boomerangs that are emitted from your brain, go off, and dance with your partner’s mirror neurons, and then report back.” Sure, it sounds a little woo-woo, but it’s not: Mirror neurons are the reason you smile when someone smiles at you, and why you cringe when you see someone get hurt.
The science backs it up, too. “Practicing mindfulness improves many domains of sexual response — desire, arousal, orgasm, satisfaction — and even improves physiological sexual response when measured in the laboratory,” says Lori Brotto, Ph.D., a professor at University of British Columbia who’s authored studies on the topic. In one such study, she included relationship measures and found that mindfulness also improved relationship satisfaction.
Sex meditation is supposed to work even better than regular meditation. One thing’s for sure: It gives a whole new meaning to touchy-feely.
In Brotto’s studies, participants used an adaptation of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy specific to sexuality — meaning to reap the scientifically proven benefits, you need to kick up your usual meditation practice with some sexy thinking. So though I already meditate for two to five minutes a day (hey, it’s better than nothing) I decide to try Introduction to Slow Sex and Intimacy. It’s Part 1 of Inscape’s series and promises to help frazzled people “explore our core limitations and identify the shifts needed to open ourselves up to receiving new energy,” according to the brand, and from there, one can move on to Part 2, just for women, Part 3 for men, and Part 4 for couples.
The first meditation is less of a meditation and more of an overview of what we’ll be covering in the next week’s worth of meditation sessions. I honestly can’t focus because all I can think about is how I want to take notes on what we’ll be covering. Type A habits die hard, okay?
Day 2 covers the sex center and entails thinking about it. Day 3 is a 26-minute meditation, which seems like for-ev-er, and frankly I put it off for a few days just because I do not want to do a 26-minute meditation. But the voice guidance and breathing exercises to tune into my body keep things moving (and me, focused) once I actually schedule it in my calendar.
The shorter, 15-minute meditation for day 4 focuses on two areas of the body — the sex center and the heart center — and instructs me to breathe through my mouth. I can’t get on board with the mouth breathing, but I’m into the idea of connecting the two centers. What can I say? There’s a reason that sex comes with a side of oxytocin, aka the love hormone. This seems like a good way to reconnect the two.
Day 5’s meditation focuses on letting go of any shame or discomfort, which seems tailor-made for me, a person who attended Catholic school for 12 years. But what comes to mind as I follow along with the guided mantras is not residual Catholic guilt, but instead what frustrates me about my sex life. Namely, I’m pretty wishy-washy when I don’t actually want to have sex, and sometimes I give in because I feel like I’m supposed to. I just go with it, even if what I really want to do is continue watching ’90s sitcoms. So “I accept that it’s okay to not want to have sex right now” is what I reflect on during this one.
With another 26-minute meditation slotted for day six, I’m thrown off by the initial instruction to remove my clothing if I feel like doing so. (I remain very warm and comfortable in my pajamas, THANK YOU.) The focus today is all about touching yourself, but not in the way you’d think for a sex meditation; rather, it’s about literally feeling yourself with your hands. The instruction starts with pressing my fingertips together, rubbing my arms, and eventually moving down to my legs and feet.
I’m not exactly turned on by this — a potential side effect mentioned in the intro to this exercise — and am a little confused by the suggestion to use a feather during the meditation. The only thing I have on-hand is this old Chinese backscratcher I swiped from my grandparents’ house: Too kinky for me. But overall, it reminded me of a calming yoga practice.
When I see my boyfriend again, it’s finally time to put my learnings to the test.
Before the seventh and final meditation, I see my boyfriend for the first time in a nearly a week. It’s the perfect opportunity to test out what I’ve learned. Reader, it’s GOOD, like all-caps good. Not only is it easier than usual to slow down my mile-a-minute thoughts and focus on the matter at hand, which alone makes it 10 times more enjoyable and intense, but I feel a stronger connection with my boyfriend, too. I think the meditation exercises have made me more aware of what I’m doing and how I’m feeling during sex, which culminate in the best possible payoff.
Later, I interrupt my boyfriend’s video-gaming to see if he wants to do this last practice with me. “What a cringe-y accent,” he says at hearing the voice giving instruction on the app. (We think it’s Australian?) But he closes his eyes and listens to the summary of what we’ve worked on over the past few days, which I know because I peek. This meditation then closes with a lesson on loving your body, appreciating your body, and thanking your body. “That’s it?” he asks afterward. I tell him that there’s a good 26-minute session he can do himself tomorrow.
I liked the series enough that I may start Part 2, designed for female pleasure, this week. Plus, daily meditation is key to keep the benefits going, according to Fletcher. “You wouldn’t go to the gym once, do 15 minutes on the treadmill, and then expect to run a marathon in two weeks,” she explains. “The results are cumulative — and while some benefits are immediate, they won’t last if you stop the practice.”
My only gripe was that I wish that the meditations were shorter, more in the five to 10 minutes range. But hey — at least the time I put in for this particular series was worth it. That’s pretty clear.