How Embodiment Heightens Sexual Pleasure

How Embodiment Heightens Sexual Pleasure


Explore how mindfulness and embodiment can increase our access to pleasure.

Many of us feel that we are “in our heads” when we are having sex. We can barely feel what’s happening in our bodies, never mind figure out whether or not we like it. We are too busy thinking instead of feeling. Our minds are filled with thoughts about what we might look and sound and smell like, all of the things we have to do later, or a conversation that we had with our partner earlier that night.

So there we are, naked with our partner with the intention of feeling good, and all we can do is worry about whether we’re being too loud, how our body looks at this angle, and if our partner really wants to be having sex with us in the first place.

Clearly, this leaves no room for us to fully experience our bodies’ sensations. If a certain position is painful, we just grin and bear it. We don’t want to complain, or we think something is wrong with us. If we feel pleasure, we don’t fully experience that, either. We’re just going through the motions, lost in thought or maybe just trying to get off instead of being present in our pleasure. We’re doing the things that are supposed to be the most pleasurable in the world, but we’re putting all kinds of pressure on ourselves to orgasm or to make our partner orgasm. Where is the room here for authentic sexual connection?

The Power of Embodiment

When you focus on being more embodied during sex, it’s a whole different ball game. Suddenly, we are in tune with everything that our bodies are experiencing. The skin on our partner’s shoulders feels so soft, so we continue touching it. It makes us shiver when they drag their fingertips along our inner thighs, and we breathe into that sensation.

This attunement heightens our pleasure not just during sex, but in every moment of our lives in between and leading up to sexual experiences. Paying attention to our bodies is a daily practice. Now we notice that when our partner kisses us, we are starting to become aroused. Or maybe we are aware of the fact that we started having sex too soon and need to slow down in order to become fully engaged and fully aroused.

Embodiment is not binary—we are not either embodied or not embodied. It is a continuum, and we will never be permanently, completely embodied. But becoming as embodied as you can is an important, pleasure-enhancing practice. The good news is that recognizing when you’re not embodied counts as part of the practice. It may sound counterintuitive, but the more often you realize you’re not embodied, the closer you’re getting to being more embodied. You’ll be able to feel more in your body and connect more deeply to your partner.

If you want to know what embodiment looks like, take a minute to watch young kids playing on a playground. Their minds and bodies aren’t separate at all as they jump and run and leap and fly and fall with abandon.

It’s no coincidence that kids are extremely sensitive to their bodies’ sensations. They’ll tell you right away when something hurts or when something feels good. This is because they are listening to each and every cue from their bodies.

We are born this way, but we are conditioned away from our bodies’ felt experiences. It’s often around puberty when this all changes. Shoulders hunch, heads lower, and we begin to prioritize the opinions of others rather than our own feelings. For most of us, this never goes back. But our bodies have things that they want to say to us. As adults, we need to reopen that conversation.

Numbing: The Anti-Embodiment Practice

The practice of numbing messages from our bodies, emotions, and minds is pervasive in our culture, and it is the source of so much of our pain and suffering. When I talk about numbing, I am referring to anything that we do to distract ourselves from how we’re really feeling. This is a way of taking ourselves out of the moment instead of being present and attuned.

We numb ourselves by overeating, online shopping, scrolling mindlessly on social media, drinking too much, getting high, or watching too much porn—anything that distracts us from our emotions. We do these things hoping that they will make us feel good. And they do, for a moment, because they lead our bodies to release a quick hit of dopamine, a chemical messenger that plays an important role in the “reward center” of our brains.

Dopamine gives us a quick “high,” but it’s a fast burn, and then we quickly go back to baseline. And we are tricked into thinking that this is what pleasure really feels like. Dopamine also plays a role in motivation, so it encourages us to do whatever we can to get another hit of dopamine— often through activities that don’t bring us true joy or fulfillment.

Think about how it feels when you click the “Buy Now” button. You get a quick hit of dopamine, and you feel good. You’re happy with your purchase. But then you go back to baseline quickly, and you realize that you’re not really satisfied. So, you click on another site and start adding more things that you don’t really need to your cart. Does this sound familiar?

Numbing dampens our sexual intelligence, keeping us from being embodied and attuned to what our partner is feeling. And the more we numb ourselves, the stronger those numbing muscles get. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to get back to the presence and embodiment that we need to experience pleasure.

The good news is that evolving our sexual intelligence can help relieve our need to numb our body’s messages. There are three essential practices that can help you become more embodied: mindful movement, meditation, and breathwork.

Mindful Movement

Moving mindfully while paying attention to the body and all of its sensations helps us to become more embodied and restart that conversation between our brains and bodies. I’m not talking about mechanical exercises that we do with a goal in mind, though those are important for our health. Rather, mindful movement puts the focus on what we are feeling in our bodies. It helps us release tension and tune in to our bodies’ signals.

Good options for mindful movement include yoga, dancing, martial arts, rock climbing, and taking slow walks without scrolling, all while tuning into all of your senses—anything that encourages you to be present in your body. As you engage in these activities, focus on what your body is feeling and experiencing. Tune into what feels good and what doesn’t. This will help you become more embodied and able to fully experience pleasure during sex and throughout your life.


When we are mindful, we are fully in the moment and completely tuned into our senses. This is the essence of embodiment. Meditation helps us tap into this powerful state because it is the practice of disengaging with our thoughts and allowing ourselves to simply be. When we meditate, thoughts do pop up, but when we practice letting them go without engaging with them, we gain the ability to be present in our bodies regardless of what is going on in our minds.

This can translate directly into sexual experiences. With a mindfulness meditation practice, you would be able to let go of the distracting thoughts that prevent you from being fully present and engaged. You would be able to tune into your senses and experience more pleasure, even when those pesky thoughts arise.

I do my best to bookend my days by meditating once in the morning and then again at the end of the day. Even if I can’t do it twice a day or if my morning meditation is only a few minutes, it still makes a huge difference. Two minutes of meditation is better than zero minutes. When we start our day with an established and consistent practice, it sets us up for success.

It doesn’t matter what kind of meditation practice you choose or if you do it with the help of an app or any other tools. Taking a few minutes every day to get grounded and in touch with your body will help you become embodied and able to experience more and more pleasure.


Our breath is literally our life force, and besides keeping us alive, our breath can also shift us in or out of a state of stress, bring us into altered states of consciousness, and even bring us to orgasm. The other interesting thing about our breath is that, although it happens automatically without us thinking about it, we can also control it. When we control our breath, we can use it to do incredibly powerful things. One of those things is to connect with every part of our bodies.

When we want to distract ourselves from our feelings or when we feel pressure, we might subconsciously hold our breath. But becoming embodied means feeling more. You can use your breath to do this, too. Breathwork is incredibly powerful in calming the nervous system to ease anxiety.

To start using the breath to become more embodied, simply focus on breathing deeper and longer, two of my favorite words when it comes to sex. See how high you can count on the inhale and then match it on the exhale or make your exhales are even longer. This will calm the body and help you feel more present.

As you continue to breathe, imagine that breath going all the way down to your pelvic floor. Give it a little squeeze on the inhale. Just say hello! This will open up the sexual energy fields that so many of us keep blocked off.

Remember that embodiment is a practice. None of us ever walks around fully embodied. But the more we sharpen our attunement to our bodies, the more we’re able to call on these skills during sex. When we’re distracted, we can go back to our senses and feel them more keenly. When we catch ourselves holding our breath, we can breathe deeply to feel more pleasure. And with more awareness of our bodily sensations in general, we are empowered to move toward those that are more pleasurable. This is precisely why embodiment is such an important part of your sexual intelligence.

Adapted an excerpted from Smart Sex: How to Boost Your Sex IQ and Own Your Pleasure by Emily Morse © 2023 by Emily Morse, used with permission by HarperCollins/Park Row Books.

How Embodiment Heightens Sexual Pleasure

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