Pleasure in Chronic Pain: Simple Mindfulness Techniques for Better Sex

Do you ever find yourself distracted during sexy time? Maybe you’re in the moment, totally enjoying yourself when suddenly you start thinking about your to-do list. This is something almost everyone struggles with. Taking time for sex, pleasure, and self-care can feel frivolous or selfish even. At the same time, you know good sex (whatever that means to you!) is a key component to any relationship. So what happens when you just can’t let go?

That’s where mindfulness comes in. Whether its regular stress that’s got you down, a major life change, or dealing with chronic health issues like me, practicing mindfulness is one key to enjoying freedom in pleasure.

My Adventures with Chronic Pain

When it comes to pain during sex there’s two main kinds. First, there’s consensual + sexy pain from certain BDSM practices like impact play (e.g. spanking, flogging), bondage, and more. Then there’s pain that makes enjoying intimacy difficult. While pelvic pain is the most directly associated with sex, chronic pain in any part of the body also can impact your pleasure.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I often talk about my adventures at physical therapy (PT). Whether its showing off my BAMF Rock Tape patterns (below) or discussing body image, I’m not shy about sharing my experiences recovering from injuries and a host of other musculoskeletal issues. That being said, I’ve fallen into the trap that so many of us do when it comes to sharing our lives on social social: I present an almost positive picture a la “this is what its like on the other side.”

Well I have a confession to make: I’m not on the other side and I’m not sure I ever will be.

Confession #2: the last two weeks have been really fucking tough. By tough I mean painful, emotional, scary, and overwhelming.

Sinking Into Joyful Moments

In the midst of this difficult time, I laughed loudly, danced it out (ok it took a couple of days of wallowing before this but point is: I got there), and had some amazing connections with friends and my beau. You see this isn’t my first time going through tough weeks, and if I’ve learned anything from my past its to sink into the joyful moments. They may be fleeting right now but enjoy they while they’re there because when you look back, you’ll be able to say, “At least I was still able to smile.”

Which brings me to last Thursday. I woke up feeling particularly tender. All of my symptoms were acting up and I had to work at my yoga studio doing manual labor (side note: I usually love this and actually find the rhythm of my work there quite meditative. Plus…free yoga. duh). At the same time, the city got blanketed by an unexpectedly intense snowstorm. By the end of my shift, I was particularly tearful + in quite a bit of pain.

To Relish the Moment, Just Look Up

So I did the logical thing and decided to walk the mile-plus home. Because it had stopped snowing and I could feel my soul calling me outside before I returned to the comfort of my apartment where I had spent most of the last week hibernating.

As I stomped and stumbled across the snow, I noticed someone taking photos. I finally looked up and the perfect picturesque winter wonderland that met me is beyond words. That’s why I snapped the photo at the top of this post.

There’s a peace in the city when it snows. Its a peace that invites you in to breathe it in. To pause and ponder and just be. As I looked around, drinking it all in, I could feel some of my pain, both emotional and physical, receding. In that moment it was just me and the snowy landscape. It didn’t matter that cars whizzed by or the subway rumbled beneath my feet. Right then, all that mattered was I was present.

Orgasm Provides the Same Relief

Think about it: the last time you had an orgasm, where you thinking about anything but the experience of pleasure itself? If you’ve never had an orgasm, think about the most pleasurable experience, sexual or otherwise, of your life. You were alive, vibrant, and living right in that moment.

When everyone talks about mindfulness, they’re talking about harnessing this power and bringing into all the more mundane moments of your everyday. And usually how it can help you get more done, be happier, and, yes, have better sex.

What is Mindfulness?

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also :  such a state of awareness (Source)

Its about being present in the moment, aware of what’s going on, and not getting attached to it. Its about feeling your feeling rather than pushing them away or trying to distract yourself with TV, food, alcohol, sex, [your favorite vice].

How Mindfulness Benefits You

The benefits of mindfulness are far and wide. From reducing stress and pain to boosting sleep quality and your mood, there is a lot of research showing that being more present in your own life, through the good, bad, and ugly, is just plain good for you. It also can help get through difficult times more seamlessly. As difficult as it can be to sit with emotions we often label “negative,” sadness, anger, pain, and fear often dissipate more quickly when we lean into them without judgment.

For more about the benefits of mindfulness, click here. Bonus: silver fox Anderson Cooper delivers the goods. You’re welcome.

How Mindfulness Improves Your Relationship

Beyond the fact that being less stressed, better rested, and happier all contribute to an improved relationship, there also are benefits to mindfulness that specifically impact your relationship. Researchers recently gathered to share their newest finding on the practice’s benefits including its relationship-specific ones. To summarize:

Practicing presence → more compassion + forgiveness, less distress

This result in particular stuck out to me: “One of the studies showed that mindful people tend to more readily forgive their partners for past offenses, and also tend to be more accepting of their partners overall.” Who doesn’t want that? Aren’t we always hearing how you need to love your partner as they are while holding space for them to grow?! Mindfulness can help with that. <–can we make t-shirts?

All three of these can powerfully impact your relationship. Whether its extending kindness + empathy to your partner after a stressful day, forgiving them and yourself more easily for the hurts we all cause, or letting go of the things that nag you or you nag your honey about, these benefits have the potential to be hugely impactful.

Mindfulness and Your Sex Life

While you may associate mindfulness with meditation, you can practice anytime, anywhere. Sex is the perfect time to be practice being present. There are so many sensations for you to focus on and the more you get out of your head and into the moment, the better they feel. These two simple mindfulness techniques for better sex require no special equipment and you can start practicing immediately…like as soon as you’re done reading this post.

Two Simple Mindfulness Techniques for Better Sex

  • Breathing. Your breath is incredibly powerful. It can calm you, arouse you (sexually or otherwise), or increase your nervousness, stress, and anger. During sex, particularly athletic sessions, we tend to breathe shallowly, just like we do during a hard workout. This isn’t the best approach, especially during your orgasm. When you focus on deeper breaths it can increase the intensity of your orgasm. Beyond orgasms, breathing helps calm you and get out of your head and into your body so you can experience all the pleasurable sensations more. Start by focusing on your breath. Begin to deepen the breaths you take while shifting your focus to the sensations you feel. Stop there or continue breathing deeply through your orgasm. Either way, it’ll be a whole new experience.
  • Grounding. Grounding is a technique borrowed from trauma response. In that case, it serves to bring the victim back to the present from a flashback or the like. During sex, it serves a slightly different purpose: to help you fully experience the sensations. One of my favorite grounding techniques is to notice x number of things with each of your senses. You may feel your sweetie’s hands on your breasts, smell their cologne, see their eyes staring back at you, hear your own moans of pleasure, and taste your partner. This tip is particularly powerful if you tend to get distracted during sex. Just bring it back to the sensations. Challenge yourself to name more than one thing for each sense. You may notice one sense is more difficult than the others. For me that’s smell and while I’m trying to identify three scents, I find myself breathing deeper and getting all those benefits too!

For both of these techniques, don’t get too caught up in “how” or “how well” you’re doing them. The goal is to be more present, not preoccupied with whether you’re doing it right! After all, there isn’t really a “wrong” way to do them as long as they bring you more pleasure.

For Best Results, Practice Often

Do you have to have mindful sex all the time to experience its benefits? Nope. Freedom in pleasure is about doing the things that bring you good vibes. That being said, the more you practice, the more benefits you experience.This includes increased pleasure for you and the person(s) you have sex with. When you’re more present and turned on, not only do you feel every sensation more fully, your partner can delight in your pleasure more, simply because you’re experiencing it.

Interested in giving mindful sex a try but don’t know where to go from here? Schedule a free 15 minute Sexual Clarity Call.

Your Partner in  Passion,

Kait