Remember the first time you saw the Pilates Cadillac, with its signature trapeze, poles, and those fuzzy straps? You probably laughed to yourself, thinking it resembled something straight off the pages of Fifty Shades of Gray. But it’s not just the equipment that conjures up images of Christian Gray and Anastasia Steele’s bedroom exploits. Exercises like Pelvic Lifts and Bridging seem like they were tailor-made to give your sex life a boost.
Although no one’s claiming that your Pilates practice is the secret to the best sex of your life, it might give you, er, a leg up between the sheets. “To totally enjoy having sex, you have to have the mind, body, and spirit in balance,” says Carolyne Anthony, the founder and creative director of The Center for Women’s Fitness Pilates in Chicago. "The Pilates method is an excellent tool in your toolbox for bringing yourself into that optimal alignment," she adds.
Science supports that exercise, which of course includes Pilates, can lead to more satisfaction in bed. In 2004, researchers determined that college students who deemed themselves above average fitness-wise also perceived themselves that way when it came to sexual desirability and performance. A 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that the more male subjects exercised, the greater the erectile and sexual function they had. One year later, another group of researchers, this time from Japan, found that aerobic exercise dramatically increased testosterone levels. Better add some Reformer Jump Board to your training...
Want to know how you can harness the powers of Pilates to heighten your sexual experience, build intimacy, and bring on the romance? We’ve got the dish — right in time for Valentine’s Day.
Learning to coordinate the breath with your movement is at the foundation of any solid Pilates practice; it turns out that honing this skill is essential for better sex, too. “In Pilates, you have total-body integration — that’s mind, body, and soul — but how do you activate it?” Anthony asks. “The number-one way to do that is with the breath. Joseph Pilates always said the breath is the most important thing. Once you become aware of the rhythm of your breath and then become aware of the rhythm of movement, everything becomes realigned and is a joy, not just your sex life.”
Think strengthening the pelvic floor muscles will pave the way for more pleasure? Think again. “There’s this fallacy that tightening the pelvic floor will give us a better a sex life,” Anthony says. “It’s not that the pelvic floor needs tightening to hold the penis in place, that’s one thing. The vagina has sphincter muscles like the anus and urethra, and when you contract the pelvic floor, the male will feel that around his penis. But the woman gets the pleasure over the superficial layer of musculature [which contains the erectile muscles that support orgasms]. It’s the rhythmic moving that creates orgasms. Your pelvic floor doesn’t have to be tight or functioning optimally to get there.”
However, to up the ante on your sex life, both partners have to be in good health, Anthony notes. “If your pelvic floor has some dysfunction, chances are the rest of your body won’t be in good health, either.” In that case, get to work on your pelvic floor with this workshop.
Your Pilates teacher might be able to offer a degree of support, Anthony points out. “I think the guidance of a really good instructor who understands that Pilates is not just a workout, one that can take you through the exercises at your pace, and where you are in your body and your life, would be helpful. One that gives you tools to help you access your own body.”
Although doing Pilates undoubtedly helps to increase circulation in the body, Anthony says that the movements — namely the Pelvic Tilts and Bridging—are what makes Pilates particularly suited to help your sex life. Why? “Because of the rhythms that you will instinctively use [during these exercises],” Anthony explains. For example, “how would you cue a man doing a Pelvic Tilt? For a man, it’s more about thrusting.”
One of the benefits of all the body awareness you’ve picked up during Pilates: “If you know your own body, and your own mind and your own self,” Anthony says, “then what you can do is to educate the other person as to who you are and what you want.”
Research backs this up: A study in the Journal of Sex Research from 2011 asserts that people who communicate more often during intercourse are more likely to feel more satisfaction and intimacy in their partnerships. In 2012, researchers came to a similar conclusion, that people who verbally communicate during sex report more sexual satisfaction.
Adds Anthony: “If you feel good about yourself and feel confident and are aware, you can open up,” a fact that’s also supported by science. In 2004, after analyzing 57 relevant studies, researchers concluded that poor body image impaired sexual functioning, including libido, arousal, and satisfaction.
Doing Pilates with your partner has a hidden benefit, according to Anthony. “I think that it’s a nice thing to do together because not only are you getting healthy together, but you get to see the other person moving, which you wouldn’t see in daily life. It gives you an idea of that movement relationship.” And that will give you intel as to what sexual positions might work best — and which you should steer clear of.
Can’t get your partner do join you for Pilates? Anthony can relate. “I tried for over 30 years [to get my significant other to practice] and was never successful, so don’t ask me.” Sorry — and good luck to you!
Pilates focuses on building muscular endurance, as opposed to muscular strength. Add to that, it works the body in all positions (lying down, sitting, kneeling, and standing), which leads to better balance. Meaning a regular practice might motivate you to more creative in the sack — and last longer while you’re at it.
Build intimacy and connection by moving with your lover by your side. In addition to practicing Bridges together, try these sexy partner stretches for the spine from Anthony: