A DEEPER SENSUALITY IS WAITING
“LIVING SENSUALLY BLOWS THE IDEA OF SELF-CARE OUT OF THE WATER"
On any given day, we take care of what we eat, what we wear, where we work, and how we move. But when is the last time you checked in with your sensual self? Surprisingly, it’s rarely part of the conversation when striving to live a balanced, vibrant life. But why?
It may begin with hundreds of years of misleading cultural and social mores. The world at large tends to define women as receivers, as passive participants when it comes to sexual and sensual experiences. Even our female anatomy reinforces this idea. Our bodies are built to receive, to wait for something or someone to come to us.
The idea that our sensuality is only relevant when linked to another person is a fallacy.
We need to embrace the idea of creating sensuality with and for ourselves. After all, it is a form of pleasure, like savoring a great meal, listening to a favorite song, or soaking in the sun on an exotic beach. It’s completely normal and necessary.
When we start to recognize sensuality for what it truly is—a powerful life force within us all—we can harness it to create a deeper connection to ourselves, to others, and as a portal to greater creativity and confidence. Our wish for this new year is to rediscover and heighten the connection to our sensual selves.
Sensuality lives in the slowness, in the inner listening. We generally think of the body as something to push, to shape, to overcome, rather than something we listen to.
We gathered our favorite doctors, healers, and culture-changers to speak to ways we can come out of hibernation and explore a new relationship with our own sensuality.
Schedule Feel-Good Time
“Because we are so busy and a woman often takes the role of caretaker, we usually put ourselves last,” explains Dr. Megan Fleming*, an NYC-based sex and relationship therapist. “I tell patients there’s a reason they tell you to put the mask on yourself before you help others.” Though it can feel counterintuitive, you have more to give if you are truly nurturing yourself. “If you are not running on empty, there is more energy, more of everything to give to others.” Dr. Fleming says to think about connecting with your sexual self like any other part of your wellness routine, such as yoga or facial massage.
But where to start? Coaxing out the truth of what is pleasurable to you is the first step in the intimacy journey. “I first tell women to go back to the body,” says Dr. Fleming. “One exercise is just to stop, be still, and take a few deep breaths. Then scan your body. Notice where you are holding tension and where you feel pleasure in the body.” Pleasure, says Dr. Fleming, is more than sex. “It’s about being mindful of our bodies,” she explains. “This is the best place to start.”
Self-stimulation is the next natural step to getting in touch with yourself, literally. It can be as simple as feeling your skin, your largest erogenous zone. “Let your hands roam, using a light touch, and note what feels good,” says Dr. Fleming. “The benefits are two-fold. You’ll start to focus on what feels good to you and you can then communicate them to your partner. After all, It’s hard to tell someone what feels good if you don’t know yourself.” This practice also helps you own your pleasure. It’s no longer up to a partner alone. Dr. Fleming recommends finishing sentences like “I turn myself on when…” before your lover even walks in the room. “Thoughts create things,” she says.
Dr. Fleming says finding even small opportunities each day for pleasure have an impact on the larger journey. “It’s important to keep ourselves simmering,” she says.
Deepen The Connection
Sex and intimacy coach Lila Darville helps women and men discover authentic sexual expression starting first with the language you use. “In our culture, it is normally acceptable to be sensual, but it is not always OK to be sexual,” she says. “We sometimes use sensuality when we really mean sexuality because it’s more comfortable. Sensual is not always sexual and sexual is not always sensual.”
Darville says being in tune with your sensuality can awaken your sexual energy, but it’s sensuality that opens the gate to experiencing your authentic self. It allows us to feel deeply connected to ourselves and to others. “When you dial down your sensuality or limit it to certain areas, you curb your ability to feel joy and pleasure in all aspects of your life,” says Darville. “You diminish the possibility of igniting your sexual energy which is your life-force energy and can be used in and out of bed.”
Building an intimate relationship with yourself starts with understanding sensuality is bigger than a physical experience in our bodies, according to Darville. It is also an innate connection with emotion and desire. “You don’t need to be taught to be sensual,” she says. “Sensuality lives in the slowness, in the inner listening. We generally think of the body as something to push, to shape, to overcome, rather than something we listen to. Every moment is an opportunity to experience the sensual and deepen the intimate relationship we have with ourselves.” These moments can be things like savoring the texture of the air, noticing the sensation as it enters your body, feeling the texture of grass against your bare feet, or absorbing an intimate hug from a friend or lover.
“With any or all of these small gestures, you are expanding your capacity for the sensual, for pleasure, and how much joy you can hold in your body,” says Darville. “Building this relationship with your own pleasure allows yourself to be guided by it. Playing with the sensual is also a great way to see how you consciously and unconsciously cut yourself off from pleasure and hold yourself back from joy.”
So how to connect with that pleasure each day?
While Darville is cautious to give women another thing to cross off their to-do lists, she advises looking at pleasure as a practice that accumulates as experience. “Notice it everywhere,” she says. “Expand your capacity for pleasure, extend how much you can hold in your body and feel it more often. Do more of what enlivens you from a dropped-in, tuned-in place. Not all the things you think you ‘should’ be doing for self-care but things that are pleasurable. Really drink in the sensations and bathe yourself in them.” Darville believes pleasure can become a vehicle for self-knowledge and personal power that floods into the bedroom and all areas of our lives. “Living sensually blows the idea of self-care out of the water,” she says.
Go With What Moves You
Jennifer Zuccarini, self-described lingerie enthusiast and founder of influential brands Kiki de Montparnasse and Fleur du Mal, thinks creatively about feeding the intimacy zone. “Sensuality is the gratification of the senses,” she says. “As a culture, we’re fixated on certain senses like taste and sight but ignore the subtitles of others.” For her, it's about looking around and discovering the small shifts that can have a profound impact.
“Music is very sensual,” says Zuccarini. “It taps into your emotions and conjures feelings and memories. It’s good to create a playlist of songs that you find super sexy.” A pleasing scent, especially if you don’t normally wear fragrance, can be an alluring expression as well. “It’s about practicing self-care...whatever that means to you,” she says. “Exercise makes you feel great emotionally and you enjoy the physical results.” Even simple things like posture and eye contact have a cumulative effect. “Being aware of your posture can boost confidence, and we know confidence is sexy,” says Zuccarini.
A little flirting never hurt either. “I like the art of flirtation,” says Zuccarini. “Whether you are in a long-term relationship or single, you may not be working that muscle as much so make the effort. Flirting might not be on your agenda every day, but you can practice being charming in any situation. It’s about warmth and making a connection.”
When you are governed by what feels good, you opt out of the external validating culture and the scripts that have been written for you. You chose your own path based on what is honest and true for you as an individual, ultimately leading you to our highest potential.
That can start in the morning while getting dressed. Zuccarini contends there is power in underwear, no matter who sees it. “Our customers buy lingerie for themselves,” says Zuccarini. “It's the first thing she's putting on and that might make her feel more confident, make her feel more sensual.” The designer believes lingerie has an emotional resonance beyond silk and lace. “When you put on something beautiful, you can take a moment to say, ‘Damn, I look good.’ It gives you a little boost.”
The Big Payoff
The benefits of a more intimate connection with ourselves can be profound. For Darville, it’s an intrinsic part of our overall well being. “It’s full-spectrum really, our body, mind, soul, and spirit,” she says. “From our sense of aliveness and fulfillment to reduced stress hormones—when your body is producing pleasure hormones it cannot produce the same levels of cortisol and adrenaline.”
Dr. Fleming says that sensuality is tied to your energy levels, your mood, and more. “It’s about being alive,” she says. “And it can help in a larger sense. When women own their bodies and the pleasure they give, it helps us own our stories.”
Leaning into what is sensual is also crucial to claiming larger authenticity in your life. “To embrace your true self in our society today is quite a radical act,” she says. “When you are governed by what feels good, you opt out of the external validating culture and the scripts that have been written for you. You chose your own path based on what is honest and true for you as an individual, ultimately leading you to our highest potential.”
Darville says the only question is: “How much are you willing to feel of yourself?”
(*Dr. Fleming has just launched The Pleasure Challenge, a free, nine-day program with exercises to keep pleasure a non-negotiable priority.)
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