How can my partner and I get out of our heads and be present during sex?
The juxtaposition between our increasingly digital world and the uptick in requests for tools and techniques to practice mindful sex fascinates me—but it doesn’t surprise me. So many of us crave deeper connections and more presence in all aspects of our lives, especially our sex life.
Like building desire, getting out of your head and being present during sex starts long before sexy time. It’s a practice, a muscle you build over time. Here are some of the best ways to get started.
Mindful Sensual Play (formerly known as foreplay—here’s why we don’t call it that anymore)
These practices help you and your beau(s) connect deeply before you get it on.
Mind the transition
Dr. Reece Malone, a sex therapist and sexuality educator, encourages couples to be mindful of how you start your intimacy.
“Oftentimes individuals can be in a rush or fall into habits and long held patterns. By savoring entering into an intimate encounter, lingering in the enjoyment with each other, and being present with the sensations of physical contact can increase desire and sexual satisfaction.”
How? He recommends breathing together. “Turn off any social media aps, dim the lights, reduce external noises and distractions. Whether the couple is gazing into each other’s eyes or even spooning…being attuned to each other’s breathing can deepen intimacy, increase vulnerability, and ignite passion.”
Practice outside of the bedroom
For many people, sex feels vulnerable and high stakes. That’s why couples who talk about everything find themselves stumped when it comes to talking about sex!
Malone recommends living a sensual life outside of the bedroom. “The more we practice being in the moment with ourselves, the greater the chances we are to be more present and mindful with a partner.”
Savour your food and drink, look up as you walk around, or face the sun, eyes closed, and bask in its warmth.
Lead with your breath
According to Eva Blake, a somatic sex educator and sexological bodyworker, one of the best ways to mindfully increase intimacy and pleasure is to lead with your breath.
“Start by simply focusing on your breath in this current moment. Notice whether you are inhaling and exhaling through your nose or mouth. Notice the length of the inhale and exhale. Notice how your chest, belly, back, or pelvis expands and contracts as you move the oxygen through your system. Find the flow that already exists. You don’t have to ‘make something happen.’ Just notice what is already happening.”
Use your breath to lead any action
Blake shares a simple practice to touch and nourish each other. She says:
“On your own or with a partner, caress the arm or side body in one direction for the duration of the inhale, then go in the opposite direction for the duration of the exhale. Move at the speed and pace of the breath. Take your time to notice the terrain of the skin and bones and flesh and fat over the course of the fullness of the breath.”
Use these practices in the moment to bring your stray thoughts back to the pleasure.
When you’re self-pleasuring, it’s easy to let play and pleasure fall to the wayside. Dirty Lola, co-host of Sex Probz, recommends that you take the time to treat yourself the same as you would a lover.
“Wear your favorite lingerie just for yourself. Indulge in food you normally think of as date food when you’re by yourself. Most importantly, make love to yourself during solo sex instead of just a quick fap before bed. Use all your favorite toys. Light some candles. Tell yourself how luscious you feel. You deserve all of those things whether you’re with someone or on your own.”
According to relationship therapist, educator, and author, Shadeen Francis, one aspect of mindful sex that often gets overlooked is emotional attunement.
“Being present to your emotions, and the emotions of your sexual partners is key to mindful sex. Check-in with how you’re feeling (use an emotion word!) and if you’re with another person, ask them about how they feel, also.”
Focus on your senses
Whether self-pleasuring or having partner sex, pay attention to what you see, feel, hear, taste, and touch. Malone elaborates: “By being present with our own sights, smells, tastes and sensations throughout our body, we build a stronger relationship with ourselves and broaden ways we can share our pleasures with our partners.”
If your brain tends toward judgment as you do this, refocus on pleasure, says Francis. “Finding pleasure gives your brain meaningful work to do if your mind is particularly noisy in the moment. You can also advocate for any changes you might like that will increase your pleasure and bring you deeper into the experience.”
Let your breath anchor you
If you find yourself getting anxious or awkward, Blake says to simply return to your breath. “[Let it be] your anchor, your ground, your guide.” Focusing your breath slows you down so you can get fully present and connected.
Mirror each other
To amplify or intensify your connection, Blake recommends a three-step process: “Look each other in the eyes, match your breath with your partner’s while each of you mirrors the touch of the other—same part of the body, same pace, similar level of pressure.”
Mirroring creates a strong connection between you, generating excitement and deepening your intimacy and closeness. You may feel swept up in the excitement, ecstatic even.
Mindfulness isn’t for everyone.
Sex and relationship coach Dawn Serra notes that “embodiment is not accessible to everyone and presence may feel unsafe” for a variety of physical, mental, and emotional reasons. She recommends reading Better Sex Through Mindfulness by Dr. Lori Brotto as well as The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk for deeper understanding of trauma and mindful sex, as well as practices to untangle the two so you can lean into presence safely. I’d add Rachael Maddox’s Secret Bad Girl to this list.
Practicing mindful sex can be a powerful step on your journey to finding freedom in pleasure
It helps you practice receiving, deepens your connection with yourself and any partner(s), and invites in more pleasure.