This article was originally published on goop.com
If your sex life has become a little ho-hum, you’re not alone. Sex and intimacy expert Michaela Boehm has seen a sharp rise in complaints about lack of desire. According to Boehm, the reason women have lost this particular sensitivity is that we’ve become disconnected from our bodies.
In her new book, The Wild Woman’s Way: Unlock Your Full Potential for Pleasure, Power, and Fulfillment, Boehm writes about the importance of consciously engaging with our bodies—the mind-body connection that, she says, is the secret to finding deeper, greater pleasure. Embodiment, she says, is listening to our body’s signals, and she urges us to move our bodies in unstructured ways through practical exercises that bring us back into our feelings and our senses.
These gradual shifts, she explains, can help us loosen energy and move both the good and bad stuff through us. “Our body is our greatest ally and an often underutilized resource when it comes to making decisions connected to pleasure and intuition,” Boehm says. “When we connect back into our body, we tap into a source of great power and a portal to unlocking who we truly are.”
A Q&A with Michaela Boehm
What is the wild woman?
The wild woman is an intricate part of each of us. She is the part of us that is deeply connected to the natural world; it’s our body’s innate intelligence that has kept us alive as a species and that we can still tap into.
She is the archetype that invites us to unfold the parts of ourselves that are mysterious, untamed, and free of the layers of our societal conditioning, beliefs, and habits. She is to be understood as the part of each woman that comes from nature and is part of nature.
I work with this archetype as a portal to natural empowerment, through which we understand that we don’t have to become someone else to be loved, that we don’t need to alter who we are, and that each of us is born with a natural genius that can be revealed and will bloom with the help of our body’s native genius.
This natural expression looks and feels different for each woman; no two are ever alike. There is no fixed idea, dogma, or template into which we need to fit ourselves, but rather we see the engagement with her as an entry point into our own vast and rich inner landscape.
“I work with this archetype as a portal to natural empowerment, through which we understand that we don’t have to become someone else to be loved, that we don’t need to alter who we are.”
Where does body disconnection stem from?
As women, we are uniquely connected to our lower bodies. The power to create, our instinct, and our ability to feel pleasure, as well as to procreate, sit in the lower part of our body.
Many women I work with experience the gradual loss of connection to the feelings and sensations of their body, especially the lower body. With stress and overwhelmedness come numbness, maladaptive coping mechanisms—which may take the form of overeating, addictions, etc.—and disconnection.
When we get into our heads—meaning when we prioritize thinking and doing over feeling and being—our thoughts and actions take on a compulsive quality and our body gets tense and tight. Headaches, a clenched jaw, and neck pain may become all too common.
Knowing where the energy gets stuck or being able to detect areas of tightness and tension is the first step toward distributing the energy differently. Simple movement of the hips, thighs, and lower body can counteract the effects of upper-body tightness and excessive thinking or worrying.
How do we free up that stuck energy?
Here is one simple exercise to bring attention and energy back into the lower body:
Stand barefoot and feel your feet on the ground. Notice the texture of the ground beneath you. Begin to move your body without moving your feet, keeping them firmly planted as you explore how your body wants to move. Try stretching upward and elongating your spine. Move your hips, wiggle them, and stretch your lower back. You can roll your neck and shoulders, make funny faces, and even stick your tongue out. Feel whether there are any areas in the body that need some extra movement, and attend to those areas by moving and stretching.
Bring your attention back to your feet, and as you are standing, take note of your lower body. Notice if your buttocks are clenched or if your pelvic floor feels tight. See if you can gradually release tension by relaxing the lower body, imagining that the tension flows down your legs and out your feet into the ground. You can even do this while seated at a desk as a way to connect back into your power center of the lower body.
In your book, you talk about how pleasure is our birthright—but why do so many women report having such low desire?
One aspect of desire is connected to how many sensations we can feel in our body. When our perception is numbed by stress, sensory overload, and the demands of a busy life, we can’t feel much of what the body signals, including desire.
There are many contributing factors. The body mechanics of “doing” bring the energy away from the lower body and toward the head, neck, and shoulders, tightening our bodies. Desire arises most when the body is open, relaxed, and flowing.
Add lack of time, sleep, and emotional intimacy to the mix and for many of us, the thought of being sexually engaged with ourselves or a partner just feels like yet another chore to do.
My first go-to fix is always the twofold approach of lowering the external input (time away from the most obvious stressors, like electronics, social media, and time-intensive energy sucks) and providing exercises to bring back sensory awareness and, with that, sensual sensation to the body.
How do we create a relationship with our body and pleasure?
The best way to start is for us to reclaim our natural state of aliveness and pleasure through connecting into our feeling body. We can counteract existing patterns of stress and closure by learning new activities that, over time, become the new go-to patterns of our body.
There are two parallel approaches we can use. First, we become aware of tension and tightness in the body and counteract those constrictions by bringing the energy into the lower body. The easiest way to do this is by moving the body in unstructured ways, like the hip circles, or simply dancing to your favorite song at the beginning and end of the day.
Second, you can put some attention on sensual experiences that are already available. Instead of looking for outside fixes and stimuli, which often require even more “doing,” you can become aware of what is already there. The feeling of your hair brushing across your neck, the sensation of fabric swishing around your hips, a delicious bite of chocolate, a sip of tea, or the smell of fresh flowers each can inform your senses and connect you with the perception of pleasure. Over time, these small sensual perceptions train the body to be more aware and alive for sensual connection with a partner and ourselves.
What about creating meaningful intimate relationships?
On a very practical level, making time away from the stressors of life—particularly electronics and social media—has become the number one tool for creating deeper connection and intimacy. Before engaging in elaborate workshops, counseling sessions, or weekend getaways, consider whether you can accumulate daily pockets of connection that interrupt the status quo of the relationship.
Start with ten minutes, so there are no excuses; you can always add on time. Simply sit with your partner and withstand the urge to distract or talk about the logistics of your life. If you want, have something to drink, then look at each other and connect through simple touch. If you are speaking, consider that these ten minutes are there to create deeper connection, and choose topics accordingly. When I work with couples, I often have them use this time to praise each other, which has interesting effects and learnings just by itself.
On a meta level, one key to a meaningful and functional intimate relationship is to determine the purpose of the relationship. For instance, if both partners define their relationship purpose to be parenting and raising their children well, that determines the priorities within the intimacy. Those would be very different activities and goals than the goals of a couple who chooses fun, sexual adventure, and travel as their stated goal.
Often a disconnect in intimacy arises when the purpose has never been clearly stated and expectations are based on different goals. Sometimes the purpose changes (i.e., when the kids leave the house, or one partner wants a baby and the other wants a carefree lifestyle) and the goals need to be redefined and reoriented toward the new goal.
Defining or redefining the purpose of the intimacy can result in heightened closeness and honest conversations that reveal other areas that can be explored to clarify the relationship.
Is there a difference between sexual and sensual pleasure? And what’s more important?
To me, sensual pleasure enhances and contributes to sexual pleasure. They are inextricably connected. We could define sexual pleasure as located in the genitals and potentially leading to orgasm, and sensual pleasure as more widely spread sensations that affect the body and create sensitivity and well-being.
As I mentioned before, when we become stressed or overloaded or are experiencing trauma (fresh or old), we are no longer sensitive to sensations. This often results in diminished pleasure and sensual awareness.
One way to heighten sensation is to provide ever more stimuli, but ultimately this creates more numbness. Another way is to focus on sensual awareness and create sensitivity, which then allows sexual pleasure to be more readily available.
How do you approach trauma work with your clients?
We can look at feelings and emotions through the lens of the body. Once we understand that the body has its own innate intelligence and mechanisms to release stress, sadness, and trauma, we can support our body as it releases and restores.
For the body intelligence to start the release, we need to allow for unstructured, nonlinear ways of movement so physical hold patterns, constriction, and bracing can loosen and the emotional content can be washed out via emotions and bodily release.
There are many somatic modalities available to facilitate this kind of release, among them the Non-Linear Movement Method®, which I developed to aid in this process gently and without force. The exercise I described earlier to bring attention and energy back into the lower body draws from this method.
“Once we understand that the body has its own innate intelligence and mechanisms to release stress, sadness, and trauma, we can support our body as it releases and restores.”
By knowing that we can attend to the body as a means to release, we are free to enjoy life and at the same time know that we have tools to attend to our wounds and traumas. We can use somatic movement as a way to work with past experiences as well as when something has just occurred. The good news is that the body knows what to do; we just need to provide the movement to access our bodily genius.
Michaela Boehm is an intimacy and sexuality teacher and Tantra expert. She’s also the author of The Wild Woman’s Way: Unlock Your Full Potential for Pleasure, Power, and Fulfillment.