Welcome to The V, our weeklong series devoted to all things sex and reproductive health. This is a safe space free from "taboos," because there's no reason anyone should feel awkward talking about their bodies. That said, we'll be clearing up any misinformation on the subject, starting with this huge misnomer: The "V" in this case doesn't refer to the vagina, but the vulva, which is the anatomically correct term for external female genitalia (including the opening of the vagina). Stay tuned all week for need-to-know guides on birth control, tips for taking your orgasm to the next level, real-life stories about endometriosis, and everything in between.
It can happen to any of us: Things are going great in your relationship… until they aren't. Your sex life can dwindle for any number of reasons—you get busy, stressed, exhausted, or a mix of all three. But there are ways to make things a bit more interesting.
First thing: Communicate with your partner. If you're feeling off, chances are your S.O. feels it too. After you've talked, it's time to look into some options. I reached out to a few experts on the subject for tips on easy (but effective) ways to get back on track. Unequivocally, they cited meditation as a really valuable option. Find the best meditation technique for your personality, and keep reading to find out why it works.
It limits stress and distractions.
"No doubt, sex can be a great stress-buster," says Amy Baglan, CEO and founder of dating app MeetMindful. Yet the problem is that sex usually isn't the first thing on your mind when you're stressed out—whether you're stressed because of money, work, your relationship, whatever. "The main way meditation can improve your sex life is by regulating your brain chemistry—stimulating mood-boosting chemicals like serotonin and dopamine while decreasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that can keep our minds (and bodies) locked into stress mode. In fact, a recent study found women whose cortisol levels reach a certain point become incapable of having an orgasm, and stress is cited as one of the most common culprits of erectile dysfunction."
In less scientific terms, meditation keeps you in the moment and less distracted by anxiety. The left side of your brain is responsible for overthinking, anxiousness about the future, and regretfulness about the past. Balancing this with your practical, present-minded right side helps you stay engaged during sex. So according to Baglan, staying present is the key to good sex. To further reduce stress, we're also really into Tata Harper's Aromatic Stress Treatment ($80).
It increases empathy.
In fact, the recent buzz among scientists has emphasized the critical importance of "mirror neurons" in neuroscientific dialogue. "Mirror neurons increase our capacity for empathy, enabling our brains to intuit more powerfully what others may be feeling or experiencing in a given moment. Since meditation has been shown specifically to enhance empathy, it can also make us more intuitive and present during sex," notes Baglan. Psychiatrist and wellness coach Tina Chadda, MD, agrees: "Think of meditation as mindfulness—paying attention on purpose in the present moment. It's a way to use all of our senses to keep sex an immensely pleasurable experience. When you are aware and even more attentive to touch, taste, smell, sound, texture, and temperature, each aspect adds another dimension to the sexual experience."
It boosts intimacy.
"I like to think of meditation as intimacy with ourselves," says Baglan. "It's all about showing up in the present moment to be connected with our experiences. Strip away your thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and judgments that keep you at a distance. Since meditation is about practicing intimacy with ourselves, it also helps to strengthen our muscles to be intimate in other contexts."
Now, here's how to do it.
When you have a free moment during the day or before a romantic night with your partner, begin by inhaling and exhaling. Do this until you begin to feel "united with all that is around you," instructs Chadda. She says this will help you give in to the ebb and flow during sex by allowing you to feel vulnerable and open.
"Then, visualize an unlit candle. Take a few deep breaths. As time passes, visualize a flame spark up as you inhale through your nose, exhale softly through your mouth, tuning into the sound of your breath. Feel yourself consciously shedding layers of shyness, shame, resistance, and fear."
This post was originally published on May 8, 2017.