This blog post can also be found at elephant journal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/07/sensual-healing-with-ben-wa-balls-bandhas-dr-rachel-allyn-adult/#idc-cover
What are ben wa balls and bandhas you might be asking?
I’ll start with the balls.
I wasn’t familiar with the term myself until recently. I was with two old girlfriends for a weekend away. One of them recently got a new car and was still learning how to manage the sound system. She described picking up her mother-in-law from the airport and while they drove away her car automatically resumed playing her “50 Shades of Gray” audio book. My friend fumbled to turn it off but this took a while and it was during a juicy part of the book. She recounted how mortifying it was, explaining “it was during the part when they talk about vagina balls.”
“Ummm, vagina balls” we asked?
We were amused. Not only by the idea of something as weird as vagina balls but also why a mother who shuttles her two young children in this very car was nonchalantly listening to “50 Shades of Gray.” You go girl.
And so a conversation ensued about placing two small metal balls in the vajayjay to help strengthen the pelvic floor and learn about g-spot stimulation. There are different names for these magic bullets—everything fromkegel balls to venus balls to ben wa balls.
About two weeks after returning from this trip I got a package in the mail from my friend. Yes, my very own set of ben wa balls! Puurrfect timing given it was just days before teaching a workshop called “Yoga to Enhance a Woman’s Sensuality.” As a sex therapist and yoga teacher, I delighted in offering this workshop.
Americans in particular can have a top-down relationship with sensuality and sex as seen in these two problems:
(1) We are overly focused on the outcome (typically in the form of orgasm) and (2) We are stuck in our heads and disconnected from our bodies.
We are also a culture that likes concrete coping tools and formulas to fix things, so I offer this one: Sex Therapy + Yoga = Sensual Healing. A bottom-up approach.
When working with a couple, it’s no surprise that I focus on verbal communication between the two people. Just as important, I encourage each individual to listen to the language of their own body; sensations.
Sensations are the language of feeling; senses are the syllables, emotions are the words and thoughts are the sentences.
Establishing this type of awareness can be tricky when there has been abuse or emptiness for an individual, because most likely they developed a pattern of shutting down and disconnecting. These are the partners who may be frozen or rigid in the bedroom, or avoid sex altogether. We use the therapy space to safely uncover the reasons for disconnection.
This can go much deeper than simply being caught up in the to-do list or needs of the children. This can be about not trusting one’s body, not feeling worthy of pleasure, or associating sexual pleasure with shaming messages.
Enter yoga. One of the best ways to have a body-conversation is with this mind-body-spirit practice.
Case in point, my “Yoga to Enhance a Woman’s Sensuality” workshop. For women, as compared to men, sensual healing is about addressing the whole body versus solely focusing on anatomy. Women can be particularly challenged in the area of slowing down, not feeling guilty if they do, and owning their basic human right to feel pleasure.
The workshop was well attended and many who couldn’t attend asked that I teach it again. There was clearly a yearning for this type of conversation. I ventured down this yummy topic through discussion of everything from ben wa balls to bandhas (a yogic concept involving an energetic and muscular tightening and lifting of the perineum and/or belly).
I led them in experiential exercises that connected them to their bodies in a slow and erotic manner. I saw firsthand how women crave this discussion with each other and within their bodies, but rarely give themselves the time, space, or self-justification to do so.
The yoga studio is an ideal place to engage in this conversation because yoga is a philosophy that encourages showing up as you are, free from shame or embarrassment. I received questions from students that ran the gamut from ‘how do I use yoga to recover from sexual trauma?’ to ‘what yoga poses help my sex life with my partner?’
I explained to the students that through movement—whether it be walking or breathing or yoga—we increase our sensory output, stimulate nerve endings and extend our field of perception.
Sensuality is a gateway to passion and allows for a charge within the body. We can all start this sensuality practice by closing our eyes as we take the first bites of food, feeling the tangy sweetness of the strawberry or the bitter earthiness of the chocolate.
It’s ultimately about connecting moment by moment to our present experience rather than living in the frenzy of the next one. Listening to our sensations encourages curiosity and exploration within our bodies rather than judgement. This leads to greater understanding of how bodily cues inform us, keep us in balance and help us thrive.
Slowing down and listening on a sensual level can lead to enjoying beauty in art, gazing at the colors of a sunset, savoring the way a yoga pose relieves tension and having vibrant, intimate, look-me-in-the-eyes sex.
Sex is a wonderfully mysterious endeavor. I recognize it takes more than a workshop and some ben wa balls to achieve the kind of sexstacy we may aspire to. But if we bypass the foundation of our sexuality, the sensations, we run amok in the kind of sexual disconnection that even the best sex therapist can’t “fix.”
Get on the mat + listen to your body sensations + reclaim your right to feel pleasure + let go of the outcome = reacquaint with our fabulous sexual selves. And maybe even the person lying in bed next to us.