We focus on our physical health and our mental health, but are we placing enough priority on our sexual self as well? Capsule talks to Kiwi sexologist Nina Powell about how tapping into our wild and sensual selves can bring us to our fullest potential… and the best sex of our lives.
It’s fair to say that Gwyneth Paltrow, Queen Goop herself, cops a lot of flak for some of her more Goopy Goop content, but the Netflix The Goop Lap show (lots of Goop in one sentence) has been quietly revolutionary for how vagina-centric it was willing to get. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given that Gwyneth named a candle ‘This Is What My Vagina Smells Like’.
But in the first series, one episode featured a woman masturbating on camera, and also featured a montage of different labia, in the hopes of normalising what a porn-free vagina looks like. In the most recent series, The Goop Lab featured a sexological bodyworker and it struck a chord with Kiwi sexologist Nina Powell, who has trained in this type of healing work after seeing the effect it had on her after a difficult period in her life.
“It’s a funny thing in life, when you start to follow threads – one thing leads to another, leads to another and how that all adds up to one big leap or decision,” she says. “For me, it was following my curiosity for the first time – rather than my pre-planning brain which had got me to university, got me my Masters and got the job in the right office, all that thing.”
Originally trained as a Human Factors Psychologist, it was after going through a messy divorce nine years ago that Nina first came to the world of tantra. The first thread she followed was investigating meditation, which lead to conscious clubbing, a type of sober and mindful experience. But that road eventually lead to a sexuality workshop, where she learned about tantra. “It touched me in a particular way,” she says. “There was this longing for a depth of connection and some sacredness around my sexual self.”
A lot of the work was about life force and creativity but one of the key focuses was also on releasing trauma. In her last year of studying at university, Nina was raped and the assault was an incredibly destabilizing event in her life. “I had imagined I would go into clinical psychology, that I would be directly helping people, but after the rape, I chose a more practical route because I didn’t think I had the capacity to work with people one-on-one.”
“When I do the work with women, it’s like the Goddess has landed. I don’t know how else to describe it – but women are so often stuck in their heads that when you bring them back into their bodies, it’s a huge energetic shift.”
It was while going through a workshop for sexological bodywork where Nina had her first trauma release from her body. It was during a process called mapping, where someone presses on different parts of the body and you name what you’re feeling. One place in particular created an instant rage reaction, Nina says. “I didn’t realise that I had been holding this anger for so long.” It was such a profound experience, Nina wanted to help other women experience the same release but also to experience the same pleasure that different parts of the training had brought her.
Nina now runs Wild, Divine, Orgasmic Leadership individual and group programs and retreats for women to feel amazing in their body, be self-expressed, and feel powerful, at peace and present. These women access who they really are, access their full power, become magnetic to everything they want, and have a ton more joy in their life.
“It’s a really beautiful way of reconnecting with your body but also healing trauma and bringing you back to being able to have incredible sex, where you feel everything, and you can be present,” she says. “When I do the work with women, it’s like the Goddess has landed. I don’t know how else to describe it – but women are so often stuck in their heads that when you bring them back into their bodies, it’s a huge energetic shift.”
“I don’t know any woman – I wish I did! – but I don’t know any woman who hasn’t gone along with sex even when they would have preferred to stop.”
Nina now works with a lot of women who have experienced sexual trauma. “I think there is a lot of it out there – and it doesn’t have to be something that you would define as rape or even as trauma,” she says. “I don’t know any woman – I wish I did! – but I don’t know any woman who hasn’t gone along with sex even when they would have preferred to stop. And the body creates tension, it creates an armour, around those experiences, even when you don’t notice it and this affects your relationships and enjoyment of sex.”
Learning how to not override our body – to pay attention and listen to what it needs – is constant work for so many women.
“It’s one of the biggest takeaways from working with someone is them developing that trust with their body again,” Nina says. “We practise overriding ourselves all the time. ‘I’m tired, so I’ll have a coffee.’ ‘I don’t want to do that, but I have to.’ We push on through – we don’t ever allow ourselves what we need, let alone what we desire!”
So many of us have referred to being in ‘survival mode’, especially during the pandemic, but what if we made small changes to help listen to our body, even as basic as going to the bathroom when we need to go to the bathroom? And then imagine if we did that with everything, Nina says. “Eat when you want to eat. Sleep when you need to sleep. Have sex when you want to have sex!”
“Our sexual self is just as valuable as our wealth, our physical health, our spiritual wellness… this whole holistic part.”
For so long, physical health was the marker for a good life and only recently have we started to learn to pay attention to our mental health. But with Nina’s work, she wants women to realise that prioritising their sexual health is just as powerful.
“Our sexual self is just as valuable as our wealth, our physical health, our spiritual wellness… this whole holistic part. But even I – in my job! – can come up against this idea that it’s not as important, or it’s not something you should put time into, that there are more important things to focus on in the world.
“There is so much conditioning women have around being hedonistic, or being self-serving. But it’s like cutting off a part of ourselves and then we wonder why we have this longing for wholeness, or being able to surrender into pleasure, to have amazing orgasms and feel really connected to a partner during love making. To feel a sense of reverence for that part of ourselves.”