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Psychology

On Getting Naked in Therapy: The Ancient Practice of Sexual Healing

The key to unlocking pleasure, sex, orgasms and overall ecstasy is possible. It’s called sexual healing. And we’re not talking about humming Marvin Gaye’s namesake song; sexual healing is about attaining an elevated state of personal fulfillment. If achieved, it is believed to not only cultivate better bedroom bliss, but an overall feeling of contentment and self-confidence in one’s life. And while the practice is most prominent in New Zealand—where retreats can be found that cater specifically to this ancient form of therapy—it can now be found throughout the United States and beyond.

For the uninitiated, it can be confusing to navigate the litany of terminology associated with sexual healing. The reason for the plethora of descriptions is because “this line of work is unregulated. Since there’s no governmental support or official overseeing body; it is in a ‘legal grey area’ for most parts of the world, including the United States,” explains Matthias Rose, a Tantric Guide & Healer in Seattle. As a consequence, there are risks involved—emotional, mental and physical, especially with pseudo-practitioners who do not act with integrity. “The key is to be cautious and informed,” Rose advises. In preliminary consultations, practitioners provide a safe & trustworthy environment, clarify intentions, present credentials and set boundaries; they welcome all manner of questions and offer answers in a non-judgemental and non-defensive way. Such consultations are important to gauge a client’s willingness to incorporate touch in the first session. 

Sexual healing largely stems from Classical Tantra. According to Somananda Maimon, Founder & Lead Teacher of Somananda Tantra School in Estonia, “Tantra is the study of energy. It is also a comprehensive and complete spiritual system that answers life’s greatest mysteries; at the same time, it grants us with practical tools and techniques to develop our inner world, live a happy and harmonious life...” While Tantra is often portrayed as a synonym for sex, Maimon clarifies that it is “a very small part of a greater whole. Tantra is far reaching and encompasses yoga, meditation, pranayama, astrology, astronomy, philosophy, energy and many other exciting facets.”  Tantra exists as a philosophy with holistic devotion and practices; it is not be confused with one of its branches which emphasizes and focuses on pleasure which is called Tantric Massage/Tantric Sex. Here, it relates to spiritual energy whereby the master or expert (called a Daka or Dakini) guides you with a massage and/or with intimate touch. Somananda explains Tantra as it pertains to massage and/or sex is "an integral, very potent and healing form of lovemaking that can provoke wondrous effects. The ancient tantrics discovered that the moment of orgasm was in fact, a state of higher consciousness or enlightenment.” Tantric Massage/Sex explores and activates or re-awakens dormant parts of the body and heightens awareness and sensitivity; once this sexual energy is harnessed and controlled, you can achieve higher states of arousal and for extended periods. 

Michael Hayman, a Sexual Healer in New Zealand, describes this as connecting the two hearts (the chest with yoni and lingam, vagina and penis in Sanskrit, respectively) to reach the crown of the head/mind through breathing exercises, internal and external touch (which can focus on the genitalia or the whole body). Once achieved, this  type of sexual healing allows for elevated states of self-pleasure, and paves better communication and know-how when giving and receiving pleasure. Though, this kind of therapy doesn't always involve sexual touch and energy. Sessions could comprise of building tools that pertain to mindfulness, breath, patience and being present with oneself. “Not everyone is comfortable, able to get naked, and have a stranger touch them so intimately in the first session. So practitioners sometimes start with a tantric massage that use these tools and don’t zero in on sexuality to start," Rose encourages.
I had a woman who couldn’t orgasm for 6 years and in the first session, after I massaged her yoni, she had several orgasms and was gushing,
While Tantra is associated with spirituality, there’s another lineage that isn’t. This is called (Soma) Sexological Bodywork; Soma means relating to the body and its approach stems from more practical roots and applications with an emphasis on education. There are organizations and educational schools where one can either attend workshops, become a “SexBod” practioner, or use as a resource to find a bodyworker. According to Ellie Wilde, a Sexological Bodyworker in New Zealand, there is an emphasis on offering people “erotic intelligence” with body work and more practical applications that focus on the physical. It is a bit like anatomy class but much more interactive and you learn how to control and expand sexual energy (e.g. instead of a quick rush and release, you learn to cultivate present mindfulness; doing this is said to give you a long lasting, all-over-body orgasm).This modality is with a more clinical intention—but not in a medical sense — with a focus is on physical, hands-on bodywork (that may include genital and/or anal touch). Of course, practitioners are always clothed if they are legitimate. For skeptics, it’s also worth noting that Sexological Bodywork is registered in the state of California as a legal occupation.

Like any medical practice, there are specializations within specializations. Why? Simply because everyone has different needs to be met; there’s no one size fits all approach. What can be surmised from these limitless modalities is that they’re all united by a common thread: love and intimacy is for everyone; it can coexist (with oneself and with others) in a harmonious manner. Healers will attest that it is the most fulfilling form of pleasure; moreover, it’s a beautiful life-altering thing worth celebrating. Imbuing clients with practices and skills such as attention towards the breath, understanding energy and harnessing it, mindfulness, conscious-touch, expressing oneself with sounds and motions, are methods by which clients are able to strengthen connections between body and mind, release tension and pent-up emotions.It's about restoration and letting go of a buildup of numbness.

Clients from all walks of life seek out sexual healing. Beyond helping those who have suffered from physical/mental abuse and trauma, are sexually inexperienced and who simply seek to re-awaken their sexual prowess, many practitioners will attest that it is about unlearning many of society’s indoctrinations like unrealistic standards from pornography and flawed sex education class in school. “So many of our youth are learning about sex through pornography, but it doesn’t teach or demonstrate any forms of pleasure. Porn is primarily centered around the male fantasy and generating excitement. Whereas sexual healing is the ability to forge a genuine intimacy between the heart and sexuality. When merged and celebrated—it is transformative,” Rose explains.

It's only in the last 5-10 years that this practice is gaining momentum, particularly in coastal environments where yoga, reiki and meditation are the mainstream. “It’s counter to many other religions where one rejects the body and sexuality—which is the essence and culture of Tantra Massage/Sex. In an age of fear-mongering, religious zealotry, and sex as sin/shame, what we need to be teaching is that sex is pleasure.” Despite how conditioned society has become, it is gaining in popularity because its experts and followers vouch passionately for its effectiveness. “[The] results can be instantaneous. I had a woman who couldn’t orgasm for 6 years and in the first session, after I massaged her yoni, she had several orgasms and was gushing,” Hayman explains. The release is not only physical, “it can be a very emotional experience. Sometimes clients will laugh, express anger, or cry.” While many do generally pick more conventional approaches to therapy (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy), Rose asserts that such sessions are slower to see results: “Within as little as six sexual healing sessions, client issues can be resolved. The only exception is perhaps childhood trauma/shame—these experiences get hardwired into our neurology differently, so it takes more time to peel back the layers of pain.” 

“Dig deep and ask yourself, ‘Am I happy with my sex life? Am I having difficulty expressing myself sexually with my partner(s)? Is it something deeper?’ Answering these questions is the first and brave step to dramatic healing,” Rose encourages. Wilde adds, “if your body could speak, what would it express to you?”

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