When I began practicing Tantra back in 2008, I could have one clitoral orgasm with a vibrator or my finger. My vagina felt numb during intercourse—or even hurt. I believed my G-spot was a fairy tale.
I certainly didn't know my body was capable of more types of orgasms than I had fingers to count them. And I never could've guessed that the parts of my vagina that typically felt no sensation or felt pain during sex would later prove to be my most reliable gateways to sexual ecstasy.
In short, I was like most other women in North America—ignorant of my true orgasmic potential and uneducated about how body armoring can desensitize our erogenous zones.
The concept of body armoring began with Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), who is considered to be the father of somatic psychology. Wilhelm believed that traumatic life events, and sometimes even just intense emotions, cause us to contract or withdraw from our life experience on a deep subconscious level. This internal contraction causes a hardening of the muscular tissue in order to protect or defend. This hardening is what we refer to as "body armoring."
So, what causes genital body armoring?
Body armoring can happen to any area of the body that has been physically traumatized by assault or injury. But, more surprisingly, body armoring also happens in response to mental and/or emotional pain—which is why it so often shows up in our genitals.
Genital body armoring can develop without direct physical trauma. It is often the result of simply living in a culture that teaches us to disconnect from and fear our natural sexual desires and urges.
It is the result of us being taught and believing on some deep level that sexual pleasure is shameful, scary, impure, sinful, dirty, or wrong in any way.
It can come from being told that "good girls don't...touch themselves, masturbate, have sex, enjoy sex, make a mess during sex." (Insert shame-inducing judgment here.)
It can be caused by slut-shaming—being called a tramp, a whore, a slut for having and enjoying sex. Or even for being perceived as having and enjoying sex.
It can also be a result of rough sex, sex before you are ready, disconnected sex, sex without enough lubrication, and even sex that is anything less than a whole-body "Hell yes!"
And it goes without saying that traumatic events such as rape, abuse, and even painful breakups can and do cause genital armoring.
How does genital body armoring show up in your physical and emotional health?
Armoring occurs when the energetic imprint of these traumatic or painful life experiences freeze in the nervous system and aren't released. This response includes an internal contraction or hardening of tissue. As the tissue hardens, you lose sensation. Sometimes it can feel like an actual layer of armor between you and the point of contact. Sometimes there is no sensation at all, and you just feel completely numb. Some people may feel pain or irritation. One can experience any and all of these manifestations of body armoring in different stages of healing.
Just because your body has tensed up to avoid pain doesn't mean it is incapable of feeling pleasure. Pleasure is just on the other side of healing.
So, how do you help your body release its armor?
1. Understand that your body is and has been functioning exactly as it is designed to function this whole time.
There is nothing wrong with you. These areas of numbness and pain are holding emotion and/or traumatic life experiences, so always proceed with gentleness, patience, and compassion for yourself.
2. Create a healing ritual.
Healing genital armoring is a sacred, spiritual experience and a profound act of self-love, so I encourage you to create dedicated sacred space—both internally and externally.
Externally, set up a "temple" in a room where you feel safe with candles or soft lighting, sensual aromas, soft pillows and blankets, and gentle music. This is a sacred healing session.
Internally, create a mirror of that sacred space by connecting with yourself through meditation, dance, journaling, or any activity that helps you feel present, relaxed, and connected to your most supportive self.
3. Combine touch, breath, and awareness for epic healing potential.
Using some organic, edible lubricant or oil, begin massaging your vulva starting with the mons pubis (the tissue that sits over the joint of your pubic bones) and working your way down, breathing deeply at every point of contact. Make sure to touch, massage, stroke, and caress every tiny centimeter of your outer labia, inner labia, your perineum, your clitoral shaft, and even your pelvic floor and groin muscles.
Be gentle, and note any areas of tension, pain, numbness, irritation, and/or hypersensitivity. These are all indications of body armor. Note your pleasurable sensations, too. The sensation in these areas is what allows us to cultivate and engage the armored parts of your body.
4. Get your groove on.
Once you feel sufficiently aroused and at ease from your vulva massage, begin focusing on awakening and heightening those pleasurable sensations. Start by stimulating your external clitoris in a way that feels most yummy for you.
As you work your external clitoris, stay relaxed and maintain deep, slow breaths. If you find yourself responding to the pleasure by tightening and contracting, slow down until you're able to relax again. Don't rush yourself.
5. When you reach about a 5 on your pleasure scale (10 being the point of orgasm, 1 being not even a little bit turned on), add internal stimulation to your external stimulation.
The internal vaginal massage can be done with fingers or sex toys—whatever you prefer. Many women typically have some body armoring right at the introitus (the opening of the vaginal canal), so proceed carefully and slowly with the initial penetration. Place the tip of your finger or the toy right at the vaginal opening and gently apply pressure.
If you notice any resistance, pain, or irritation, simply maintain that pressure while you stimulate the clitoris. The goal here is to translate the pleasure from your bliss pearl to the introitus—your other point of contact. This is called "transference."
Translating pleasure from one point of contact to another is the key to melting body armor and accessing your full potential for pleasure.
When the vagina is really, truly ready to be penetrated, you'll know. Your toy or finger will slide right in. That's when you can begin exploring the five (or more!) orgasmic zones inside the vagina.
6. Continue the work of translating pleasure inside the vagina.
During this phase of the ritual, focus as much as possible on feeling and increasing pleasure. Let pleasure be your baseline, and notice anywhere there is not pleasure.
When you find those places that aren't feeling the pleasurable sensations (and, for some of us, this could be our entire vagina when we start, so don't be discouraged), just try to relax and breathe. Continue to stimulate your vagina where you feel pleasure, and try to gently stimulate the areas (one at a time) where you are not experiencing pleasure, simultaneously. Try to do this until the sensations sync up in your brain and nervous system.
As this takes place, you may notice emotions or memories arising. You might experience physical pain and/or irritation in association with these emotions and memories. Just relax and breathe through them. Try to maintain this gentle stimulation until the emotion and accompanying sensation pass. This cathartic release is a crucial part of the healing process.
As the emotional charge dissipates, the physical body armoring dissolves along with it. Through this process, you will reawaken your body's ability to experience pleasure, making your whole body more responsive and open to pleasurable sensation.