Most of us equate sexual pleasure with orgasm, pure and simple. But how many of us regularly experience "full" orgasm -- the sensation of complete satiation, from fingertip to toe, accompanied by a sense of peace and fulfillment?
Well, the good news is that all of us are capable of getting a great deal more pleasure out of our relationships, pleasure that can lead to increased fulfillment in virtually every area of our lives.
For instance, what are your particular goals within a sexual relationship? Perhaps you'd like to become multi-orgasmic -- or maybe just plain orgasmic. Perhaps you'd like to be able to make more noise during sex, without being inhibited by embarrassment or guilt. Perhaps you'd even like to decrease your sexual activity or not be quite as obsessed by it as you sometimes feel you are now. Or perhaps you'd simply like to develop an open channel of expression with your lover or spouse -- one that would alleviate the performance anxiety syndrome so common with both women and men in today's sexual encounters.
Whatever your requirements, you can begin to realize them through a series of simple exercises designed to help you tune into the subtlest parts of yourself. These exercises are part of a series developed by Dr. Bret Lyon, the originator of a popular Los Angeles course title Self-Expression Through Voice and Acting. Lyon, who holds a doctorate in fine arts from Yale and who taught acting at several universities, developed a system combining subtle movement exercises of Moshe Feldenkrais, the tension-releasing work of famed psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, and the voice work of Kristin Linklater to help his acting students get more in touch with their emotions. The result was not only a major improvement in their acting, but a corresponding improvement in their personal lives as well.
I, for instance, took Lyon's class for 15 weeks with the goal of making my voice more resonant; in the process, however, I learned how to be more resonant and expressive in my personal relationships. And in discovering where I held tension in my body, and how to release that tension, I also uncovered aspects of my life that were making me tense -- and I learned how to create situations that would give me pleasure rather than pain. My sex life improved through these exercises as well (my husband took the class with me); not only was I more aware of pleasurable sensations in unexpected areas of my body, but I became less inhibited about enjoying these sensations -- and expressing my needs to my husband. And, correspondingly, I became more aware of him -- where he held tension, his unspoken feelings and desires and how they were being expressed through his body language.
"As my students began getting in touch with themselves -- their bodies, emotions, what made them feel good -- they also began getting in touch with areas in their lives that were unsatisfactory," says Bret Lyon. "Since the basis of my work is freeing the body and the mind, I encouraged students to make plenty of noise during the exercises. I showed them how to breathe and then how to add sound to the breathing in order to open up the chest and vocal chords. The sounds that began to emerge were often amazing -- the class sounded like the Bronx Zoo. Grunts, moans, bellows, laughs, screams and tears would follow naturally from these physical movements."
If there's a problem sexually, there's invariably a problem in overall expression, says Lyon. And, correspondingly, as you become more expressive in your life, your sex life will improve. A case in point is Virginia, a 30-year-old student of Lyon's who started his class feeling "a lot of obligation to do the right thing. For 10 weeks I worked very hard to breathe correctly and make sounds, but nothing was happening. Then finally, I stopped working and just let myself go -- I let myself feel the pleasure in my arms and legs, the looseness in my chest. The sense of freedom and power was amazing. The following week I dumped my boyfriend who, like all the other men I was ever involved with, had been verbally abusive and condescending. And a few weeks later I began dating a man who was nice to me, for the first time in my life."
Dr. Joel Dweck, a Los Angeles-based therapist who works at the Reichian Center in Santa Monica, a therapy center devoted to the practice of Reichian energy-release techniques, also reports dramatic changes in his clients within short periods of time. "One woman who was non-orgasmic," recalls Dweck, "was able to experience orgasm after a five-day workshop during which we worked at breathing, massaging areas of tension in the body and having the students become aware of those areas by 'going inside them.' In the end, they were able to release the tension by way of involuntary expression."
According to Dweck, changes in one's sexual awareness are inevitable after doing Reichian work, since the techniques center on surrendering both body and emotions.
"Holding back any emotion blocks you in your body," says Dweck. "Now pleasure, for instance, has a lot of the aspect of surrender in it -- more than people realize. Most people think of pleasure in terms of excitement, but excitement raises the tension level. True pleasure, on the other hand, is a release of tension: As your body relaxes, more of you takes part in the release of pleasure, or orgasm. So, instead of the energy being localized in the genitals, it's much freer to travel to the rest of the body. Eventually, the orgasm becomes a much deeper experience that demands a closer relationship -- one involving a certain amount of trust."
While Dweck prefers to work with his clients in a one-on-one relationship, there are other Reichian-based therapies that advocate specific body exercises to do at home. Among the most famous of these is Bioenergetics, of which Dr. Alexander Lowen of New York is the founder and primary exponent. Believing that expanded sexuality is inexorably linked to freeing blocked areas of the body, Lowen notes in his book, The Way to Vibrant Health, co-authored with Leslie Lowen, that "a sexually alive body is characterized by a free-swinging pelvis, meaning that it moves spontaneously and is not being pushed, bumped or ground out."
The following exercises are recommended by Drs. Lyon and Lowen and can be done alone or with your lover. In the latter case, do not enter into them with any expectations other than relaxation. You may feel immediate results, such as increased body awareness and energy release, but the more profound effects usually don't come until after several sessions. Meanwhile, remember the following "rules": (1) Set aside an unrushed period of time in quiet surroundings, wear loose clothing and sit on floor mats or foam. (2) Don't push yourself beyond a comfortable point, physically and emotionally, and accept your individuality -- don't allow "shoulds" to dictate your activities. (3) Accept the feelings and sensations that you may experience and go with them. (4) And, if you're doing the exercises with a partner, make sure that he wants to do them and is willing to experience the emotional release they may bring. If there's any reluctance on his part, you may want to concentrate on the exercises you can do alone, while also encouraging him to do them himself.
This exercise encourages you to get more in touch with your physical self by zeroing in on areas and sensations that are normally ignored. The first step to increasing pleasure is increasing your awareness of pleasure. Learn to recognize pleasure in subtle body responses. By the same token, develop an awareness of the subtle ways in which you hold tension. Learning to release body tension is vital to learning to experience more pleasure.
Lie down on the floor. Relax. Close your eyes and notice your physical responses. Are you breathing freely? If not, let your breath go. Are you tense? Where -- head? Neck? Left calf? Don't try to dispel the tension, just be aware of it.
Now, are there areas of your body where you feel loose and relaxed? Concentrate on them, let yourself feel the pleasurable sensation of relaxation, which usually takes the form of a tingling or "streaming" sensation.
SMALL BODY MOVEMENTS
Now that you've become aware of your body, get a sense of how it moves. For instance, we don't normally think of a movement of the neck affecting the legs, or a movement of the feet affecting the chest. But all the parts of the body are connected, and the more we become aware of these connections, the more we can reduce physical tension and improve relaxation. The following movements are designed to be effortless so that you can do them without any tension or stoppage of breath, things that often occur during rigorous movement or exercise. In doing these movements, strive only for grace and elegance; do not strain or exert yourself in any way.
In your relaxed state, still lying on the floor, move your right leg forward very slowly, stretching your heel. There should be no forcing whatsoever; think of someone pulling, very gently, a string tied to your ankle. It's just a small movement, with no strain. Now bring the leg back to its original position. Keep breathing. Repeat this movement five or six times, and notice the feelings in your toes, your right foot, your hip, your shoulder. Now relax, breathe and note how your right side feels. Longer than the left? More relaxed? More energized? Repeat the exercise with the left leg. Then return to the original position and relax, breathing easily for a minute or two.
Roll your head to the left, very slowly, breathing all the while. Pretend that someone is pulling the top of your left ear, very gently. Return to the center and repeat the movement five times, very slowly and easily. Notice what other parts of your body are affected. Your chest? Legs? Spine? Repeat the movement for your right side and then, after pausing to relax and breath, roll the head from side to side, very slowly. Maintain awareness of the feelings in your neck and shoulders. Return to center and relax.
Still lying, move your arms above your head. Slowly stretch your right arm; the sensation should resemble the feeling of the first movement with the heel, as if someone is pulling, very gently, a strong tied to your wrist. Keep breathing; notice how the movement affects the rest of your body. Return to center and relax: Repeat the movement five times, relax for a minute and repeat on the left side. Return to center, relax.
The pelvis is the physical center of the body. Moving it also moves the torso, legs, and head, which means that energy flow to those areas is increased. In addition, the pelvis is the sexual and energy center of the body -- and tends to be locked in most people, which makes satisfying sex difficult to achieve. The following exercises are designed to help loosen your pelvis and to see how this loosening affects the other parts of your body.
Imagine that your pelvis is a clock, with twelve o'clock at your belly button and six o'clock at your genitalia. Lying flat on your back, move your feet up until they are flat on the floor and your knees are bent. Now, very gently, move your pelvis from three o'clock to nine o'clock, side to side, allowing yourself to enjoy the easy, rolling motion. Keep breathing: repeat this movement 10 times. Return to the center position and relax. Now move your pelvis forward and back, between twelve and six o'clock. Move very slowly, no forcing; just experience the pleasure of the rocking motion. Repeat 10 times, then relax and breathe for a couple of minutes.
Now stand with your feet straight and parallel, and about 12 inches apart. Bend your knees slightly, making sure your weight us in the balls of your feet. Shoulders should be down, chest soft and belly out. Place hands on hips. In this position, try to rotate your hips in a circle from left to right,.
The movement should occur mainly in your pelvis -- involve your upper torso only minimally. After six circles from left to right, reverse the direction and make the same number of circles from right to left.
Concentrate on min-body awareness during this exercise. If you felt your belly tighten, you were cutting off sexual feeling. Try to let your abdomen stay soft. Were you holding your breath? Keep your breathing even with the movement.
BREATHING AND SOUNDING
These exercises are designed to help your breathing become deeper and more automatic. This is very important in sex, where you need to keep a steady flow of breathing to maintain pleasure. Hoever, as the energy level is raised during sex, and as sensation is heightened, the body often blocks your flow of air. The deeper and more effortless your breathing becomes, the less blocking will occur.
Letting out sound ("sounding") is also a good way to release energy that's building up in the body. In addition, sounding lets you become more connected with your "center," since sound literally comes up from your belly. It's important to remember that orgasm is the buildup and discharge of energy. These exercises are designed to allow that process to be smoother and fuller.
Inhale slowly, filling the stomach first and then the chest. Let the air out slowly, easily. Imagine your entire body relaxing, bit by bit, with each breath. Envision your skeleton, the bones becoming like foam, melting, first the toes, then the feet, legs, spine, pelvis, etc., on up to the cranium. Now center on your abdomen and imagine a pool of vibrations inside it. Give the vibrations a color and a sound -- the hum of bees, perhaps. Let the vibrations travel up to your chest, into your throat and voice. Let the sound come out slowly, easily: keep breathing. The sound will vary for each person: it may be a tiny hum or "aaah" for some, a loud singsong for others. Some may not be able to make any sound at all at first, while others may go so far as to scream. Whatever happens, don't worry. Your ability to sound will improve the more you do this exercise.
Sex is, and should be, a total connection between two people. This exercise is designed to enable you to connect more fully with your partner. In relationships, many of us hide behind words; but here you have the chance to really communicate without the distraction of verbalizing. In addition, pairing will allow you to share with someone else the newfound freedom you're beginning to develop through the other exercises, and to become more aware of your lover's body and what he's expressing through it.
This exercise is done with your partner, and follows immediately after breathing and sounding. Maintaining your deep, steady breathing, slowly raise yourself into a sitting position and, when you feel ready, sit knee to knee with your partner. Keep your eyes closed and "trade" sound back and forth. Eventually, open your eyes and look at your partner. Explore each other with your eyes and hands. Keep on sounding and breathing, but remember: This pairing is nonverbal. Think of a response that you want from your partner and try to get it using nonverbal communication. What usually occurs here is either a "love" scene or a "fight" scene, so don't be surprised by either.
When you feel like terminating the pairing, close your eyes and return to the knee-to-knee position and breathe deeply for a few moments. You may find that this particular exercise leads directly to sex, or you may want to discuss your feelings and experiences at this time. Whatever happens is supposed to happen.
When you allow yourself to experience the full potential of pleasure, your orgasms will provide a release of not only tension in the entire body, but also "a general sense of well-being -- the feeling that there's some sort of sense to life," according to Bret Lyon. Joel Dweck speaks of the "profound" nature of the orgasm, "the involvement of the heart and mind, as well as the body," and the sense of satisfaction and peace that accompany total orgasm. And Alexander Lowen describes complete orgasm as "being vibrantly alive, which could be equated with capacity for pleasure and joy in living."
In short, the more you begin to listen to your -- and your lover's -- body, the easier it will be for you to surrender to the sensational sensations of total orgasm, which -- maintain therapists Lyons, Dweck and Lowen -- should not be a rare experience, but a regular occurrence.
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR PLEASURE DURING LOVEMAKING
Orgasms are nice, but a sense of trust in your partner can be even nicer. Unfortunately, there's a lot that can get in the way of trust: fear of not being able to perform or respond adequately; overall nervousness with someone new; and guilt or inhibition when it comes to expressing needs and desires. So Bret Lyon offers some tips on how to stop performing -- and start enjoying -- the art of love.
Take your time. There should be no pressure on either of you to rush your lovemaking.
Don't expect a performance. The sexual act is one of sharing -- it's not a solo with one person onstage and the other applauding.
Make sure you touch each other non-sexually as well as sexually. Concentrate on touching your lover's face or arms, and enjoy the moment. Don't view nonsexual touching as merely a prelude to the secual; appreciate it for what it is -- a sign of intimacy and caring.
Find your own rhythm, which will relate to your breathing pattern. Get caught up in the breathing and the rhythm, not the performance.
Allow yourself to make noise. The throat and pelvis (i.e., the voice and genitals), are connected neurologically via parallel curves in the spine; what happens in one happens in the other. So, freeing your voice will free your pelvis and allow your orgasm to be that much more intense.
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