Pleasure as a Practice

As we round the corner into February, we approach a holiday traditionally lauded for its celebration of love, sparks, romance, and connection. 

While a few may revel in roses and love notes, most of us are at home in sweatpants, planning a girls’ night, getting takeout from our favorite Thai restaurant, or totally forgot about the holiday altogether. While reflective and celebratory, holidays can sometimes feel like pressure chambers of expectations, particularly during Valentine’s Day.

However, Valentine’s Day can serve a valuable purpose that extends far beyond flowers, expectations, or even rebranded “Galentine’s” days of platonic love.  

This love-centered holiday is an opportunity to understand an enriching, raw, and often misunderstood part of our identity: our relationship to pleasure, both in and especially out of the bedroom. 

The Unwritten Rulebook

Pleasure refers to shame-free experiences that feel good. Pleasure is unfiltered enjoyment and presence in moments that bring joy, and it encompasses everything from the cascading sounds of a waterfall on a morning hike to unrestrained nights of intimacy.

However, we tend to follow unwritten, erroneous rules when it comes to pleasure:

“We only experience intimate pleasure through sex” 

“Pleasure and relaxation need to be earned”

“[Delicious food items] are toxic, and people who eat those will [scary threat]” 

“A woman who lives in her pleasure sexually and expresses that with many people has 

no worth, but a woman who does not live in her pleasure is boring.”

“People who prioritize pleasure are lazy or luxurious, and they don’t contribute meaningfully to society”

The mental gymnastics and hypocrisy of the way society views pleasure makes any action towards feeling good somehow seem…wrong, and often in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” way. 

Of course, we all want to be healthy, and we don’t want to eat greasy foods all day that make us sick, but how often have you used the term “guilty pleasure” to refer to a delectable dessert or binge-worthy Netflix show? We are programmed to associate pleasure with shame, laziness, and maybe even entitlement.  A mom who takes a trip with friends while a nanny watches her kids is not neglecting her children. A woman who consensually indulges in erotic acts with others is not a slut. And maybe staying up a little later than expected to finish an episode of your favorite show wasn’t the worst thing in the world. 

These are simply acts of joy, which can feel threatening or uncomfortable to those who have lived a lifetime believing we are not worthy of pleasure, which is many of us. 

I invite you to celebrate the elusive world of pleasure on a holiday that traditionally celebrates romance.

Pathway to Pleasure

Our bodies are our passports and vessels for life, and we are born with senses that allow us to feel, smell, see, taste, and/or hear the beauty of the world around us.

There are four key steps to igniting our senses and creating pleasure as a practice.

1. Recognize any shame you associate with pleasure.

We cannot feel pleasure unless we feel emotionally safe. Emotions are informational blueprints and sensations in the body telling us about our needs, wants, and boundaries. While there are no good or bad emotions, some emotions signal to the body that we are unsafe to let go, surrender, and enjoy ourselves. 

The most powerful emotion that intercepts pleasure, whether it is through sexual expression or everyday enjoyment, is shame.

Beginning the process of moving through shame comes from awareness. It starts with recognizing what shame feels like and what triggers it to bubble up in the first place.

How does your body feel when you envision your favorite food? Is it wholehearted joy, or is there a touch of feeling “wrong” for desiring it? Notice how you feel when you see someone take a break for a walk, spend hours at a meal with friends, or carve out time for a moment alone. 

When it comes to sexual expression, how does your body feel about the diverse ways people express themselves? What happens when you envision unbridled moaning or phone sex with a partner while you touch yourself? 

While some may read this and feel a sigh of relief or permission, others may get a zing of “ick,” which is all perfectly normal. Getting comfortable with the spectrum of pleasure, whether it’s something that you or someone else enjoys, is not culturally normalized. 

You don’t have to like everything that others do to experience pleasure, but recognizing your reaction to the ways others enjoy themselves is essential to dismantling your own shame.

Shame-free pleasure in and out of the bedroom means reaching a point where you focus more on how things feel rather than worrying if whatever you are doing is normal or follows the right script.

The process of releasing shame can begin with Red Light Therapy, a soothing modality that facilitates emotional regulation. Red light therapy feels as tranquil as a day at the beach under a warm sun, but it also boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, decreases brain fog, and improves mental clarity and emotional wellbeing. The process of regulating your emotional state allows for clarity around underlying, often misunderstood emotions, such as shame. Over time, this allows you to witness your emotional barometer from a place of curiosity, and understand and dismantle emotions that do not serve your pleasure. 

2. Understand your relationship to stress and take the necessary steps to process stress in your life.

The word “Valentine” is derived from the Latin word valens, meaning “strong and healthy,” and a grounded, healthy nervous system is a platform for a pleasure-filled life. 

In the bestseller “Come As You Are,” Dr. Emily Nagoski describes the science behind why less stress and a regulated nervous system means more pleasure. 

According to Nagoski, the secret to inviting in pleasure is to complete the stress response cycle and move through the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response, which is more complex than it may sound. We don’t live in a world that allows us to cry whenever we are hurt or punch something when we are angry. Tabling an emotional breakdown, as every adult can attest to, does not make it go away. It simply stores in the body as more stress. Nagoski affectionately refers to these emotions as the “Feels,” and they are something we are deeply uncomfortable with culturally. 

You cannot eliminate every stressor in life, but you can invite in habits that naturally allow you to process stress in healthy ways consistently

Exercise, meditation, mindfulness, body scans, primal screaming, and even self-care routines like putting on makeup have all been proven to help our bodies complete the stress cycle. As Nagoski’s book brilliantly delineates, this creates space for more interest in intimacy, less overall pain, more mindfulness, and increased overall pleasure. 

One of the best ways to move through stress and release stored emotions is through the unique, curated experience of a Guided Cold Plunge at WORTHY. An ice bath is, in every sense, a place for the “Feels.” Through the expert guidance of a Cold Coach, you are invited to slow down and show up as you are. You are emotionally held and witnessed through meditation, breath work, body scans, and intention setting before listening to a grounding, resonating song and receiving coaching through your time in the ice water. Cold plunging intentionally puts the body into a fight or flight reaction, but instead of staying “stuck,” you move through that response using breathwork, support, and connection. You teach your body that you are safe through hard things, and a cold plunge is just as empowering as it is an essential step toward pleasure. 

3. Know that you are worthy of pleasure, and pleasure is a healthy and essential component of being human. 

Getting a facial, setting boundaries with “energy vampires,” eating a cookie each day, or acting out an erotic power play scene are not frivolous acts. 

They are not moments to be earned, and they are not siloed gifts or events granted only if you do a good job at something else. 

Relationship status, income, age, diet, health status, or hitting goals at work has nothing to do with deserving to feel good. Humans love to think there is a checks and balance system somewhere, and a weekend of peace is only warranted if we have been through enough sacrifice and pain during the work week. 

The reality is that our bodies are wired for things that light up our senses, and from birth, we gravitate towards the good stuff: cuddles, soft blankets, yummy food, and smiles. 

As we age, we forget that we are all worthy of feeling good consistently.  

The CryoFacials at WORTHY are a fantastic way to recognize your worthiness of pleasure. This deliciously soothing service uses a cold-temperature wand to plump, brighten, and tighten the skin. While you will leave looking like you had a glorious night of sleep, the facial in itself allows you to do something that many of us have a hard time with: receive. Allow yourself to be cared for and attended to during a calming, serene service that feels as good as it looks. Or, relish in the entrancing power of touch with a monthly Swedish Massage session at WORTHY. Expert massage therapist Alexis Mulhauser’s potent, curated touch is just as intuitive as it is healing, and incorporating massage regularly improves mood, self-image, and confidence; a valuable step towards feeling worthy of a pleasure-filled life.

Whether you introduce a facial ritual, juicy treat, massage, or new boundary into your routine, give yourself the freedom to weave pleasure organically into your life, knowing that you do not need to do anything extra to deserve it.

4. Invite in sensuality. 

Sensuality is the expression and enjoyment of pleasure through the five senses. Many mistakenly associate sensuality only with sex, since it is often a powerful gateway to whole-bodied, shame-free intimacy.

We do not need access to all of our senses to experience pleasure, and we don’t need to be Instagram models eating strawberries on silk sheets to embrace sensuality!

Sensuality is so much more than our experience in the bedroom. The world opens up when you have processed shame, understood stress, and truly recognize that you are worthy of feeling good. 

Sensuality is savoring every colorful flavor of your favorite meal from a place of joy rather than guilt. 

It’s roaring, untamed, ugly laughter over a blooper photo of yourself, without the need to scrutinize the lines in your face or parcel out what’s “wrong” with your body. 

It’s priding what your body has done for you — perhaps birthed a child or survived a flare-up of a chronic illness — rather than exerting hyper-vigilance over your body’s appearance.

Sensuality is whole-heartedly focusing on the vibrancy of senses that delight us. 

It is living in the real rather than the perfect.

Essentially, sensuality is the acceptance and embodiment of pleasure in our lives without shame, and it’s the antidote to thinking that pleasure is frivolous, privileged, “guilty,” or unnecessary.

If you are interested in delving deeper into this nourishing part of yourself, attend a unique, curated experience at WORTHY After Hours. Enjoy a Self-Care Date Night or Self-Love Evening where pleasure, connection, and sensuality are the theme and thread of the night. Participate in the healing power of a guided ice bath, private infrared sauna, reflective prompts, and meditation in an inviting, candlelit sanctuary. Hosted by Ally English, Intimacy & Wellness Coach, these nights are thoughtfully designed as a feast for the senses, with a unique balance of adventure, relaxation, and reflection.

You are WORTHY

While pleasure may seem like an elusive concept to embrace during Valentine’s Day, it is one of the most essential and often misunderstood parts of being human. 

There are endless taboos, structures, and unwritten rules that intercept our ability to enjoy life, and it is important that we take our power back and carve out space for things that feel good. 

WORTHY Self-Care studio is a space that uniquely holds all the ingredients for creating pleasure as a practice: dismantling shame, processing stress, recognizing your worth, and embracing sensuality. 

From the serene ambiance, abundance of plants and natural light, and tastefully curated music to the high-touch human connection and warm smiles at the door, everything about this self-care studio invites the body to do something just as taboo as it is vulnerable: to surrender. 

While the services offer a myriad of health benefits, they also feel really good. WORTHY is a space to heal and recover, but recovery is just the beginning of recognizing that pleasure is integral in our lives, not just something to seek out on holidays or after we burn out.

While most people fixate on romance, love, and chocolates, consider that pleasure is what underlies all those moments. 

Whether you celebrate this month by coming to WORTHY, setting a boundary, or enjoying a pleasurable little treat, know that pleasure, like anything, is a practice that can take time. 

Nothing shines as vibrantly as someone living in their pleasure, and that is something we are all worthy of. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

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