We all know posture is important. We grew up with at least one parent whose favorite pastime was to jab their thumb between our shoulder blades and remind us to stand taller (Just me? Cool, cool). We know posture is helpful to ensure proper muscle function, and it’s important for proper alignment of joints and bones. But did you know your posture can make or break your sex life?
Because I didn’t—and I’ve never been so motivated to stand up straight.
After having a baby in 2021, I started following various pelvic floor therapists on Instagram. When I connected the dots between posture and vaginal flexibility, I started to pay more attention to the way in which my shoulders slump when I’m at my computer, or how I tuck my pelvis and lean back when I’m holding my 30lb toddler. One follow I’ve found helpful is Jesse Truelove, a pre-and-post-natal trainer who specializes in women’s corrective exercise and pelvic floor work. Her reels on posture have helped remind me to move more consciously, whether I’m at my desk or dead-lifting the little one.
So I decided to reach out to Truelove to see if she could speak directly to this connection between posture and sexual pleasure. And from what she told me, it’s a widely unknown issue. “Something a lot of people aren’t thinking about is tension in the pelvis and how that impacts sexual pleasure and orgasms,” she explained. Read on to find out how posture affects sex and Truelove’s best tips for improving your sex life (BTW, these tips apply to everyone with a uterus, whether or not you’ve had–or intend to have–a child).
How Posture Affects Sex
According to Truelove, when you sit all day with your pelvis tucked under you or if you tend to clench your butt while standing or walking, it can actually shorten the muscles in both your glutes and your pelvic floor. “When this happens over an extended period of time, blood flow is reduced, and we need blood flow for a clitoral erection.” Translation: not paying attention to your pelvic floor muscles and posture can actually impact clitoral stimulation. What’s more, Truelove adds, “We need to be able to contract and lengthen our pelvic floor muscles to allow for penetration and the ability to orgasm.” Basically, poor posture can constrict the muscles in your undercarriage to the point where you can’t easily lengthen them, which can lead to pain during sex or difficulty achieving orgasm.
Signs That Your Posture Might Be Affecting Your Sex Life
Your body’s default is to slouch
One red flag that indicates you might start to see muscle imbalance or chronic pain in the future (and less-than-ideal intercourse) is when you notice your body default to a position where your shoulders round, head juts outward, and pelvis tucks under, as Truelove told me. My shoulders are constantly rounding—to a point where that rounded position feels like a relief. My back starts to get tired if I’m holding a straighter posture. Truelove suggests it’s because my body has learned that the slouched position is my default. “Our bodies are very smart and want to conserve our energy,” she said. “Sometimes at the expense of our [long-term] comfort.”
You’re chronically stressed
Sitting all day isn’t the only reason your tailbone might be tucked, leading to poor posture and pelvic floor function. “A tight pelvic floor and tucked pelvis can also be a symptom of chronic stress,” Truelove emphasizes. “If you think about a dog that gets yelled at, it tucks its tail to protect its most vulnerable space, and so do we. We tuck under, clutch, and protect.” It’s wild to think about how subconsciously our body language operates, but it makes sense. Our bodies are always communicating with us. And when we are constantly stressed, our bodies constrict and create tension. “The body is more connected than you may think,” Truelove notes. “Even tension in the jaw translates to tension in your pelvic floor, too.”
It’s hard to find a comfortable standing position
Another, more surprising, red flag is when you notice it’s hard to find a comfortable standing position. “You may not be able to find comfortable upright positions and [as a result] are constantly looking for your next seat for relief,” Truelove says. If any of these signs makes you wince a little because they’re too real, I’m right there with you. There’s good news, though, if you (like millions of us) are tied to your desk chair all day and are operating under chronic stress, you can absolutely rectify pelvic tightness in your body. Truelove reassures that taking the time to notice and shift your habits around posture and even your breathing patterns can have a major positive impact on your sexual pleasure.
Expert Tips To Improve Posture and Support Your Pelvic Floor
1. Breathe into your pelvis
“When you inhale, imagine filling a balloon that’s sitting in your pelvic bowl,” Truelove explains. By breathing in a way that feels like you’re pushing your hip bones away from each other, you’re activating and stretching the deep core muscles that support your pelvic muscles. “Most people inhale and their shoulders come toward their ears, [but] this is not deep breathing,” Truelove says. Timing yourself for just a few minutes at a time and breathing deeply into your pelvic bowl can shape your breathing habits over time.
2. Release your glutes
We often don’t know that we’re tightening a muscle (like clenching our jaws) when it’s an engrained habit, but taking a few minutes to check in with yourself—while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting in line somewhere—could make all the difference. “Butt tucking and tension can restrict blood flow to the pelvic floor area, (goodbye orgasms and pleasure),” Truelove warns. And although it’s a tougher habit to break, it’s doable. It’s just a matter of starting to be aware when you’re tensing up your glute muscles, and then releasing.
3. Go barefoot when you can
Yes, wearing shoes may be hindering your ideal posture. “Our feet are our foundation,” Truelove explained. “What you put them in is absolutely impacting your pelvic health. Jamming your toes into narrow heels or trendy athletic shoes or even flip flops is sending tension signals to your pelvic floor that you don’t even realize.”
If you need proof, try scrunching your toes together really hard right now. You might notice tension in your pelvic floor. Or it might feel like you’re clenching as though you’re trying to hold back some gas. It’s subtle, but it’s all connected. Does this mean it’s time to say goodbye to heels forever? Not necessarily. “Try going barefoot more often, and opt for more foot-shaped shoes,” Truelove suggests. If you’re really attached to the trendy footwear that smashes your toes a bit, try striving for balance. The danger is when those toes never get to splay.
FYI–You Don’t Need Perfect Posture To Have Great Sex
When I asked what kind of posture to shoot for, Truelove reminded me to manage my expectations. “Perfect posture doesn’t exist,” she said. “We are all unique and different, and life was meant to happen in all different positions.” Varying lifestyles are going to require slightly different postures to support different types of movement. “With that said, alignment is important for great breathing, pelvic floor function, and more. Problems start to arise when we get ‘stuck’ in one posture and have trouble getting into certain positions without pain or compensation.”
The best thing to do to “enhance” your posture is to focus on aligning your spine by shaking up your habitual movement patterns. For example, “If you lead with your pelvis [while walking] and lean backward with your upper body, try to stack your pelvis under your ribcage and then your head over your shoulders,” Truelove suggests. She acknowledges that it may feel very unnatural, but that’s OK because with more awareness and practice it will all feel more natural. Our muscles can unlearn old habits with time. Discomfort in the short term will lead to major physical relief in the long run (80-year-old future you will thank you!).
If doing it on your own feels tricky or you need a little extra support, think about setting some goals with an accountability buddy or look into programs like Truelove’s MomCORE app, which offers a one-week free trial, one-on-one coaching, and a community of women like you who are all reaching for the same goal.