Here at Yinova, it’s not uncommon for us to hear from our patients that they feel they’ve lost a connection with their sexuality. We treat many patients going through fertility journeys, navigating the postpartum world, or experiencing painful sex for a variety of reasons-all of which can change their outlooks on what it means to be intimate.
We caught up with Simone Farschi, Sex and Intimacy Coach and founder of The Pleasure Plus, about what goes into intimacy, how to stay connected to our bodies, and how to keep the sexual connection alive in our relationships.
Cara Burian: What are your thoughts on Chinese medicine?
Simone Farschi: When I was a teen, I had really bad period cramps and it was recommended that I try acupuncture. I think I was still too young and impatient to fully understand the holistic practice that was available to me then. It took me a few more years to really see and feel how Chinese medicine is a whole-body approach that can also help heal specific acute issues. My stepmother is Chinese and has always nourished me, especially post-pregnancy, by feeding me the foods that would help me heal and thrive really quickly. I loved the yummy soups and intention and stories that went with each recipe.
I revisited acupuncture as a primary healing modality again when I had severe lower back sciatica pain and was going through an intense detox cleanse that left my body in really bad shape. I was not digesting properly and felt emotional, heavy, depressed, and had really bad acne (which I had never had before ever). I did continuous sessions of acupuncture, moxa, Five Elements clearing, and began eating congee daily. All this helped return balance to my body’s systems and relieved my chronic back pain.
My last experience was even more fabulous — I worked with a woman who specialized in acupuncture and sacred sexuality. I was in a very draining, toxic relationship that I knew I was ready to move on from but couldn’t. It was like there was something keeping me attached in an unhealthy way to this person. I did a cord-cutting and energy cleansing session with her in very specific points in my body directly linked to sexual vitality. It was crazy, like magic, and right after I felt back to myself. I could see and feel and think clearly and just moved on. I’m really interested in learning more about the specific energy work with Chinese medicine and healing and empowering our sexual energy and self-worth.
CB: Many of our patients are undergoing Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ARTs) and, as you know, the pressure and stress of timing sex can put a big strain on romance and intimacy. What would be your advice for people who ahave to have sex on a schedule?
SF: I think that going through ART can be an incredible journey towards more intimacy in a relationship. It is an opportunity to have conversations and make time for things that most couples and people never do. Setting up healthy agreements and focusing on communication can most definitely bring more opportunities for long-lasting love and deep, passionate intimacy.
My advice for those having sex on a schedule would be to first have an honest and clear conversation around expectations and desires around intimacy and sex. Get to know each other’s turn-ons and turn-offs, and use the time to really explore and be truly curious about each other and oneself. You might be really surprised at how much there is to discover about yourself and your partner, and from there you can curate each experience with those intentions. It can be really fun and vulnerable and ultimately bring you closer together. I think that also having a conversation around disappointment and how best to be nurtured in those moments is key. Then when things are challenging, you will already have tools and more knowledge about each other’s needs to comfort and support each other in the off moments and turn them around more easily.
CB: Many of our patients who come to us postpartum tell us that they feel disconnected with their body and struggle to see their body in a sexual light after giving birth. What are some ways for people to reconnect with their bodies and reclaim their sexuality, especially in this context?
SF: Yes, and yes! I love this topic as I’m the mother of a 9-year-old. I had a really difficult time connecting back to my sexuality after he was born — it felt like everything changed postpartum and I didn’t even see myself as sexual for a really long time, not only because my body had changed, but also my priorities were different. I still liked sex and intimacy, but my body was for my son first and foremost, and that changed some of my turn-ons, as well as the connection I had to my body.
When I was ready to be sexy, it was like getting to know myself all over again — there were so many emotions, excitements, and sadnesses that weren’t there before. Something that helped me then, and what I now remind my clients of is to be gentle with yourself, and work with where you are at the given moment. For example, rather than compare yourself and your experiences to the past, get to know who you are now, what your needs and desires are, and take the time to get reacquainted with your body. Take time to physically touch yourself with the intention of attention; take the time to notice how your fantasies may have changed and how they can be explored.
Practicing self-love and self-nurturing time is so important — we as women are naturally caregivers and providers — between our relationships, our careers, and our children, it’s so often ourselves that gets the last bit of attention. Our boundaries get blurred and we settle for this shortchanging, leaving more resentment and disappointment in how we look and how we feel about our bodies and capacity for pleasure. Taking even 15 minutes a day for yourself, and increasing it to an hour or more over time is really healthy. Take this time to love yourself — whether it’s taking a nap, putting lipstick on, getting in a bath, rubbing oils all over your body, journaling, self-pleasure. Anything you want for you! This will lead to more confidence, connection with your desires and needs, and an opportunity to experience pleasure just for you!
CB: Are there particular positions that are helpful for people who suffer from dyspareunia?
SF: The positions that make you feel most comfortable, and where you feel like you have more control over the penetration. If you are able to work with a sexological bodyworker in your area, there are lots of ways that you can work to demystify and treat dyspareunia. Vulva mapping and learning the anatomy of arousal can be incredibly empowering and helpful as you have more agency in understanding what’s going on in your specific body and what your needs are. Addressing any scar tissue, inflexibility, and emotional blocks in this part of your body can create tremendous releases — opening space for healing and pleasure again. You can map with your partner as well to teach them about your specific needs. I also love to recommend starting with a sensual massage from your partner if your open to that as it can really help relax and warm up your body prior to sex.
CB: Staying present and “in the moment” helps people to enjoy sex. What tips do you have for people wanting to “keep their heads in the game?”
SF: I think one can still “keep their head in the game” without getting overly cerebral, analytical or judgemental about the experience. It’s when the head takes over and our thoughts about work we need to finish, or if we have dinner planned, or if we look sexy enough and are doing the right things that disconnect you from being present in your body and in the moment.
Start with bringing attention to your breath, noticing the pace, if it’s fast or short, then try taking some slower, longer inhales and exhales — really feeling the sensation of movement from your genitals; all the way up your spine and belly; up through your mouth and back down again. Bring your attention to the temperature of the air on your skin, the smells around you, the sounds. Then you can start to notice more sensations within; and from that space, bring awareness and curiosity to your skin, your lover’s skin, their scent — have fun, play, enjoy each moment without an agenda. That’s how we can get lost in the juiciness.
CB: How does sex increase our connection with our partner and what do you tell people who want to increase that connection?
SF: Sex can be deeply nourishing — it decreases stress, allows for intimacy, and can even heal past stories or traumas. If you are wanting to increase a connection with your partner, it is helpful to first begin with yourself. When you are able to create a vibrant and healthy self-pleasure practice, it allows you to get to know your body and desires better, and therefore can authentically and lovingly ask for what you want/need from your partner. Also, getting to know your own fantasies and core erotic desires and sharing them with your partner. Then you can practice together — expressing your desires and your respective likes & dislikes during sex/intimacy can allow for deepened connection, vulnerability, compassion, and super-hot, connected sex.
CB: Many of our patients suffer from shame about their bodies and feel that self-consciousness affects their sex life. What advice do you have for them?
SF: Your body is beautiful just the way it is and our bodies are all continually changing all the time — cliche but true, and something we all need to tell ourselves daily. Understanding what stories you are holding onto, or whose voices are narrating your experience can be really helpful, and then it’s about letting them go! This is not always easy work, and so much about body shame is due to the media, popular culture, peers, even our own families, so the demands and expectations can be hard to escape from. Again, getting out of your head and into your body can be really helpful — this way we can connect to the feeling of sensations and desires rather than how you think you should be.
CB: What do you tell people who feel too tired or too busy to have sex?
SF: Too tired or busy for sex?!? Never!! Of course, that’s a joke, seeing as both seem to be conditions of modern life. But really think back to when you were first with your partner and could not get your hands off each other; no matter how busy you both were you could always squeeze in a moment to be close. If you are feeling too tired or busy to make time now, there is probably something deeper at the root. This could be that you are not getting your core needs met, or other parts of the relationship need to be nourished. Tiredness also can be hormonal or stress-related — the latter of which we have all had a good dose of this year. But if you are continually having trouble finding time or energy for intimacy with your partner, it’s time for some communication and check-ins about both your current needs and work toward realignment. One of the best ways I’ve found to work with couples in this moment of their relationship is to take sex completely off the table. That’s right. NO sex for 1 week, or 1 month. When the demand or expectation is removed, our nervous systems can relax and there is a shift in the connection that occurs — more curiosity and freshness is invited to the relationship.
CB: Many people have had disempowering or traumatic sexual experiences. How can they overcome the effect of these on their current sex life?
SF: Yes, this is unfortunately far more common than it should be, and so troubling that it has become a part of so many people’s sexual history. The first thing is to acknowledge that what happened to you was not your fault and you did not deserve it. Then, the work begins with understanding the defense mechanisms and responses that come out in our nervous systems from trauma/disempowering experience — the fight or flight, appease, freeze or dissociate response.
We respond to the distresses and nurturances in our lives, and patterns of autonomic nervous system activation take shape in us. We develop ways of meeting challenges and opportunities. Behavior tendencies are embedded in our biological structure — we become the aliveness, agitation, distraction, or presence that we practice. Bringing awareness to how your nervous system is responding and where and when these patterns appear is an important tool in healing. Create a positive reparative experience — how you would like things to go forward in your intimate life, and where your nervous system feels safest — and go from there.
Specific physical practices empower us to regulate the response when we want to have more choices. Through somatic practices, we can open dialogue with our unconscious patterns and habitual reactions. There are specific affirmations and exercises I coach my clients on, depending on their past experiences, that with practice, can really shift the narrative on trauma or disempowerment to bring you back into your body. Exercises and affirmations that can fold you back into your pleasure and help maintain healthy connective communication with your partners so that they can also participate in your healing if that’s what feels good for you.
Bring play into your intimacy: nurturing creativity and innocence can bring back the very parts that were shut down in past experiences. Playfulness without an agenda or expectation can be especially fun and get us out of our heads and into our bodies and curiosity. Also being present to your current experience is at the very core of your capacity to heal from disempowering experiences.
Without this mindfulness, we can’t begin to unwind from the ravages of the past. We are often reliving them: writing those damaging events into the present moment and creating unfounded fear, apprehension, and reservations in safe spaces. Building skills and tools to be more embodied and more present in your intimate space & relationships is key — spaces that require nonjudgment, and loving acceptance, which everyone deserves. If the trauma feels too big to unpack on your own, I highly recommend connecting with a trauma-informed Sexological Bodyworker or Somatic Experience practitioner to explore the modality and techniques I’ve touched on here.
Simone Farschi is a sex and intimacy coach serving women, men, non-binary individuals, and couples throughout the world. A certified life coach, Simone received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. After traveling throughout the world and birthing her son, realizing the importance of developing one’s connection to self and feminine collective she continued her studies as a Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher, Certified Life Coach, as well as trained as a Doula, Meditation Leader, Somatica practitioner, Sexological Bodyworker, and with Betty Dodson.
Simone is also the Founder of The Pleasure Plus, an online community, and courses for women, and an upcoming Podcast, Sex Evolution.
Currently living in Sayulita, Mexico Simone offers beautifully crafted, and nourishing Back to Pleasure retreats for individuals and couples.
Event 12/2: How to Reclaim Your Sexual Identity
Join Jill Blakeway, Yinova founder and author of Sex Again, and Simone Farschi, intimacy Coach and Founder of The Pleasure Plus, on December 2nd at 6 pm ET for a discussion on sex, love, libido, and relationships. They will share their thoughts on reclaiming your sexual identity as well as offer advice and insight towards how to reconnect with yourself and/or your partner. This event is free, you can RSVP here!