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  • Writer's pictureKaren O'Moore

When making love hurts

Sex is supposed to feel good - really good. Toe curling, spine tingling, back arching kind of good. But if it's not, you are not alone. An estimated 20 to 50% of women experience some form of pain during sex, described medically as dyspareunia. This covers a huge category of symptoms, with a huge range of possible causes, ranging from easily remedied issues such as allergic reactions or infections to more complex, psychological issues.

For women, the symptoms of dyspareunia include pain in the vagina during sex (foreplay or penetration), either at the entrance of the vagina or further inside. Many women experience vaginismus which means that their vaginal muscles involuntarily contract during penetration, making the experience painful. Or at times before penetration making any entry impossible. This pain can cause women to fear having sex with their partner which leads to complete avoidance of sex and intimacy. Fear of pain or soreness can cause the symptoms of vaginismus to get worse causing a cycle of pain. It is difficult for some partners to realise that these symptoms are involuntary and therefore cannot be controlled.

There are so many possible causes behind dyspareunia and vaginismus that it is difficult to cover all symptoms and treatments here. The ideal starting point would be to look for the source of the issue. Here are a few of the sex wrecking fiends and possible ways of bringing back the pleasure.

1. Vaginal dryness: When it feels like your vaginal walls are being sandpapered down, is by far the most common symptom of painful sex. There are many reasons that your juices may not be flowing as usual - taking the pill, antidepressants and even some allergy and cold medications. Even that long relaxing bubble bath is not doing you any favours. You may also be having an allergic reaction to soap, detergents or tampons - keep them unscented (unscented means fewer ingredients which mean less chance of an allergic reaction). Keeping some water based lubricant within easy reach is always recommended - all women can go through periods of dryness. Douching is bad. Lube is good.

2. Yeast infections and the itch: Not only are you being driven crazy with your genitals itching, penetration often exasperates it. Often antibiotics are the main culprit here but it is advisable to get yourself checked out by a doctor to rule out any other causes. And to take a break from sex till it's cleared.

3. When it feels like you are being torn apart: Our bodies are simply wired differently. Yes you are feeling aroused and want him/her inside you, but no, your body is not ready. It takes our bodies a good 20 minutes of foreplay to expand, open and be ready to take any penetration.

4. Vaginismus: Your body is just not playing with you and the muscles at the entrance to the vagina spasm the moment he/she tries to enter, making intercourse all but impossible. This is a painful but treatable condition. Suppressed or unprocessed injuries can cause the vagina to hurt, or to dry out and feel tight. These injuries could have been caused by abuse, but also by simply being in an environment that was not conducive to a healthy sex life. Every arousal will remind you of that injury and what your vagina is doing, is protecting you from these memories and hurt by closing up. To move past this, you need a protected and safe space, as well as time and a lot of patience. One of the beautiful aspects of a Yoni massage is that it can help to resolve these old injuries and blockages, which then creates the space for new and pleasant experiences to arise. (Yoni is Sanskrit for vagina meaning sacred cave). Muscle tension in the pelvic floor also limits your sexual possibilities and pelvic floor physical therapy may break down muscle knots and open new pathways for pleasure.

5. No feeling at all: It is very common for women to experience numbness in the g spot or the entire vagina. Again the reason is that we as human beings store emotional pain and trauma in the cellular tissue of our physical bodies. Any painful or negative sexual experience that we've had, can be stored in the genital tissue and has the potential to desensitize that area of the body, creating a nothingness. Healing through Tantra, through breath or bodywork, gently allows the body to open and release, clearing the way for a whole new level of delicious sexual experience.

Sexual pain does not have to be a part of your life. A woman who is connected to her sexuality, draws strength from it embodies the beauty of life and is filled with radiance and vitality. Each woman carries within herself the potential for orgasm, for desire and for limitless ecstasy. It is our birthright and it's a gift given to every single one of us, waiting to come to full bloom.

Below is a beautiful meditation by one of my teachers, Shakti Malan

Becoming Yoni

Purpose: To immerse yourself in the experience of yoni

You will need: A pillow to sit comfortably and a quiet space

Meditation: Come to sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Now imagine that you can breathe into your yoni. Feel her expand as you breathe in, and contract slightly as you breathe out. Spend some time just breathing through her, and becoming aware of the sensations that you feel in yoni. There are layers upon layers of feeling and sensation in yoni - the more we bring a gentle presence to her, the more we will start to feel. Enjoy the sensations. Let your breath be free. If there is sound with the sensation, them just let it arise. I suggest breathing with an open mouth if that feels comfortable. Spend some time just feeling into yoni. Imagine what she looks like. Now imagine that your whole being becomes yoni. Every cell in your body gets filled with yoni. Imagine yoni expanding until she is you. Let her breathe, move, even dance through you. Let her fill you up. Then slowly come back to the awareness of yoni in your body and open your eyes.

Meditation taken from Sexual Awakening for Women by Shakti Malan (part of the Shakti Awakening programme)

Photo credit: Chris Bowell

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