Body Prayers: Reclaiming the Sacred
If you’re searching this website you probably already know that we live in a sex-negative society and throughout our lives we’ve been inundated with cultural and religious messages that have brought us feelings of shame. The constant messaging that parts of our bodies are “dirty”, “nasty”, “impure”, or that touching our bodies in a sensuous way is wrong or sinful…all of this takes its toll on our sex lives. It is so common in this society that we buy into this stuff at an early age and it’s difficult to let go of it. These negative messages about our bodies affect our neural pathways and get in the way of our truly enjoying and following pleasure unless we can find ways to create new neural pathways which can be done through the miracle of neuroplasticity. Yes, we can create new and pleasurable experiences which can, in essence, “re-wire” our nervous system through simple, mindful practices, things as simple as mindful touching or holding, meditation, self-massage, even just the practice of deep belly breaths sitting on a chair or laying on our bed at home. But for these things to change our neural pathways we truly must practice them, and practice them daily!
One of the methods that I’ve been developing to help overcome these negative messages and the lingering feelings of shame about our bodies is a practice that I call Body Prayers. Now if the word ‘prayer’ is triggering for you, consider that the use of prayer pre-dates (by eons!) the establishment of organized religion. So, this isn’t about God or Christ or Buddha or Mohammed; this is about recognizing the energy or ‘aliveness’ that is present in every creature in the universe and that we often feel in special moments but can’t touch, or see or even bring ourselves to speak about. There is an experience of the ‘holy’ or the ‘sacred’ when we see a beautiful sunset or wander through a magnificent forest or see the joy in a child’s eyes or accept an erotic touch from a lover.
Having had a long history with religion I am especially sensitive to the fact that we rarely hear words like ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’ outside of that context, especially with regard to our bodies. And particularly with regard to our genitals! What is more sacred than a body part that gives us pleasure? What is more holy than an orgasm? If you can think of LOTS of things that are holier or more sacred than these things, then maybe a Body Prayer practice is something for you to explore.
Try this: lay down on the floor, on a yoga mat or your favorite beach towel. Take three deep belly breaths to de-regulate and come to a state of relaxation. Do a body scan from your head to your pelvic bowl. Notice any sensations that may be in your skull, your throat, your jaw, your shoulders, your chest, your tummy. Then bring attention to your genitals. What do you notice there? Are there any sensations there? Because you’re bringing attention to them you might feel a tingling or some slight movement, or maybe nothing at all. But just notice, don’t judge. Gently hold or cup them with your hands. Breathe into your genitals, as deeply into your pelvis as you can. Then say something affirming, either aloud or in your imagination. Try a thanksgiving prayer: “I thank my genitals for the pleasure they give me.” Or a petition: “May my genitals give me pleasure”. Or a simple affirmation: “My genitals are sacred. My genitals are beautiful.” End with more life-giving breaths.
I use Body Prayers in my practice with clients, especially those who have grown up with shame surrounding anything between their belly buttons and their knees. We find the practice affirming, gently offering new, positive pathways to a more pleasurable and shame-free life.