What happens in the brain during an orgasm?
Without nerves sending impulses back to the spinal cord and brain, an orgasm wouldn’t be possible. Just like any other area of the body, the genitalia contain different nerves that send information to the brain to tell it about the sensation that’s being experienced. This helps to explain why the sensations are perceived differently depending on where someone is being touched. A clitoral orgasm, for example, differs from a vaginal orgasm because different sets of nerves are involved.
Pleasure Center of the Brain: Light It Up
You may have heard that the brain has a pleasure center that lets us know when something is enjoyable and reinforces the desire for us to perform the same pleasurable action again. This is also called the reward circuit, which includes all kinds of pleasure, from sex to laughter to certain types of drug use. Some of the brain areas impacted by pleasure include:
- amygdala – regulates emotions
- nucleus accumbens – controls the release of dopamine
- ventral tegmental area (VTA) – actually releases the dopamine
- cerebellum – controls muscle function
- pituitary gland – releases beta-endorphins, which decrease pain; oxytocin, which increases feelings of trust; and vasopressin, which increases bonding
Although scientists have long been studying the pleasure center, there hadn’t been much research about how it relates to sexual pleasure, especially in women. In the late 1990s and the mid-2000s, a team of scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands conducted several studies of both men and women to determine brain activity during sexual stimulation. The team used PET scans to illustrate the different areas of the brain that would light up and shut off during sexual activity. In all of the tests, the subjects were scanned while resting, while being sexually stimulated and while having an orgasm.
Interestingly, they discovered that there aren’t too many differences between men’s and women’s brains when it comes to sex. In both, the brain region behind the left eye, called the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, shuts down during orgasm. Janniko R. Georgiadis, one of the researchers, said, “It’s the seat of reason and behavioral control. But when you have an orgasm, you lose control” [source: LA Times]. Dr. Gert Holstege stated that the brain during an orgasm looks much like the brain of a person taking heroin. He stated that “95 percent is the same” [source: Science News].
There are some differences, however. When a woman has sex, a part of the brain stem called the periaqueductal gray (PAG) is activated. The PAG controls the “flight or fight” response. Women’s brains also showed decreased activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, which deal with fear and anxiety. The team theorized that these differences existed because women have more of a need to feel safe and relaxed in order to enjoy sex. In addition, the area of the cortex associated with pain was activated in women, which shows that there is a distinct connection between pain and pleasure.
The studies also showed that although women may be able to fool their partners into thinking they’ve had an orgasm, their brains show the truth. When asked to fake an orgasm, the women’s brain activity increased in the cerebellum and other areas related to controlling movement. The scans didn’t show the same brain activity of a woman during an actual orgasm.
But what about people who can’t reach orgasm at all?
Neither Here Nor There: Anorgasmia and Non-genital Orgasms
In some cases, we know what causes anorgasmia (the inability to reach orgasm). Drugs like Celexa, Zoloft and Paxil — known as SSRIs, or selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors — are often used to treat depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. Like most drugs, however, they can have side effects. For some people, this includes sexual ones, including anorgasmia. But why? SSRIs can decrease the brain’s production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that provides pleasurable feelings and reinforces a person’s desire to once again perform the action that brought him or her pleasure. Sometimes the problem goes away on its own, or it can be resolved by switching to a different antidepressant or taking another drug in addition to the SSRI. However, a small number of people experience post-SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD) that lasts for days, weeks, months or even years after discontinuing use of an SSRI. The cause of this dysfunction isn’t understood, as stopping the SSRI allows dopamine production to return to normal.
The Dutch studies about orgasms (mentioned earlier), along with others, have also been the basis for continuing research in helping women who are anorgasmic. Dr. Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers University is currently studying women who are anorgasmic and women who are constantly aroused sexually but are unable to reach orgasm. The latter group of women were each put in an MRI scanner where they could see their brain activity on a monitor. Their brain scans showed that the brain thought they were in fact constantly being sexually stimulated. The women then used imagery and other neurofeedback exercises to calm their brains. Dr. Komisaruk believes that anorgasmic women could also learn to read and react to their brain activity to try to reach orgasm.
Perhaps more unusual-sounding than orgasmia is the concept of orgasms that have nothing to do with the genitalia at all. Some people can orgasm from being touched in other places on the body, such as the nipples. In this case, researchers believe that the sensations in the nipples are transmitted to the same areas of the brain that receive information from the genitals. However, people have also reported actually feeling orgasms in other parts of their bodies, including their hands and feet. Several people have even described having orgasms in limbs that were no longer there. One reason may be the layout of the cortical homunculus, a map that shows how different places of the brain’s sensory and motor cortices correspond to the organs and limbs of the body. A person who feels an orgasm in a phantom foot, for example, may have experienced a remapping of the senses because the foot is located next to the genitals in the homunculus. The foot is no longer there to provide sensation, so the area for genital sensation took over the space.
Although we now know more about how orgasms impact the brain than ever before, there’s still a lot that we don’t know. For example, scientists are still debating the evolutionary reason behind the female orgasm. But it’s probably safe to say that most people aren’t too concerned about the “why” — they’d prefer to focus on the whos, whats and whens of sex.
Picture Credit: 3D4MEDICAL.COM/GETTY IMAGES
The act of touch can heal wounds and draw couples together by showering love onto our lover’s body parts that store repressed emotions and then, set them free. Erotic massage is an act of unconditional service to our beloved. It communicates a message that we understand where our lover is coming from and we accept them as they are, along with their frailties and vulnerabilities. By first relaxing our partners in a safe space, we erotically arouse them to transcend illusions in a relationship.
The Power of Sensual Massage
“As a society, we are touch deprived. We are taught that touch often is dangerous or something to fear, to be ashamed of,” opines Ms. Amy McBain, Sexual Shaman, Creator of Intentional Orgasm and author of Intentional Orgasm: Changing the world one orgasm at a time. She adds that in truth, healthy touch in all relationship benefits our whole beings, “Touch provides a way for each partner to surrender and be fully in the moment. It is through touch that everything else comes and is improved”
“Failure to thrive is just as real for adults who don’t receive loving touch as it is for infants,” says Intimacy Coach, Ms. Kendal Williams and Creator of www.tantrictransformation.com. According to Kendal, our souls chose to inhabit a physical body so it is touch that is one of the essential ways we experience things in the physical realm, and how we can show our love for one another and truly embody it.
Deepen Your Pleasure Through Self-Love
“I don’t believe you can have a fully satisfying relationship with another, until you have a fully satisfying relationship with yourself,” says Ms. McBain. She further adds, that you have to do your own self work, dark night of the soul work, so you know who you are, before you can share yourself with another. And that includes, getting really in touch with your own sexual energy, which is source energy. According to Ms. McBain, an orgasm is the vehicle by which your soul came into physical existence- so any disconnect from your own orgasm and inherent divine sacred sexuality will result in a disconnect from others and disconnect from the rest of your life.
“Our erotic lives are only a mirror of our other lives,” says Ms. Williams. She feels that having a loving and accepting relationship with self first means that we are compassionate toward ourselves and do not self punish for our humanness but instead embrace ourselves and love deeper. Ms. Williams adds, “Through self love and acceptance, we gain a peace and confidence and in this peace and confidence, we experience and love others at a more penetrating level.”
Setting The Stage
“In tantric massage, the focus is on interconnecting everything. It is a flow. A dance,” says Ms. Williams. To set up a massage and create a sacred space, the most important detail needed, according to Ms. Williams, is out internal state of being and our intent for what we are giving and receiving.”
“Physically, the room is typically either dimly lit or bright with sunshine, depending on the intent of what you are focusing on,” adds Ms. Williams. “Some sacred spaces may be set up with altars, incense, music, candles and even protective boundaries such as a circle of salt or crystals placed in each corner of the space. Others may be simple and have only a blanket, pillow, candle and nature sounds.”
Ms. McBain also suggests using special music, essential oils, incense, sage, candles and heat to overwhelm the senses. She says, “Clear the space before and after. Set intentions into the space for the receiver.”
Circulate Sexual Energy With Massage Tricks
The basic massage techniques that we can use to give our partners pleasure, are, firm strokes, soft strokes, feather strokes, breath, nail biting, says Ms. Williams. She adds, “Use warm oil or candles, ice, feathers, silk and fur. Be playful and don’t second guess your intuition. Take it slow. You are making love to every inch of your partner through your conscious touch.”
With permission from your partner, Ms. Williams opines, you may want to try prostate massage, G-spot massage, clitoral stimulation, oral pleasure or use a chosen toy.
Ms. McBain does shamanic energy balancing massage-utilizing specific touches that evoke the energies of the earth, water, air and fire to balance those energies within a person and activating energy sources for them.
Expressing Sensuality Through Your Whole Body
Ms. McBain suggests using your full body to balance your lover’s energy fields. She says, “Lay your whole body on them to ground their earth energy, rub your breasts and other body parts, slowly, sensually to activate their water energy, your breath and a very light touch to activate their air energy. I also use my genitals on specific body parts, like, my clitoris to their third eye, to bring in a balance of their divine feminine to create interesting energy currents.
Ms. Williams reminds that in giving a massage, you are giving or gifting the experience to someone else. So, make it about them and not you. She says, “It’s important to pay attention to what feels good to you and listen to your intuition on things. Go slow in whatever stroke you choose and with the part of your body you are using.”
Stimulating Your Beloveds’ Erogenous Zones
Erotic tantric massage covers the whole body, toe to head, says Ms. Williams. She explains, “I say toe to head because we start at the feet and move upward with purpose. Through the feet, we help relax and ground the whole being. We also tap into acupressure points that stimulate internal organs and help them function better. Feet and legs are also big erogenous zones for many people, especially women. Then, move up the body to the hips, buttocks, and lower back, massage firmly, slowly. Teasing the skin with feathers, light touch or breath can be very erotic.”
Knowing your partner’s erogenous zones is helpful, Ms. Williams adds. According to her, erotic tantric massages stimulate the genitals but does not focus in on the genitals. It is truly a dance of interweaving the whole body in an erotic fashion.”
Massage can create excitement in an otherwise stale relationship as well as set a trustworthy foundation in a newly bonded couple. It helps lovers to cue to each other’s needs and bridge emotional distances. Massage is a responsive platform to keep our promise to our beloved- by including erotic movements that help them feel safe, seen and understood.
Written by: Mishka
Our sexuality is a primary foundation to our lives. Sex in itself is a creative process of opening up to life and allowing it to breathe through us, however in today’s times (and it has been this way for many thousands of years now) the power of sex has been forbidden by ego baring religion that was more focused on controlling the masses then on uplifting them. After thousands of years of brainwashing, the once therapeutic form of sex work, known as humanistic sex therapy, has been virtually done away with and thought of as a sin even. But for many researchers, educators and therapists who take the time to dig deep into our history of sexuality and relationship we discover a beautiful dynamic healing tool which is once again resurfacing and making a stand as the consciousness of our world shifts.
Through the use of somatic sex therapy and coaching practices a patient/client can once again capture and embody one of the most vital aspects of themselves: Their sex. They can start to heal life long wounds and investigate safe, loving ways to embrace their desires and authentic selves, thus teaching how to do the same for someone else, weather that be a person they share an intimate relationship with or otherwise. Somatic sex coaching opens up the interconnectedness of all of life, reestablishing the positive, healthy links between our sexuality and our emotional, mental, physical, psychological and spiritual selves.
Such a holistic healing approach was once common day use for many people. If we look back to Ancient Greece even, the Greek physician Galen (129 A.D.-200A.D.), historically, one of the most influential authors on medical subjects, focused on the subject of women’s unmet sexual desire and defined it as a disease. Coining the term Hysteria (Greek for “Suffering Uterus”) to describe the anxiety, irritability, sexual fantasies, pelvic heaviness and excessive vaginal lubrication in sexually deprived or particularly passionate women. This should sound pretty common term even today, as we are a sexually deprived society and many women today complain of these sorts of issues and more.
Somatic Sex Coaching is a holistic healing approach that combines hands-on techniques (“bodywork”) with traditional sex coaching techniques. Like telling the story uses the “mind memory” to release pain and promote healing, “body memory” is used to assist in the healing process.
A key part of talk therapy is retraining the mind – letting go of old beliefs and experiences, and incorporating new ones. Somatic therapy is primarily about retraining the body, so it can respond differently. Combining the mental and physical aspects in therapy creates more opportunities for healing and change by facilitating integration of the entire experience.
Somatic Sex Therapy uses various kinds of touch to promote healing, including “laying on hands”, hugs, holds, massage, stroking and other kinds of contact, as appropriate to the client’s need. Somatic therapy has some things in common with what is popularly called “healing touch” or “therapeutic touch” but somatic therapy is not an “energy”-based therapy like Reiki and others that often involve limited touch or sometimes no touch at all. Somatic Sex Therapy could include receiving or giving the kinds of touch that you might actually experience in a sexual context. While Somatic Sex Therapy is generally done fully clothed, there are situations where (similar to therapeutic massage) removal of some or all clothing is appropriate.
There are a number of alternate titles and sub-specialties for a Somatic Sex Therapist, and many different approaches to combining the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of sexuality: Sexual-Somatic Therapist, Mind-Body Sex Therapist, Body-oriented Sex Therapist, Sexual Embodiment Therapist, Holistic Sex Therapist, Reichian Sex Therapist, Sexual Bioenergetic Analyst, Sexual Therapy Practitioner, Sexological Bodyworker, Sex Surrogate, Surrogate Partner, Sacred Intimate, Spiritual Sexuality Master, Sexual Energy Specialist, Sexual Shaman, Phoenix Fire Man/Woman, Qadishtu/Qadesh, Dakini/Daka, Tantrika, Tantric Master and Tantric Healer. Each of these professionals have a different focus and range of techniques. Some combine bodywork with psychotherapy, some are primarily bodyworkers and would work in conjunction with a traditional (no touch) Sex Therapist, and some focus on the spiritual aspects of sexuality.
Why would I want a Somatic Sex Therapist instead of a regular therapist?
Sometimes, “talk therapy” isn’t enough.
Somatic Sex Therapists help clients with a wide variety of problems, some of which have nothing to do with sex. What makes Somatic Sex Therapists different is their comfort level with sexuality and physical touch, and their ability to include an appropriate physical element to support you in achieving your goals. Consider the limitations of talk therapy in these example situations:
- “I get really anxious when someone sits too close to me on the bus.”
- “I’m lonely, but I can’t stand anyone touching me.”
- “I was raped. I want to date, but whenever a man touches me, I panic.”
- any problem where physical touch is a “trigger”
Somatic Sex Therapists are particularly helpful for resolving:
- boundary and trust issues
- body image problems
- communication problems
- anxiety or aversion to touch and/or intimacy
- pain caused by “pelvic floor guarding”, e.g. vaginismus or vulvodynia
- shame relating to fetishes or any other physical desires
- arousal problems
- lack of desire or lack of pleasure sensation
- sexual addictions
By including the physical dimension in therapy, Somatic Sex Therapists have the ability to bring greater depth to your work, and often shorten the amount of time needed to achieve the change you want.
What should I expect in a session with a Somatic Sex Therapist or Sex Coach?
You should expect the same things you would expect from any other professional. The obvious difference is that in addition to the usual conversation, sessions could include physical touch. You may be guided and encouraged to explore, but you are always in control of the limits in a session from moment to moment.
Whether the context is verbal or physical, you can expect that your boundaries will be both challenged and respected. In coaching, this can mean trying out different points of view or doing something differently than you are accustomed to, and thereby developing greater choice and flexibility. In therapy, this often means going into your “discomfort zone” so that you can access an experience and your therapist can support your resolution or reframing of that experience. Generally, once you start having a reaction, your therapist will pause and help you work through that reaction before moving on.
Your feedback is an important part of any session, and especially important in sessions involving touch. You may experience subtle internal reactions that aren’t evident, or your reaction may be obvious but unexplained. Volunteering your inner experience, such as “I’m feeling ____” or “I’m thinking ____” or “I’m remembering ____” or “I want ____” is usually helpful, just as it is in any relationship.
At all times in any session, you have the choice of saying “no” and you can expect your therapist or coach to honour that boundary. You can also expect to explore why you’ve put up that boundary and – if it’s relevant to your goals – have it appropriately challenged again.
Therapists and coaches help you develop your emotional and spiritual self much like personal fitness instructors would help you develop your physical self. As your “personal trainer”, a therapist or coach will help you do the things you’ve had difficulty doing on your own. You may initially find those things somewhat awkward or unpleasant, and you may experience pain before you see the results you want. As you develop, your sessions will be adapted to meet your changing needs and desires.
Kendal Williams Bodywork Session Testimony by Addison Bell
I walked into the room and could smell the alluring aroma of a variety scents. I was instructed to get undressed and lie face down on the table . Even though I had lain on this very table a couple dozen times my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest as I let my head sink into the fluffy pillow. Prior to lying down Kendal had me put on the blindfold that I had been asked to bring with me. As I was lying there enjoying the enticing smells in the room and the soft pillow below my cheek, Kendal told me she was going to put headphones on me in order to block out more of my senses and allow me to focus in on my body.
The massage began with soft strokes on my feet, the backs of my legs, and back. Kendal’s touch was gentle, and her energy radiated through my body. As the massage progressed I was able to fully relax into the table, and I began to lose myself in the music, following the deep strokes and different sensations. As Kendal played with a variety of different objects, temperatures, and pressures, I could feel my chakras opening. After my entire backside had been thoroughly worked and I was truly feeling like jelly, I heard a soft whisper in my ear to roll onto my front.
Kendal began massaging my front, and she barely had to touch me before I could feel the waves of orgasmic energy rippling through my body. At one point I became so entrenched in the sensations I lost all concept of time and space. I found myself in a state of uncontrolled movement, which is very uncharacteristic for me. My belly was flinching, my hands could not find a proper resting place, my legs were twitching, and my jaw quivered. Once she began the yoni massage, my throat began erupting in sounds as I felt like electricity was shooting
One would think when I talk about a yoni massage that my pussy would be the aspect of my body that was erupting in sensation but really my heart was on fire! My heart felt incredibly open, so open that it was almost physically painful to sit in the depth of it all. Emotions that were previously trapped in my body began to emerge throughout the end of the session from hysterical laughter, tears, and anger.
The bodywork came to a close, and my body was still in a state of vibration as Kendal covered me with a sheet and gently grounded my body. She was a soft presence as I allowed the remaining tears to flow from my eyes. I was gifted with some gorgeous yellow roses that I held close to my heart.
As I left the session with swirling emotions, I knew both my body and spirit were forever changed! I was one step closer to being the Goddess I desire to be.
“Most people in the “recovery” or “therapy” process yearn for sexual healing. I make this statement as a therapist and as a human being who has facilitated myself and many others on the journey.” —Michael Picucci PhD, MAC, SEP
Sexual healing is the shame-free revisiting of complex sexual histories, limitations and perceptions combined with new awareness, understanding, and compassion. In the process of this rejuvenation, we learn how to merge our spiritual and sexual energies. The “sexual-spiritual split” is a culturally induced, deep psychic schism that haunts relationships and precludes emotional fulfillment. Resolving this powerful inner conflict is necessary for true body, mind and spirit connections.
These guidelines can be used to illuminate and focus a core healing journey that is central to having life mastery, which is the awareness of aliveness, sensual pleasure and contentment.
FIVE GRACEFUL GUIDELINES FOR SEXUAL HEALING:
3. Dialogue in relationship
4. Create ‘Fusion Exercises’
5. Rediscover adolescent awkwardness
1. Body Awareness. Introduce yourself to the possibility of bringing full body awareness and energy to your sexual regions. Some of us have depleted energy levels and a diminished sense of aliveness in our pelvic area and a fullness of energy in the our heart region. Others feel constricted with their heart energy while having an intense pelvic charge. This is particularly evident in early intimacy and bonding. Because of this culturally fragmented energy disbursement in the body, sexual motivation usually has more to do with feelings like neediness, escape from other feelings, and proving one’s self-worth, than feelings of pure pleasure and the normal desire for interconnectedness.
For many, pleasure can only be realized in highly charged scenarios. Often they are avoided because they are dangerous and/or self-destructive. Some of us are just fearfully frozen. Others become frustrated at a perceived lack of ability to negotiate the complexities. Many repeat unfulfilling patterns again and again. Whatever one’s history may be, the following exercises have proven helpful in energizing and awakening sexual aliveness.
In Latin and most Eastern and metaphysical philosophies, the word “breath” is synonymous with “spirit.” Conscious breathing brings energy (and spirit) into the body. This exercise will help improve anyone’s ability to breathe and improve sexual aliveness. First, do conscious, deep breathing exercises focused in the groin. Imagine that you can take your breath all the way down to the perineum, that lowermost part of the crotch between the vagina and the rectum or the scrotum and rectum. In reality, most feel they can’t breathe into their perineum, yet imagination can produce surprising results. This exercise can be done while brushing your teeth, riding in a car, or for a few minutes before or after sleeping. While the results may not be immediate, with a little practice and patience, deeper breathing of this sort will help lead to spiritual-genital integration.
The “rotation exercise” is an exercise that you can combine with the conscious pelvic breathing. Stand up straight, put your feet shoulder-length apart, relax (unlock) your knees, and rotate your hips in a circular motion, stretching out in all directions as far as is comfortable. Imagine that you are standing in the center of a mostly empty peanut butter jar, and you want to use your hip and pelvis, in a circular motion, to clean the peanut butter off the sides of the jar. Keep rotating, first in one direction, then the other. Lower and raise yourself to completely clean the inside of that jar. Attention to conscious breathing will be helpful. Take a moment or two to giddily and randomly move your pelvis, tuning into the energy and spontaneously moving and following your inner current. Just go with the flow for a few moments. You will begin, subtly at first, feeling a renewed aliveness in this region that is sensual, sexual, and centering – all at the same time.
These exercises are also excellent “warm-ups” for more pleasurable sexual experiences, alone or to be shared with a partner. (For additional information and exercises on all of the guidelines in this article see my books: “The Journey Toward Complete Recovery: Reclaiming Your Emotional and Spiritual & Sexual Wholeness” and “Ritual as Resource: Energy for Vibrant Living.”)
2. Sexual History. Begin a process of uncovering and sharing sexual secrets from your past with “safe” people. It is important to do this practice with those who are sensitive, understanding and compassionate listeners. These “secrets” are rightfully too sensitive to be exposed to individuals who will not afford them suitable respect. Along with these secrets there is a need to bring awareness to religious and other spiritually infused influences on your early sexual development and evolution.
I suggest writing a narrative history, or outline, to put one’s sexual development in a historical perspective. This begins with the first remembered “exposure” to sex, sexual energy, or sexual material. Then, as best you can remember, recreate your development with subsequent incidents. This exercise will help put your current sexual expression in an understandable and historical context. By sharing this history with a safe person, one can further heal the sexual-spiritual split.
After sharing “sexual histories in perspective” (in a shame-free setting), your psyche will gradually produce additional memories, further illuminating your history. Shared sexual histories provide a grounding and framework for your present experience while simultaneously creating a platform for new possibilities.
3. Dialogue in relationship. Encourage yourself to risk cultivating meaningful dialogue around sexual issues in dating situations and with significant partners. The deepest interpersonal healing takes place in relationship. Finding and cultivating a safe partner is, of course, pivotal. One can do a great deal of healing with therapists and within community. However, that healing will be limited by the appropriate professional and cultural boundaries of these relationships. To ultimately heal the sexual-spiritual split, we must explore relating to another human being while attempting to bring both polarized aspects of the split to this relationship without walls of shame arising. It is important to work through shameful aspects and feelings of inadequacy about sex with a partner. It is fine to move slowly. “Intention” and “willingness” are paramount.
4. Fusion Exercises. Consciously combine meditative, spiritual, or contemplative experiences with your own sexuality. Such experimentation is a very different and awkward experience for most people at first, but in time one feels a new and deeper connection with both pleasure and release. Sexual experiences often grow from being simply physical (with genital concentration), to becoming a full-body, kinesthetic event that can be powerful and rewarding.
Suggesting a combination of sexual and spiritual experimenting often brings laughter and confusion. People always ask, “How are we supposed to do that?” They often break out in further embarrassed laughter and disbelief when I suggest, “Try experimenting with masturbating (or self-loving) and praying at the same time!”
This laughter is a defense. Notice how foreign the suggestion feels, emphasizing the reality of an internal dichotomy! Think about this in relation to merging your core sexuality with a spiritual, loving union or relationship with yourself or another.
Create rituals with candlelight, mirrors and incense for sessions of self-loving and self-pleasuring. Slowly begin to make a “special time & place” in your life for, and begin to exalt in, your body (however you may perceive it), your sexuality, alone or with a companion, as an ecstatic all-encompassing manifestation of your humanity.
Use your intuitive creativity and responsible, courageous risk-taking abilities to create your own additional practices to merge sexual and spiritual energies. Like flowers growing toward the sun, as we humans experience this fusion in our psyche, our bodies and our defensive reflexes organically grow toward sexual and spiritual unity.
5. Rediscover adolescent awkwardness. Become willing to enter a period of discovery which I call “adolescent awkwardness.” In dating or in a significant long-term relationship, a time comes when the healing of this internalized sexual-spiritual schism must be addressed for the relationship to grow. We must surrender preconceived concepts regarding sexuality and intimacy and join another person in authentic adolescent discovery. Many of us missed a healthy adolescence, and therefore cannot go further into intimacy without visiting this important building block. It is important to give yourself permission to feel adolescent and awkward with yourself and another. It is rich, fertile ground in which to plant seeds of new awareness. Very workable and pleasing possibilities will grow from these seeds.
Appreciation of our own resistance signals the most important awareness of healing. All of the above exercises will initially bring resistance to the fore. This is good: we want to bring resistance up out of the unconscious, where it has ominous rule, and expose it to a “process of resolution.” By connecting with the resistance, and moving through it, we have the opportunity to discern and untangle the diverse feelings and incidents that have formed themselves into walls of shame.
Whenever shame or blockage surfaces (often feeling like a wall) in a budding or long-term intimate relationship, the struggle to share it is also the process of healthy adolescent development. It is the joining of less mature and more mature aspects of ourselves together in a sensitive, growing relationship. In this process, there is great value in the shame. Shame flirts with us. It lures us while at the same time it tries to hide. As suggested by the author Max Scheler in “Shame and Pride,” “It is from in and under the shame that our shimmering magic emerges.”
HEALING IS POSSIBLE: BELIEF CREATES THE EXPERIENCE
Combining love with sexual expression is an act of higher consciousness. It is important to believe that when two human beings share love’s energy combined with erotic energies, a transcendent experience occurs, one that is often profoundly healing and enriching. This is a very sacred sharing and a goal of a fulfilling sexual experience. Reaching this goal is the result of a conscious give and take, a negotiation of the openhearted experience of interconnectedness. Accepting that this is awkward, we need to learn to communicate our needs, desires and fantasies. Under each of the three currents are powerful and subtle feelings and energies that want to be expressed.
Releasing these expressions help us grow holistically; they teach us about natural aggression and passivity, about our feminine and masculine energies, and about pleasuring and being pleasured. They help dissolve shame, insecurities, and to accept contradictions and complexities. It exposes the need to experience them fully for healing, growth and self-understanding.
Contrary to what some believe about healthy sexuality, we need to learn that healthy loving expression includes the expression of our more shadowy desires as well as our tenderness. The delicate opening up of our repressed sexual histories, variations, deviations, and fantasies is enriching as well as healing. True and spiritual lovemaking is the interweaving choreography of our higher and our shadow selves. A holistic experience involves bringing together aspects of higher and lower self — how beautiful, and so very intimate to do so with open hearts.
EVALUATING OUR PROGRESS
To evaluate your progress in healing the sexual-spiritual split, I encourage you to simply ask yourself: What motives do I bring to sexuality? What do I want from the sexual aspect of my nature?
You will know that the healing is progressing when the answers to these questions emphasize spiritual fulfillment, integrating aggression and passivity, power and surrender, femininity and masculinity, and the desire for personal and shared experiences of fulfillment, pleasure and higher consciousness.
Why do Men OM? How “The 15-Minute Female Orgasm Changed My Life
“Orgasmic Meditation is a wellness practice where two partners feel the sensation rising from a stroker (male or female) using their index finger to gently stroke the most sensitive part of the female anatomy for 15 minutes. There is no goal other than noticing the sensations that arise in the body. There is nothing extra.”- Trained OM Practitioners
Sounds great for the woman, but what about the guy? What’s in it for a man?
For me, the answer took a little over a year and a half to get clear on. According Tim Ferris’ book “The 4 Hour Body” (which I was reading to learn body hacking secrets) this practice called Orgasmic Meditation is claiming to give men and women access to a 15 minute Orgasm. Even though it sounded strange, I was curious.
However, after watching a couple of YouTube videos on the practice done by Deepak Chopra’s Channel and a Onetaste Men’s Panel, a thought persisted. What could I possible gain from a “meditation practice” where the presumed focal point is a clitoris?
I had a lot of discomfort around this puzzling question.
Was I missing out on something important?
So…out of pure curiosity, I choked up a couple hundred bucks and decided to get OM trained. Paying to have people show me how to stroke a clitoris for 15 minutes was a humbling stretch that sent me on a journey of unimaginable transformation and possibility.
The practice of OM has been both confronting and pleasurable. It exposed my shame and guilt around not only sexuality, but also being “a pleaser” who made decisions against himself in order to make others happy. This by and far was my most troubling self sabotage mechanism, and I had no clue of why it was or how to fix it.
So who was the old Kenny?
To keep it simple I was defensive and resistant to change. Always in my head… thinking too much, and feeling too little. These patterns lead to the demise of many otherwise amazing relationships and business opportunities. It was me against myself, and it was a war that I could not hope to sustain. Nobody wins in a war against one’s self.
Let me clarify what I meant by being a “pleaser”.
I mean that I desired nothing more than for others around me to be happy and find me acceptable. If you were happy, I felt great. If you were pissed I felt your displeasure. So I used my imagination to modify my behaviors to match others around me. I found out later that this was a survival tactic that has deeper roots; however you can ask me about that some other time. Bottom line is it felt like a curse because I could learn how to say things to make people feel better…even if those things were not in alignment with my truth. So I ended up putting myself in situations where I was angry with myself and others were perfectly happy. It was a problem that I would allow to fester and develop for about 20+ years.
The first step in Orgasmic Meditation is stating a desire.
It’s confronting to ask for what I want and be bold in that asking. The other person may not be receptive or they may be quite eager. This is the unknown about human interaction which kept me in my head imagining the safest thing to say. This is also the part of the practice that I and others have found to be the most transformative.
I had to face this unknown factor every time I would ask for an OM.
More importantly, I had to deal with what my partner desired every time she would ask for an adjustment in the middle of an Orgasmic Meditation. I was being worked by emotional desires of both my partner and I. Emotions that want so desperately to be expressed without being censored by our thoughts. I also encounter a usage for the lessons of OM when observing the question, “What would happen if other people found out that I OM?” then,” Why am I caring if they find out?” Damn, my shame and guilt is being challenged, I thought.
How do we learn to put the desires of others desires before our NEEDS? And yes…HUMAN TOUCH IS A NEED!
Well, if you are like me, then you probably learned sometime during childhood that certain emotions and desires were “inappropriate”. So there was this splitting off of desires between public desires that were ok to share, and private desires which we stopped ourselves from sharing due to fear. For me, those private desires led to experiencing shame and fear around not being good enough. It led to me desiring to please others ahead of myself.
Personally, my shame had always been intrigued by human sexuality since a friend brought a porno magazine to school in the 5th grade. I felt shameful from being turned on since I was taught that sex was a bad thing from sex education class and church sermons.
People who had sexual thoughts were sinners and deviants who got pregnant and ruined society with STD’s. If I was turned on, what does that mean about me? Does that make me a bad person? Would God disapprove and send me to hell? Does the woman I’m meeting think I only wanted to get to know her so I could sleep with her?
I now felt even more turned on and more awkward around emotions and women. No wonder… these beliefs while well meaning were fueling my fear, shame and guilt. The evil three which many of us carry around for way…way too long!
It’s these questions which led to me expressing my sexuality and emotions in unhealthy ways which ironically enough reinforced my guilt, shame and fear.
As mentioned earlier. I had a habit of meeting and then losing incredible women in my life. The response was the same from all the relationships; they loved the sexual connection, thought I was a good person…but wanted someone who was “emotionally available”.
I realized my sex/life was just repeating what I had seen in online porn/ TV/Hollywood movies and articles about sex/religion. I rarely had my own exploratory sexual/life experience and definitely didn’t feel comfortable around women/emotions. I couldn’t escape the judge making my every decision one that resulted in guilt. So I would suffer in the prison cell of my mind, just hoping that one day something or someone would magically come along to reverse my sentence and allow the guilt, shame, and fear to disappear.
I had no idea what it meant to be emotionally available, in the moment, or operating from desire.
I also had no female friends, because at my core…I did not understand how women could express the same emotions my shame had me to repress. Looking back… it’s obvious how I’ve grown and evolved as a man and human being from approaching Orgasmic Meditation as practice.
I’ve reversed nearly every challenge that I’ve had before learning this practice. I now operate from my core essence as a spiritual human being. I run on my intuition instead of running from it. I have strong female friends and partners with whom I share with, support, and aid in personal growth and clarification. I express my emotions raw and natural, instead of reacting to others. Most importantly I have exposed the mechanism behind guilt, fear, and shame.
So what is in it for men/women like me is the ability to be fully integrated as a present spiritual human. A human who lives with purpose and can be strong inside while being and sensitive to surroundings.
Now I smile on the inside when hearing this question after almost two years of making Orgasmic Meditation a practice. There are both men and women who consider OM to be something other than what it actually is, a wellness practice which exposes ignorance and heals shame.
Now if someone asks, “Why do I OM?”… The answer is simple.
It’s only 15 minutes and it feels great.
Why wouldn’t I?
Why wouldn’t anybody?
-Written By Kenny Jay, Member of the Dallas OM Community
Email Him at kennyjay@
Kenny Jay has dedicated his life to uncovering deeper and more intuitive ways to connect with humanity from within. As an artist, lover, and agent of change, he enjoys sharing growth in all conscious forms.
In his 20’s he left the small town in Indiana where he grew up to travel all over the United States working on personal development. Constantly seeking to mentor and be mentored has led to a compassion and desire to for connecting humanity. Anyone growing up with him will tell you that he actually thought it would be cool to live the ultimate underdog story, because to him those make the best movies.
Thoughts on this Article from Kendal
As a sex and relationship coach I share OM frequently with my clients. All of my clients, single men and women, as well as coupled men and women. I work with my clients using the OM practice on almost a daily basis. I would say that 95% of my client base is OMing either with me as the stroker or they have become part of the local community and have partners to OM with. I make sure that OM is a foundation practice taught to all of my couple clients as well. And the one thing I hear over and over again from everyone, male or female is, “What’s in it for the stroker? – typically the man.” I try and share from my perspective what the stroker gets as I do lot’s of stroking with those individuals who desire a female stroker and are working with me for greater empowerment and embracing of their sexuality and healing. But I never seem to really be able to express what a man get’s from this practice, as I am not a man clearly. And therefore with our social programming of how men think and what their needs and desires are we believe that if a man is not “getting off” in some way sexually then it is an empty experience for him. When in truth after working with literally a few thousand men over the course of my coaching and tantra practice, I have learned that men typically are far deeper than we expect and crave connection more than “getting off.” With this a smart man understands that if he cannot be in-touch fully with his body and be present then there is no way that he can be in-tune with his partners body or provide the intimacy that they both desire. He also knows that a woman’s orgasm is the ONLY thing that can take him to greater pleasure heights and it is through her release and surrender that he will be able to truly expereince bliss. Without this connection he will never have more then a pump-pump-eww-goo expereince. Blend these facts with the insights shared by our author Kenny here and I cannot imagine why men would not want to do this practice. In all honesty and rawness (which what else would you expect from me), if a man is struggling with being a stroker because he feels he is not getting anything from it other than turned on with no release than he is a sexually immature man and one who needs some harsh lessons in sexuality, relationships and self-growth and acceptance. He is far from being ready to tackle greater adventures of sexual growth and play that such things as Tantra can teach.
A Note About the Author
Yesterday Kenny shared this incredible article in a group on Facebook. I have been blessed to taste this man’s energy here and there over the last few years of his practice and will admit I look forward to getting to know him better as time moves on. Kenny Jay and I lost our OM virginity to each other as we were in the same training class together and from the first moments of walking through the classroom door my whole being was drawn to no one else in the room but him. I was certain that he was the one who had the energy that I could relax into and explore this practice with in a group setting. I was right, his presence level, vibrational pull, playfulness and just sheer desire was ever present in that first OM and every time I am around him since I feel it grow and expand. I would describe Kenny as a man on fire for life. A true blessing to this world. And I encourage any ladies who are in the OM practice or are just getting started and want a male stroker to please contact him. It is a rare man who can hold the attention and space the way he can.
Let me preface this by saying I’m part of this group, too. Just because I’m a licensed therapist doesn’t mean I don’t need therapy. I have many, many things to work on, one of which is getting back into therapy.
Full disclosure: I haven‘t seen a therapist in years. I understand if you think that makes me a hypocrite, but it is my truth. I would rather be honest than pretend to be someone I am not.
Growth is not a light switch. It’s a lifestyle.
But here’s what I’ve learned from both my personal and professional experiences. Growth is not a light switch. It’s a lifestyle, something we must thread into our daily lives. And therapy can be the needle to guide that thread.
Yes, women need therapy too. But multiple studies and researchers have pointed to the fact that women make up nearly two-thirds of therapy patients, while men arguably benefit more from the process.
We have to let go of what we can’t control and just focus on our own shit.
I believe all men need therapy, including myself. Here are four of the most compelling reasons:
1. This generation doesn’t clearly define the male identity.
You might argue that this lack of definition is about the culture of 2015. Society had a strong definition of “the ideal man” in the ′20s, ′40s, ′50s, etc. But I believe it has to do with the fact that we live in a fatherless nation.
More than ever, our fathers are either physically absent or emotionally unavailable. So, how does a son learn who he is as he crosses into manhood? He doesn’t. The shadow of a suggestion of an identity he struggles after is one learned through advertising, media, and coping.
I worked as a therapist in residential treatment for about six years. I treated teens struggling with addiction, and the vast majority of them had an absent father. The boys clung to me, desperate for a positive male role model. They wanted a guide, a mentor, a man to teach them about life — what all boys crave at that age. I know I did. When deprived of that, they try to fill the void in unhealthy ways.
Therapy is a safe space for men who grew up with absent dads (most of us) to process the loss we’ve suffered, whether we realize it or not, and to create a new, healthy definition of what it means to be a man.
2. Therapy helps you find tools that will exponentially improve your relationships.
Generally speaking, men tend to maneuver more on a logical plane and women on an emotional one. Many men struggle to express their feelings, eventually leaving their partner in the dark, resulting in the two being separated by the unspoken issue(s) between them. Eventually, they grow apart.
I see this all the time in the couples I coach: Men tend to go to “fix-it” mode instead of expressing themselves and holding a safe space for their partner. They struggle with using “I feel” statements and don’t practice building their communication muscles.
Since therapists are trained to help you explore and process feelings, seeing a therapist is like visiting an emotional gym and exercising these expression muscles. Once we have the ability to express ourselves, we can stop trying to fix it. Instead, we can be present, and create a safe space for our partner to talk to us. Then confrontations can turn into healthy conversations, creating closeness, trust, and stronger relationships.
Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you have problems. It means you want to be a healthier version of yourself. It just means adding more tools to your toolbox. These tools will translate directly into your relationship.
Your partner will see the difference in you and may be inspired to go on his or her own journey. Now we have two pistons pumping. Translation: You’ve stopped the tug-of-war and started to move in the same direction. This is the only way to improve a relationship.
It’s never about the other person. It’s about you.
3. It’s the only way a lot of men ever learn to stop trying to fix everything.
Men tend to think they can do everything by themselves. Not necessarily because of ego. It’s a pressure we put on ourselves to take care of the people we care about. When it comes to relationships, sometimes we don’t realize that we are only 50 percent of the equation.
By thinking we can fix it, we can easily cross the line into controlling behavior without even knowing it. That means we have to let go of what we can’t control, and just focus on our own shit. This is what therapy is all about. Therapists are trained to keep the focus on the client so they can take ownership of their own issues and let go of other people’s.
I believe that with this mindset, the dynamic of the relationship will shift. There will be a lot less pressure and a lot more trust. Of course, women can do the same.
But from coaching hundreds of women, I’ve learned that the majority want their man to take the lead. It gives them hope and builds trust. Then they become inspired to work on anything they need to work on.
We get into a chess game with each other, subconsciously. We won’t change or work on ourselves unless the other person does too. But the only thing that grows in that dynamic is anger and resentment. It’s never about the other person. It’s about you, the kind of person you want to be, and what you want to bring to the relationship.
4. We have a responsibility to be better men than our fathers were.
I know it’s 2015, and much progress has been made. But men still tend to shy away or get embarrassed about seeing therapists. There’s a pervasive misconception that therapy is for people with “real problems.” So, men just talk to their friends, who are biased, and can’t advise them with the same experience, perspective, or authority. Men tend to associate “treatment” with weakness. I think we believe that if we see a therapist, we are admitting defeat. We are admitting we can’t fix it on our own. That last part is true. We can’t. But that’s okay.
Imagine if men went to therapy as much as they go to the gym. How many relationships would be saved? How many sons would have a healthier definition of manhood? And how many daughters would have higher self-esteem and a sharper radar when it came to boys? Imagine how much pain and destruction we could avoid. Then tell me it’s not a good idea.
Photo Credit: Stocksy
Many evidence based studies prove that pelvic floor physical therapy is an effective treatment approach for men and women suffering from pelvic pain caused by tight muscles and restricted tissues. The pelvic floor muscles, namely the levator ani, coccygeus and obturator internus can develop adhesions, tension or trigger points which restrict movement and cause pain. Trigger points are palpable spasms/knots within muscle tissue and can occur in pelvic floor muscles. Trigger points can lead to adhesions of fascia/connective tissue of the abdomen, groin, pelvic floor and even restrict the viscera (colon, uterus, bladder, prostate gland) within the pelvic bowl.
The pudendal nerves and its branches, traveling from the sacrum (back of the pelvis) and running all through the pelvic floor region innervates the vaginal/penile and rectal areas. The nerves can become squeezed as it travels through tight muscles and fascia, which then decreases optimum pelvic floor function and increases pain.
The pelvic floor muscles are located INSIDE our bodies, in women the muscles are approximately 1-2 inches up from the vaginal/rectal region and in men, the muscles are approximately 1-2 inches up from the base of the penis/rectal region.
The pelvic floor muscles are key for four functions of the body:
1) lower back/core stabilization; 2) normal urinary function; 3) good bowel function; 4) satisfying sexual function.
As a core stabilizer, the pelvic floor works with 3 other core muscles, the Transversus Abdominus (deepest stomach muscle), Multifidus- (deep low back extensor muscle), and deep fibers of the Iliopsoas (hip flexor muscle). These 4 muscles work together to keep our core strong, flexible and prevents lower back pain. If one of the 4 core stabilizer muscles becomes weak or injured, then the other 3 muscles have to work harder to compensate. Over time this puts great strain on the whole core, which leads to back pain/stiffness/weakness.
The pelvic floor muscles are directly involved with three bodily functions, urinary, bowel and sexual.
For functional urination, the pelvic floor muscles surround the urethral opening and should relax when you are voiding and maintain closure or tension when you are not voiding. If the muscles are in spasm, urinary symptoms such as leaking, or feeling a strong urge to void, or having to go to the bathroom multiple times a day (called urinary frequency) and/or being awoken at night to void more than once (called nocturia), can occur. Women using public restrooms should not “hover” over the toilet, as this sustained half squat creates tension in the pelvis and does not allow full relaxation of the sphincters around the urethra to allow full urination. Best to use the protective toilet seat covers and sit comfortably.
For normal bowel movements, the pelvic floor muscles should be able to open and widen to allow the full passage of stool. When not having a BM, the pelvic floor maintains tension at the rectal opening to prevent leakage. If the pelvic floor is weak, leakage can occur. If the pelvic floor is tight, constipation resulting in sitting too long at the toilet, straining to defecate can occur. Toileting should take no longer than 5 minutes following the urge to void. Even though you may not feel completely empty, it’s better to stand and leave the bathroom versus continue to sit and strain. Constant straining can result in hemorrhoids and/or the development of a rectocele, which further impedes good function.
For satisfying sexual function, the toned and flexible pelvic floor allows for more intense orgasms in men and women. A fully relaxed pelvic floor helps women experience pain free intercourse with their male partners. Many patients who are experiencing sexual pain may experience difficulty with partner relationships or even avoid them due feeling of shame or inadequacy.
Pelvic pain due to restricted muscles can be released and return to normal function, no matter how long a person has been experiencing symptoms.
Physical therapists trained and mentored in pelvic floor work can:
- apply targeted manual therapies to rid muscles of trigger points
- utilize biofeedback therapy to help patients learn how to either downtrain (relax) their pelvic floor or to uptrain (strengthen) the pelvic floor
- perform visceral mobilization to improve the mobility of organs lying within the pelvic bowl
- mobilize and teach a patient self-connective tissue (skin rolling) techniques to abolish tight skin and fascia of the inner thighs and abdomen
- teach patients gentle stretching techniques with foam rollers, tennis balls, knobbles, Theracane, S –wands and dilators
- educate in exercises for a strong core
- teach diaphragmatic breathing and visualization to help lower tension of the pelvis and to increase oxygenation to the body and decreased stress
- guidance in cardiovascular exercise to pump more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues
- teach proper bladder and bowel techniques and habits
Most people start to feel better after 2 months of consistent, twice a week therapy which incorporates many of the above techniques. Some reach goals sooner; others may take up to 3 months. By attending regular pelvic floor physical therapy and performing all the home exercises, faulty pattern are reversed and many people are pain free within 2-3 months.
Hypertonus of the pelvic floor is extremely common and often treated incorrectly (as general pelvic floor weakness) because many do not understand the biomechanical functions of muscle well. The problem lies here:
1. There is some sort of pelvic floor or low back or hip issue.
2. The pelvic floor is evaluated for “strength” because it is well understood that in order to maintain correct skeletal orientation and pressures on nerves and ligaments and stuff, the pelvic floor is really important.
3. The pelvic floor evaluation comes back as NOT CONTRACTING WELL, as measured by EMG (electromyograph) or by good old fashioned pressure on a finger.
4. The low-force producing pelvic floor is deemed weak and one is typically given strengthening exercises.
This is all very logical, but unfortunately the very large oversight is that tight or hypertonic pelvic floor muscle will register as “weak” because it is unable to generate force due to the fact that this muscle is already in its tightest (and shortest) position.
Currently there is no agreed-upon clinical standard for measurement (i.e. value of EMG or the finger test) that indicates, when the pelvic floor is not performing correctly, if it’s because it is too tight (read: short) or too loose (read: long). The general misunderstanding seems to be that all a weak muscle needs is a little EXERCISE to fix it up. In actuality, research shows that MORE KEGELS, MORE CORE TENSION, AND MORE SUCKING IN THE GUT MAKE THIS PROBLEM WORSE AND NOT BETTER.
Most pelvic floor issues are created not by one-time events like pregnancy or a skiing accident (like falling on a hip), but by habits that accumulate over time — especially those habits we all share — sitting in chairs the bulk of every day, not using a squat throughout a lifetime, exposure to chronic stress, and then, of course, doing extreme correctives and overdeveloping tension in the abdomen and pelvic floor.
This is a letter from my inbox, which the author gave me permission to share with ya’ll:
I was hoping the Pelvic Floor Guru in you would have some pearls of wisdom for me. I am 35, a virgin (sad as that may be, it’s not my main problem!), and have a steel trap for a pelvic floor–not in a good way. There have been times when a pap smear/etc. were in order, but no doctor has been able to get a speculum in. Not even an “infant” size. The smallest of tampons is uncomfortable. You can imagine the implications this has on my life.
If you think of the vagina like a clock, 3 and 9 o’clock (hip to hip) seem fine, but there is NO give at 12 and 6 (front to back). Does that make sense?
I have several of your DVDs and do the “Down There” stretches every day. I’ve talked to a RN, who is also a physical therapist specializing in the female zone, and she says there are some things she could try to help get those muscles to unclench, but, frankly, it sounds the opposite of delightful.
Boy-howdy, do I hope you have some ideas for me! Thank you for any thoughts you may have!
First of all, thank you for writing, lovely reader. Your description of front-to-back tension is very clear — thank you for that. When you have tension in this direction, it is key to learn about the sacrum and how the pelvic floor can act upon it (read more here) as well as understand that the butt muscles are strong force generators that should be keeping the PF muscles supple in the front-to-back direction.
Understanding the roll of the bum to keep the pelvic floor healthy, full-of-blood (not in a vampire/Halloween way, but in a “hey, I’m healthy, used, and full-of-blood kind of way”), and to provide appropriate leverage for the pelvic floor is essential.
No butt, no pelvic floor. Know butt, know pelvic floor.
Someone should make that a bumper sticker. You’d put that on your car’s rear end, yeah?
Anyhow. When hypertonus is diagnosed correctly, there’s usually one option when it comes to what your insurance will cover and that is physical therapy, but most specifically, “internal work.”Internal as in
Checking your oil.
Going under the hood.
Gettin’ one’s hands dirty.
And, a bunch of other euphemisms that seem to relate to cars.
P.S. Isn’t this a great book cover? I just found it on Amazon (click) and think a Do-It-Herself Guide a great graduation gift for any women heading off to the next steps in life!
So, what’s the problem with internal work? Well, if your pelvic floor has developed some sort of chronic issue that is causing you grief, chances you, like the writer of the email, are not very enthralled with the idea of some stranger poking around in your goods.
Because I am the Queen of Down Under,
I will attempt to shed a bit of light on both the process of internal work, my personal experience with it, as well as things you can do that can also improve hypertonus if you’re not ready to get down with your bad self. To help me out, I’ve brought in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist Susan McLaughlin.
Susan is not only a bad-ass therapist, she’s also a graduate and Master-Teacher-in-Training of our Restorative Exercise™ Whole-Body Alignment program. She does internal work a lot, so I’m going to have her explain what the process is “like” for those who want to know.
So, Susan. Is internal work as creepy as it sounds?
There is a lot of taboo in our culture about genitalia, incontinence and sex and so first of all, it can be an uncomfortable experience to share your pelvic floor issue with your friends or even health care provider. Don’t let that stop you, please! For me, as a practitioner, internal work is a key component to understanding the state and function of the muscles, fascia, potential scar tissue and nerves. So, no, not creepy.
I don’t know, Susan. The word “genitalia” is kind of creepy. But then again, so is the word “creepy,” so I might just be overreacting.
Can you explain a bit about the actual process of internal work? Once when I was getting a facial, I was all relaxed and my face was warm and wet and I had a small fluffy animal placed over my eyes to really make it a spa-like, relaxing experience you know? Then, out of the blue, I hear this sound like someone is being electrocuted, and then I realize that the buzzing and zapping electricity thing is now touching my face, which is wet and my eyes are covered… I had a major freak out that ruined the facial. Even though the therapist knew that the electrical-zappy thing wouldn’t hurt me, I didn’t.
Wow, that was a long story.
But important! Because I, like most people, don’t like to be startled in a session, so I want to know everything that’s going to happen. What is a session with internal work like?
Prior to the internal exam, a superficial assessment is performed.
Sorry to interrupt. Just wanted to clarify that a superficial assessment does not in anyway imply that the practitioner is a shallow person, but that before going in, they take a look around at the surface. You many continue.
The practitioner visually inspects the skin (identifying redness due to inflammation, discoloration, swelling, etc) and observes the perineum for tissue integrity/responsiveness during a pelvic floor contraction, cough and bearing down, as well as palpation of the superficial muscle for tenderness, symmetry. The internal exam is a one finger vaginal (or rectal) assessment. The client is asked to perform a pelvic floor contraction. The quality and strength of the contraction is assessed as well as the ability to return to resting position. If a person is not in a painful state, it is good to assess the endurance of the muscle by having the person hold a pelvic contraction for 10 seconds and then repeat as many repetitions as they can until they fatigue. Quick contractions are assessed by having the client repeat as many as they can in 10 seconds. Again the quality of the muscle activity is important. Some people contract, but never go back to resting position…that is not good. Also the muscles are palpated for tone, tenderness, trigger points. The process is then repeated on the other side.
You sound smart and all clinically and stuff. Do you wear a white coat while you do this?
A lab coat is not my style, though many PTs wear them.
Well, so far it sounds swell. Like a massage, only not But this is what everyone really wants to know: Does it hurt?
Initially, the evaluation and some follow-up visits may be painful. As the muscles and fascia begin to release, the holding patterns let go and many people experience pain relief during the internal work.
As a biomechanist, I’d like to chime in here for a second about the pain thing. Knowing how sensory receptors work and having had internal work myself, would you agree that the amount of pain felt is equal to the amount of tension or resistance to the pressure being applied? Meaning, the therapist might not be pushing at all, it’s the muscles pushing BACK that cause pain. And if one could use the pain as a mental signal — “oh, here is a place that needs to soften” — instead of just thinking — “Damn Woman, stop hurting me!”, wouldn’t the sensation of “pain” instantly lessen?
Yes, actually. I have people practice breathing and mindfully letting the muscles go. I can feel the change in the muscle instantaneously if they are able to do that… and most people can.
Ok. So you’re really just helping people become aware of tension patterns they didn’t even know they had, and open their eyes to a situation that they can actually fix themselves! With a little help, of course…
How does an internal work session compare to a Pap exam? This one time, I thought I’d schedule my annual Pap on my birthday. Which, I just wanted to let everyone know, is not as good of an idea as it sounds. But anyhow, please continue. I just thought you might be interested in knowing the highlights of my Pap history.
Thanks. The sessions are different than a Pap because there is no speculum used. And internal sessions are focused on the re-education of muscles, habits, movements, alignment. If a person is experiencing pain, it is important to teach them how to relax the pelvic muscles. Because these muscle have been held in tension it can be difficult to know how to relax. I have found it very helpful to use a finger inserted at the vaginal opening to assist with the cue to “drop” the pelvic muscle downward/backward. A slight pressure onto the muscle provides stimulus to tell the muscle to let go. This can be helpful for the first few visits until the person has confidence in performing the relaxation on their own. Each therapist has their own manual therapy skills to assist in releasing the muscle/fascia/joint dysfunction.
It sounds very clinical and not that fun. Do you ever laugh at all? I mean, not tell dumb jokes or anything (like me), but would you recommend we pick a therapist they feel comfortable with? To me, a therapist is like a pair of shoes in the store. If they don’t quite fit in the beginning, does the relationship improve? Or, better yet, do people have the right to “interview” an internal therapist for maybe 5 minutes to see if they feel relaxed in general? What are your thoughts?
I am being very clinical right now, my bad. I do actually have a sense of humor and am able to help people feel at ease. I like to explain to people what I will be doing so people know what it going to happen and they can choose whether they feel comfortable or not. Comfort is a big deal. It’s a good idea to call a clinic before you make an appointment and have a quick chat with the therapist to see if it would be a good fit.
Ha ha. You said make sure your vagina therapist is a good fit. Get it? (P.S. If you didn’t laugh at that, then pause, take a breath or two, and see if you can relax your pelvic floor muscles Right Now and read it again!)
Anyways. Do you use equipment? Wires? Electrodes? Headlamps?
Currently I don’t use any equipment. However, many therapists utilize biofeedback, electrical stimulation or TENS.
Oh, right. A TENS. Um, do you want to tell us what a TENS is?
A TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is something that clients can use at home for pain. There are external electrodes that stick to your sacral/low back area or on your abdomen. The electric impulses travel through the nerves to the spinal cord and block the pain impulses that go to the brain (basically keeping the secretary busy so she can’t relay the message to the boss that something is going on). This doesn’t hurt and can actually allow some temporary pain relief. You can buy them off of Amazon for like 40 bucks.
Thanks for explaining the TENS. Although I think many people find a nightly glass or two of wine to be effective
Ok, back to internal therapy. How long does it take to work?
Generally, it may take anywhere from 6-8 visits. Of course, this depends on many factors: is the client doing their home play, how long they have experienced the issue, etc.
Ok. So how does internal work work. (Seems like a lot of work.) Are you fixing my muscles for me? What am I supposed to do/feel/change?
Physical therapy can help facilitate joint mobility and release of fascia and muscle trigger points. The client should begin to become more aware of the pelvic floor muscles as well as all muscles. Notice habits like holding breath, sucking in, excessive sitting and begin changing dysfunctional patterns. The key to lasting change is held by the client. In all of my sessions I emphasize whole-body alignment principles, stress reduction/management, exercise and movement, and nutrition when appropriate.
Is there homework?
Always homework! Restorative Exercise™ and every-day alignment principles.
I’d like to jump in and offer my favorite, get-the-heck-off-your-sacrum, you are damaging your pelvic floor tip here — make sure you are sitting in neutral pelvis and not on a slightly tucked one.
What’s internal work like for a practitioner? What are you feeling for?
The practitioner is feeling for muscle tone/twitch, connective tissue mobility, dense thickened bands in the tissue, adhesion, and symmetry between sides.
Most people think of pelvic floor as just the vaj, but after my vaginal delivery, I developed a hematoma that burst and it seemed to send my deep hip rotator on that side into a spasm. No amount of stretching or specific correctives could get to it and I could still feel that something was off in my hips, even though my vaj was fine. During my session, through help in “finding” the tension I was carrying, I was able to let go of the protective mode I’d been in for almost a year. It made me cry, and not because it hurt. It didn’t! But I just had all this feelings — tense, sad, worried, joy, relief — tied up with this one tiny spot and the event of my son’s birth and, who knows what else! Do other people cry or do seemingly unrelated things?
One of our deep hip rotator muscles called the obturator internus can be palpated and accessed easily through the vagina. This muscle can be a key site in pelvic pain syndromes due to the close connection with the pudendal nerve. The pudendal nerve is the nerve to the muscles of the pelvic floor. Its course of travel runs right over this hip rotator muscle. Tension in the hip rotators can cause irritation of the nerve, and then pain.
And the crying?
Candace Pert, MD was the first to scientifically prove the biochemical basis of emotions. And these emotions, she found are neuropeptides residing not just in the limbic system, but flow throughout the whole body in the nervous, musculoskeletal, immune and cardiovascular systems.
You experienced an emotional release through the fascial and muscle memory! It’s cool stuff and I witness this in my office on a regular basis. This is normal and very liberating. I applaud anyone who is able to feel safe enough to let the emotional release happen.
So Susan, tell me. How did you get into vaginas? I mean pelvic floor health?
I landed a job as a spine specialist and they asked me if I had any interest in women’s health and I said “Hell Yes!” I started taking courses toward my specialization. When I was an anatomy teacher’s assistant I had a fascination with the sacrum. I felt that it was a powerful bone and I felt that, because the pelvis is the area of our center of mass, that there has to be a lot going on in there. Also, my favorite color is orange, the color of the second chakra, the pelvic area…my fate was set!
Orange is your favorite color? Mine too! I never thought about it like that, although I’ve been fascinated by the pelvis ever since taking anatomy as an undergraduate. Do you think or natural interest in orange pelvises and vaginas is why we get along so well?
That and our high sense of fashion! <—— This is a very funny joke that is probably only funny if you spent a week going through our similar wardrobes of sweats, track pants, yoga pants, and fancy yoga pants for formal occasions.
What do you love the most about women’s health work? What do you wish more people understood about their pelves?
I love that the pelvis is our center. It is the house of our womb and bowels. I would like women and men to feel more comfortable expressing themselves to healthcare workers and friends, so pain and dysfunction doesn’t go on for years.
Also, I wish people understood that their daily habits and movement patterns contribute to pelvic pain and that there is a way out of pain without meds and surgery, through awareness and movement.
I really love that. The solution to chronic pain — pelvic, in this case, but of course, it’s the same for all tissues — is through awareness and movement. Beautiful.
Ok, last question. To be crystal clear, internal work is not just for women, right? Men develop hypertonicity with the same frequency (if not more) than women and it’s a risk factor for not only pelvic pain but prostatitis, ya?
The pelvic floor and the obturator internus are easily accessed through the rectum. I see men in my practice as well. Prostatitis is usually the diagnosis they get from the urologist, when in fact, the painful symptom and urinary dysfunction is caused by the hypertonicity of the pelvic floor and other alignment factors.
YES! Fellas, don’t let your PF tension get out of control. It’s a major contributing factor to issues of the colon and prostate. This post is just as much for you as it is the ladies. (Hi Dad!)
Thanks for your time in answering my questions! If you’re in the SLC area of Utah, you’re lucky to have Susan as a potential therapist. Find more info about her practice, her classes, and her pregnancy/pelvic health workshops here: www.alignintegrationandmovement.com
Now let’s say for a moment that someone with a pelvic floor issue just can’t bring themselves to sign up for internal work yet. Susan and I have each come up with a few tips that can help with habits that create or perpetuate hypertonus. I’ll post those in the next day or so, because this post is too long already!