Let’s take a moment to think of a scenario. Imagine that you are having a fairly normal day with a regular routine – you have had your morning meal, done your exercises, attended your daily meetings and now, you wish to sit on your comfortable armchair with a cup of tea and a book. A few minutes pass by and suddenly you realise that your legs have begun to shake – you get restless, you put your book aside and find yourself rubbing your hands together, you are no longer able to sip your tea. You realise that your muscles feel tense and nothing about this moment is relaxing. As you go through a series of physical sensations, your mind slowly begins to register that you are feeling anxious.
Our bodies are not unaware of our emotions but are actively connected to them. We don’t fully acknowledge the role that our bodies play in helping us bring closer to our emotional selves but quite frequently, it is our body that stores those feelings which alert us to the fact that there is a lot of healing that we need to go through.
If you have ever gone through a tough relationship in which you found your partner cheating on you and you are left with a heartbreak, chances are that you are going to develop trust issues. Every time you encounter somebody new, your mind and body will immediately remind you of the cheating and of your heartbreak. This means that the memory of a bad relationship is stored in you and till the time you have not processed it, you are going to keep questioning every time there is potential to form a new relationship. Experiences, good or bad, are stored in us – sometimes we are aware of them but many times, we are not. Listening to our mind and body becomes important.
Through a recent Netflix show called ‘Sex, Love & Goop’, audiences around the world learnt of various methods that intimacy coaches use to allow people to embrace their sexuality and desires and to help them go through a healing process that brings them closer to their bodies. One of the methods shown in the show was ‘Sexological Bodywork’, that is somatic sex education which helps people understand how ‘sex feels’ rather than how ‘sex looks’, says erotic wholeness coach Darshana Avila.
This method involves an exploration of your body and can include a hands-on approach. The body is mapped and you begin to discover senses and sensations that you were not necessarily aware of. Sexological bodywork is about understanding how our body perceives and reacts to touches. It can be a healing process – one that moves us closer to our intimate selves and familiarises us to our body in a way we did not know before. However, every session is not hands-on, says Céline Remy, a certified sexological bodyworker – she adds that this entirely depends on the comfort zone and the goal of the client, the idea is to map your body to discover your pleasure zones and to find out about the emotions that are trapped in our muscles and tissues. But it is important to note that sexological bodywork is a practice that is permitted only in a few countries and states. For example, it is permitted in California, where Darshana’s clips in Sex, Love & Goop were filmed.
Many times, we are not aware of why our body is reacting the way that it reacts. Certain acts, that are regular for other people, can be triggering for some. For example, some may find their bodies getting tense during the act of cuddling with their partners. This means that there may be some repressed emotions that our body and mind is holding and they emerge during cuddling – therefore, it becomes important to understand why our body is responding the way it is.
The focus in Avila’s coaching is on the “erotic” rather than on the “sexual”. Sexological bodywork is a “deeply embodied approach to getting to know your body’s sexual response”, says Avila. Remy notes that this process “is a little bit at the crossroad between sex therapy…and sex coaching and hands-on…more of an erotic massage”. Writing for Well+Good, Erin Magner talks about Kimerly Johnson, who along with her mentor, Ellen Heed, “specializes in a combination of sexological bodywork— a hands-on healing and sex-ed modality for the genitals—and somatic experiencing trauma resolution, which helps relax the nervous system.”
Another sexological bodyworker, Liana, says that the process can assist individuals, couples or even groups and help them understand their bodies better. Again, she emphasises that the method can also help release trauma or bad emotions that are stuck in our body. “When you have certain emotional dispositions and you’re doing various activities, the emotions that you’re feeling can get stored in your body”, says Liana. It is also important to know that sexological bodywork sessions can happen individually, between the client and the coach, but they can also happen in groups. Sexologist Joseph Kramer notes that group sessions carry the scope of immense learning – “people get to know each other and do exercises and practises together…the social aspect is very important”.
There is a lot of trauma that our bodies carry and it is important to understand how we physically respond in situations in which we are met with discomfort, sexological bodywork is one of those methods that ‘talks’ to our body and carries the possibility of taking people through a journey that can help in healing some of the emotional imbalances that we may possess.