We're not always fans of the health practices Gwyneth Paltrow endorses (remember that whole jade egg thing?!). But last weekend at her Goop Health Summit, Paltrow and her friends did discuss some pretty interesting topics. Among them? Orgasmic meditation. In fact, Jenni Konner (producer of Girls and Lena Dunham's BFF) said she's such a big fan that she tells as many people about it as she can, reports Elle. (Here, find 21 surprising facts you didn't know about your orgasm.)
So what is it exactly? Well, it turns out that orgasmic meditation (OM) is actually a brand name for a practice created by Nicole Daedone, whose company OneTaste is a platform for the idea. "Orgasmic meditation is a type of meditative practice that essentially integrates bringing your full awareness and attention into the present moment along with the connected experience of orgasm, though orgasm may or may not occur," explains Christene Lozano, L.M.F.T., who specializes in sex addiction and sexual health.
"During an orgasmic meditation session, the 'stroker' gently strokes the clitoris of the 'strokee' for 15 minutes. The length of 15 minutes is a deliberate time frame, as this is a long enough amount of time for the mind and body to get into a state of orgasm while being short enough to practice on a regular (even daily) basis," she says. The goal? Just to feel the sensation, not necessarily actually orgasm. Generally, the practice is done with a partner, not alone, and you can even find workshops provided by trained facilitators.
Admittedly, this practice might have first piqued our interest because anything Goop-recommended needs a closer look, but once you learn more, it seems like a great way to promote sexual equality. Not to mention that during the summit's panel discussion, Konner expressed another unique use. "The amazing thing about orgasmic meditation, besides that it helps people learn about their bodies and couples connect, is that it is a hugely healing practice for sexual trauma." It made us wonder, could slow stroking actually help women heal mentally?
According to experts, maybe, but it's probably not the best way to go about it for a few different reasons. "As a sex therapist treating couples who are having difficulty connecting physically, I find a variety of reasons which contribute, including trauma, past negative sexual experiences, sexual pain, insecurity, or performance fears, shyness, or just lack of knowledge," says Angie Gunn, L.C.S.W., a sex and trauma therapist and Talkspace.com sexuality expert. The most important thing when dealing with trauma, she says, is getting to the root cause and figuring out what kind of help is needed. Once that happens, you can treat it more effectively. (FYI, this is the biggest sex issue no one is talking about.)
There are a few reasons Gunn doesn't advocate for OM with her clients, though. "I generally don't recommend OM to most clients, but support it if they find it on their own, because it's really restrictive in its gendered assumptions about bodies (male stroker, female recipient), limited in terms of the type of activity, and restricts individual creativity and connection," she says. Fair enough. What if you're part of a same-sex couple or don't identify as male or female, or you want to try something a little different from just stroking for 15 minutes? Then this meditation method probably isn't for you.
But that doesn't mean you can't practice a similar concept. "Instead, I encourage clients to practice mindfulness and meditation in a way that best suits them, their personality, their lifestyle, and find creative ways to add this to their sex," says Gunn. There are actually a whole host of ways to be more mindful about your sexual experiences without the branded OM, whether or not sexual trauma is part of the equation. "Some clients do yoga and breathing activities as a part of the preparation for sex, practicing syncing their breathing and movement," she notes. "Another client I work with does body scanning or progressive muscle relaxation (checking each part of their body, breathing into it, through it deeply, tensing and relaxing each muscle) as a way to be in their body, feel safe, and become more open to pleasure and connection."
Another important thing to acknowledge? OM is definitely not a replacement for cognitive behavioral therapy or sex therapy, especially if trauma has occurred, according to Lozano. Instead, if you're having trouble connecting with your partner sexually, it's a good idea to seek the help of a professional. If you're simply curious about OM or similar practices and think it might enhance your sex life, then experts say go ahead—you just might find you like it!