By now, you’ve likely heard that mindfulness and meditation come with a bunch of health benefits. The practices have the potential to reduce stress and anxiety, ease pain and fatigue, help you make healthier food choices, fight premature aging, and even boost your immunity.
But that’s not where the perks end: An emerging body of research suggests that mindfulness may boost your sex life, too, increasing desire (and even lubrication), helping with sexual satisfaction, and your confidence.
“What we’re bringing together is the mind and the body—the physical, sexual response,” says Cheryl Fraser, PhD, a clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and author of Buddha’s Bedroom. “Meditation is essentially the ability to focus our attention, our concentration, and our mind on whatever the chosen meditation object is—and great sex is all in your head.”
But what exactly is sexual meditation and how can you put it to use for, you know, better sex and more orgasms? Ahead, experts explain:
What is sexual meditation, exactly?
First, sexual meditation isn’t quite a term used by experts in the field. They refer to mindfulness and meditation more broadly, studying how the practices apply to sex.
Terminology aside, the idea is all about bringing the skills of mindfulness into a sexual context, explains Lori Brotto, PhD, director of the University of British Columbia Sexual Health Laboratory and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire.
To this point, sexual meditation can be many different things: It can simply refer to a general mindfulness or meditation practice, a more mindful approach to sex while you’re in the moment, partner exercises that have sexual and mindfulness components, or specific mindfulness work that could have particular payoff during sex.
The benefits of sexual meditation
Both general mindfulness and meditation can have big benefits for your sex life. These are five of the biggest ones, according to experts:
It reduces stress, which makes sex more enjoyable.
“Sex is stressful for a lot of people,” says Brotto, who notes that this is especially true if you have sexual difficulties, such as pain during sex, insecurities, or communication issues. “During sex, all sorts of worries and preoccupations can create stress and that is reflected in the stress response system in the body,” she explains.
And as that stress response becomes activated, it becomes difficult to feel aroused. “We know when we can manage this response, we’re much more likely to experience arousal,” Brotto says. Mindfulness naturally decreases stress, since it helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, balances out your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your stress response. The result: You enjoy the moment more.
It teaches you to focus on the present, leading to better orgasms.
“Focus intently on what you’re doing” is not a profound or complicated instruction, admits Fraser. But anyone whose mind has wandered to dirty dishes or the kids’ homework during sex can agree that it’s not always the easiest order to follow.
“Meditation is the ability to focus the mind and we’re really lousy at that,” says Fraser, adding that “meditative focus makes your senses blaze.” Learning how to hone in on the here and now—a kiss, touch, or other sensation—can help you be more present.
The benefit: “Sex itself can be a better, hotter, more sensual experience,” Fraser says. When you’re better able to tune into your partner stroking your leg or running a finger along your neck, you’re able to experience more intensity. Brotto adds that meditation can also increase activity in parts of the brain linked to interoceptive awareness—or how aware you are of different body parts.
It can increase your sex drive.
Really. Research finds that a mindfulness practice can help increase sexual desire and how much you want to have sex, says Fraser. “You’re more likely to initiate if you’re practicing mindfulness and applying it to your sex life.”
It’s not that a little Om is suddenly going to turn you on, but rather that the qualities of mindfulness—the ability to pay fairly close, focused attention to what’s actually happening, which in turn allows you to be more present and enjoy those happenings more—can build off of one another, strengthening your drive.
“When people start a mindfulness practice, they tend to continue over time because they are so motivated,” adds Brotto.
It can make you closer with your partner.
How much you enjoy sex matters. But often, sex is also about that connection and love for your partner, says Fraser. And if you’re able to root yourself in the present moment, you’ll also be more acutely aware of the other person in the room, allowing you to reconnect in a more meaningful way.
Sex will feel fresh again.
“If you can train your mind to show up, it creates novelty, it creates excitement, and it creates a type of connection that generally we have only experienced early on in our love affair,” says Fraser. That means, in many ways, retraining your mind via meditation and mindfulness can recreate that honeymoon-type feeling you may not have felt in a while, instilling a new sense of excitement in your sex life.
How to practice sexual meditation
On your own or with your partner, there are multiple different ways to pick up a sexual mindfulness or meditation practice. Here are a few ways the experts suggest you get started.
1. Start a simple, daily mindfulness practice.
If you’re not meditating or creating any moments of mindfulness at all in your average day-to-day, it’s time to start. “I advocate really strongly for, first and foremost, a general, structured mindfulness practice,” says Brotto. This might include simply sitting quietly to meditate on your own and focusing on your breathing or it could involve meditating with the help of an app such as Calm or Headspace.
Building skills and learning to focus on your breath, the moment, and other sensations can help you adopt your newfound habit in the bedroom, she notes.
2. Do this back-to-back partner activity together.
“Mindfulness exercises can be done with a partner and I often advocate doing them together,” says Brotto. One she likes: Sit or stand back-to-back and do a body scan, where you mentally scan how your body feels from head to toe, noting any parts that feel tense or relaxed. Focus on the points of contact between you and your partner. Hone in on factors such as texture, pressure, and temperature—things you can pick up on in sexual moments, too, suggests Brotto.
3. Open your eyes while you meditate, then try it during sex.
Closing your eyes during meditation can be helpful because it eliminates distraction from the visual field, says Fraser. But too often, a lack of eye contact in sex can keep us from connecting with our partner.
To refine this skill, Fraser suggests finding mindful moments when you keep your eyes open, such as sitting and looking out a window at a beautiful spring scene or staring at a plant in your apartment, taking in its different parts.
Focusing on something beautiful when you’re not in the bedroom can help you do it when you are, she says. In the moment, especially if you’re feeling yourself getting pulled elsewhere, try to gaze into your partner’s eyes. This can regroup you into the here and now, says Brotto.
4. Better yet, try this eye contact exercise.
At a quiet time during the day, sit face-to-face with your partner and gaze into his or her eyes for three full minutes, suggests Fraser. Better yet: Gaze into only one eye, which is not something people do very often but can actually be more intense than switching between both eyes, she says. It’s okay to giggle and feel uncomfortable but try not to talk.
You can advance the exercise by kissing with your eyes open, focusing in on the sensations. When you’re more comfortable simply looking at each other outside of the bedroom, it should come easier in the heat of the moment (playing up that connection factor), she says.
5. Take a distracting thought in a sexier direction.
If you notice your mind wandering during sex, drop the thought and swap it for a sexual one, suggests Fraser. While using your erotic imagination to think of something sexy isn’t exactly what it means to be in the moment, it’s something Fraser often suggests to people to help bring them closer to the sexual experience at hand. “Mental distraction is number one sex drive killer and this is a step in the right direction,” she says.
Eventually, with practice, you might not need this bridge and might be able to simply drop the thought to focus on the intensity of a touch or smell in the moment.
6. Try a ‘slow sex’ session.
In a crazy, fast-paced world, slowing down your mind is difficult. It’s also not something we do all that often. That’s why Fraser suggests that people have really slow sex from time to time (or that they practice really slow sexual activities).
Her advice: Have one session where one person is the ‘giver’ and one is the ‘receiver’ and simply concentrate on slow, erotic touch or seduction. Training your mind and body to slow down can not only improve mental focus but also curiosity, helping you to realize certain touches you might not have known you liked or sensations you hadn’t noticed before.