Self-care is more than bubble baths and face masks. Though we love those options, self-care is also a way to reckon with and heal ourselves and our history.
Body-based forms of healing have a long and rich history in every culture
Unfortunately, patriarchal, ableist, white norms placed intellect and the mind above the wisdom of the body. (For more on the intentional silencing of traditional and body-based approaches to healing, check out Witches, Midwives, & Nurses.) These norms minimize the wisdom of the body, and make it seem less than.
Then, of course, capitalism commodified self-care, making it into something that seems, like one of my Latinx sex coaching clients put it, “something for rich white ladies who don’t have a clue.” While a scroll down your Instagram feed might feel that way (though, in that case your feed might be due for a cleanse), sensual self care has its roots in liberation.
Your body carries so much wisdom
Science is finally coming back around to the fact that body-based wisdom has importance. For example, bodies respond to things before our brains do and often send subtle signals. Our bodies also carry stress, trauma, and emotions in them—after all, these things happen to the body!
All of this is easy to ignore unless we’re listening closely. Thanks to white social and professional norms that reinforce ideas about expressing emotion being bad, it’s even easier to reason your way out of caring about or taking action towards body-based healing.
Sensual self-care is anything that gets you more in touch with your body and senses
It connects you to your inner hedonist. It also is a form of mindfulness, and brings with it all the benefits of such a practice. It helps you complete the stress cycle so you can live a fuller life, more full of freedom in pleasure. And, it doesn’t have to cost you a thing.
12 Free Ways to Practice Sensual Self Care
Practice pleasure mapping
This practice helps you uncover new turn-ons. It’s a fabulous exercise to do with partners but for self-care purposes, it’s also beautiful to do on your own. You can find the directions for this practice here.
Name your emotions and physical sensations
“Name it to tame it” is a common therapeutic approach. It helps you acknowledge what’s going on so that you can feel it and address it. Supercharge this practice by naming not only the emotions but also the physical sensations arising.
Share your feels with someone who loves you
A close friend, family member, or a partner who can hold space for all of what’s coming up for you without trying to fix (unless you want advice!).
Hug yourself, a pet, or someone else
And squeeeeeeeeeze! Hold it for at least 20 seconds to get that release of calming oxytocin.
The sexiest option on this list—and one of the most healing. Switch up your usual masturbation routine and incorporate breathwork, movement, and mindful activities. You get all the health benefits of masturbation alongside those of mindfulness.
Dance with intention
Is there a feeling that you typically avoid or hate to feel? Put on some music that arouses the emotion and let your body move. Anger is a common one, and anything with heavy bass or drums is fantastic for stomping, shaking, and even screaming it out.
Put on something that always amuses you…or, just fake it. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
Read or listen to a sexy or erotic story
Notice how you feel throughout the story. If hands start to wander, enjoy.
Plant your feet firmly on the ground and start to pedal your legs, letting the shakes move up through your body.
Create without a goal
Crack open your journal, coloring book, or canvas and go to town. Jane Clapp provides examples of moving feelings through your art.
Lie on the ground
Whether that’s the floor, pavement, or Mother Earth. Breathe.
So simple and so powerful. Try a simple forward fold, put your legs up the wall, or use something like a foam roller or tennis ball to release tension.
Sensual self care isn’t always easy to practice—and it’s not the same for everyone
It’s not productive in a capitalistic sense. Sensual self-care doesn’t always look pretty or neat, and often defies white norms about what healing “should” look like. Many of us—especially womxn, caregivers, and people of color—carry stories about how we “shouldn’t” or “don’t need to” or that it’s selfish to rest.
That makes it all the more important to prioritize.
How do you practice sensual self care?