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Good sex is all in your head, says The Wellness Show speaker

The Wellness Show

When: Feb. 2 and 3, 10 a.m.

Where: Vancouver Convention Centre West

Tickets and info: From $12.50 at thewellnessshow.com


Now in its 27th year, The Wellness Show is once again offering up experts to help you do a better job at almost everything; from getting off carbs, getting your morning off to a good start, and, well, getting it on.

The latter on that list is the focus of the presentation: Mind-Knowing Sex is Mind-Blowing Sex: Using Mindfulness to Cultivate Sexual Desire(Feb. 3, 11 a.m.) as part of the two-day Women and Wellness Seminar Series.

Bringing that bit of Buddhism to the bedroom is University of B.C. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology professor and psychologist Dr. Lori A. Brotto, who is also the author of the book Better Sex Through Mindfulness.

Brotto’s book and Wellness Show presentation is the culmination of 15 years of incorporating mindfulness into her sexual health research and clinical work with patients.


Dr. Lori A. Brotto.

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“It is just a powerful strategy for teaching people to be in the here and the now,” said Brotto.

“So many people with sexual problems talk about a disconnect with their body.”

Brotto’s accessible and interesting text — the book is not an expanded academic paper —  moves between hard research, anecdotal examples and practical exercises to help make the sexual experience more enjoyable and engaging for women.

Of course the big O (orgasm not Oprah) is a major player in the conversation about better sex.

“In every study we have done there’s been a significant improvement in ease of reaching orgasm and intensity. It makes a lot of sense,” said Brotto.

“What is orgasm? It is extension of arousal. Because in mindfulness you are really paying attention to the body sensations and really paying attention to when arousal is increasing and mounting and where in the body the arousal is. It’s completely logical then that orgasm would be a natural result of that.”

If you have been awake at all in the last few years you will have undoubtedly heard about mindfulness. The practice has surpassed its spiritual realm and set up shop in the mainstream.

“It (mindfulness) is not just something Buddhist monks do in a cave,” said Brotto.

“It’s hot Western health care, big time. Not just mental health care but also medical health care. Cancer agencies run mindfulness groups because of the data showing mindfulness slows tumour progression. Healthy heart programs run mindfulness  groups because of the affects of mindfulness on regulating heart patterns and arrhythmia, etc. So it has hit big time.

“I think one of the big strengths is that it isn’t just a passing fad because the science really stands up to the claims,” added Brotto.

“We have strong data that shows how it works and why it works and also where in the brain it works, too.”

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You know what else works? Talking about sex. But sadly we don’t do it enough as women. There still seems to be a shyness or shame factor that stops women from seeking out conversations about sex.

Brotto says data shows men who develop erectile dysfunction do not hesitate to ask their family doctor what’s up with their non-performing penis. She says, after all, “we live in a culture that prizes men’s erections.”

One of the reasons women may balk at talking with their doctor about bad sex is that women often just accept it.

“I think women do need to be a bit more intolerant of difficulties at least as far as talking to health care providers and saying: ‘is this normal? Is there anything I can do? Or should I just accept it?” said Brotto.

“We have so much more comfort having sex than we have comfort talking about it.”

Brotto hopes her book and public appearances will nudge women towards more open dialogues about sex and female sexual dysfunction. It really can be a big factor to enjoying a healthy, happy life, she says.

“The sex conversation is critical, because sex isn’t just this isolated thing that people do recreationally. It is so heavily intertwined with sense of self, mood and relationship satisfaction, fundamentally self esteem,” said Brotto.

“We know countless studies have shown that when there are problems sexually all those different domains start to take a toll as well. It is a fundamental aspect of quality of life, and so in the same way we take very seriously our physical health we have to pay attention to sexual health, too.”

While Brotto is encouraging more women to talk about sex, she says health professionals may not be giving enough attention to the topic of female sexual dysfunction. But she hopes that as more women take ownership of their sex life and  ask questions more doctors will look for answers, and conversations will occur.

“But what we are not seeing though is an improvement in doctors talking about it. Doctors getting trained in it,” said Brotto.

Accessibility to treatment that’s what we’re not seeing. So that will probably be a downstream affect but definitely the conversation around this and also around agency is important. Women saying: ‘I value my sex life. It’s important to me.’ And consent and conversations around pleasure are very important. That is where things like the #metoo movement have really benefited that conversation.”

Brotto hopes attendees of her lecture at the Wellness Show, and those who pick up her book, will benefit from her research.

“Sexual desire, all of the science has taught us it is responsive,” said Brotto.

“It’s something that can be cultivated. It is something that can emerge. It’s not that you are born with a set level of desire and you’re just sort of stuck with that for the rest of your life and so if it goes down you just have to learn to live with it.”

Brotto says we need to get through our heads that desire, like happiness, can be cultivated. So if we really pay attention in the moment in a non-judgmental fashion we can make our desire more responsive to our environment.

Brotto is just one of 100 or so guest speakers/chefs/fitness demos that are on hand for show goers. The Convention Centre floor is also teeming with around 250 vendors.

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