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|Part I||Flex Appeal--What and Why|
|Chapter 1||My "Opening" Act: The Search for Sensual Vitality||3|
|Chapter 2||Flex Appeal: Your Body's Homecoming: The Flex Appeal Program and How It Works||9|
|Part II||Mind and Body|
|Chapter 3||Life Gets in the Way: Investigating the Mind--Body Disconnect||21|
|Chapter 4||Get Real, and Get On with It! Exploring Body-Image Issues||31|
|Chapter 5||Getting Back in Your Body: Honoring Your Body's Energy Cycles||51|
|Chapter 6||Sense and Sensuality: Developing Greater Sensory Awareness||71|
|Part III||The Program|
|Chapter 7||Flex Appeal Basics||89|
|Chapter 8||Core and Spine||101|
|Chapter 9||Hips, Pelvis, and Legs||167|
|Chapter 10||Upper Body||233|
|Chapter 11||Face and Head||285|
|Chapter 12||Special Routines||297|
|Fluid Relaxation Meditation||297|
|Sensual Strength and Weight Loss||298|
|Flex Appeal Dance||300|
|Resources and Recommended Reading||302|
|About the Authors||310|
The Search for Sensual Vitality
TWO YEARS AGO, having just turned fifty, I set out to write a book about sex. Easier said than done! After exploring the swarm of midlife changes our bodies go through for my book Moving Through Menopause, I'd become aware that questions of libido and sexual function are a big concern as we get older. At the same time, I knew of younger women, caught up in the stresses of career or motherhood, who found themselves wondering at the sudden lack of passion in their lives. The truth is, a feeling of disconnection from your sensual vitality can happen at any time, and women of all ages may hear that voice inside them asking: Is that all there is?
I knew that much had already been written about these issues, and I was determined to find a new approach. Promises, Promises ...
Standing at the magazine rack in my local bookstore, I was struck by our culture's single-minded focus on the mechanics of sex. Every cover screamed sexual performance-as though new bedroom breakthroughs were being made every day. Drive him wild! Make him beg for more! How could anyone's sex life founder, with so many surefire techniques to try? But there comes a point when you simply no longer relate to these breathless promises. For someone like me, recently divorced and emerging from a long period of celibacy, the vulnerability and longing associated with the thought of sex were more likely to bring up feelings of anxiety, sadness, or just plain apathy.
Then I was hit by one of those simple-but-brilliant revelations: Before you can really enjoy a sexual relationship, you need to feel sensually alive in your own skin. In other words, before you can really be in the mood, you need to be comfortable in your body.
Instantly I was on familiar ground, because I saw how this concept dovetailed with my mission in the fitness field: The issue wasn't about having sex, it was about finding a part of yourself that had gone missing. And it wasn't about doing something with, or to, someone else-at least it didn't start there. It was about having your own experience. It was about re-connecting the wiring of your own sensual vitality-becoming comfortable, physically and mentally, with yourself again.
Of course, you might be tempted to again say: Easier said than done! But I know it can be done. This book is based on two principles I strongly believe in:
The sensual aspect is one of the body's systems-just as essential as the circulatory or digestive system-and we need to keep it healthy for the sake of our own well-being.
A person's sensuality and sexuality are best approached in a larger context of her overall fitness level, body awareness, and self-image.
Opening to New Possibilities
It surprised me that someone with a lifetime of expertise in fitness might not feel perfectly at home with some aspect of her body. It soon became clear that physical fitness and the drumbeat of a healthy libido are two separate things. The question was, how to connect the dots?
It became a project: How Kathy Got Her Groove Back. I read the tips in the magazines. Friends dragged me to trendy "cardio-striptease" classes. Meanwhile, I braved a few tentative dates, feeling a mixture of insecurity and resentment at having to go through all this again, at this age. Finally, I landed in a belly dancing class. And there, at last, I was home!
The movement was a revelation-it was tasteful, beautiful, and sensuous. As I watched myself in the mirror, circling my hips, moving my shoulders in ways that were new and challenging to me, I noticed a distinct shift in how I felt about myself-in a word, I felt sexy.
It was my moment of opening up to new possibilities. It took me several months to begin feeling confident in my own femininity and sexual vitality again-to feel both desiring and desirable-and I arrived there through a process similar to the one I'm going to share in this book. I know everyone's issues with sex are going to be different.
But whatever yours may be, chances are, the solution comes down to reconnecting with your physical body and tapping back into that inner current of playful sensuality. In other words: Put the fun back in your body!
That's what the Flex Appeal Program is all about. Through a combination of yoga, dance, strengthening, and flexibility movements, you'll learn to tap into those feelings of vitality and sensuality again-and start feeling sexy, from the inside out. Plus, you'll be getting your body in shape at the same time!
If I had to pick a mantra to guide this process, it would be open up. This program will help you do that, and more.
What Flex Appeal Can Do for You
This book is for anyone who, for any of a hundred and one everyday reasons, may have drifted out of touch with her body. It will train and condition your body in a way that will help you feel more connected to your physical self in general, and your sensual self in particular.
Two special notes on the program:
Flex Appeal is great physical exercise. This program offers a variety of benefits including strength, flexibility, fluidity of motion, and a more relaxed, expressive body.
Flex Appeal is sex appeal minus the performance anxiety! There's no need to force the sensual dimension. That's one reason I chose the more fitness-coated term flex appeal. This is how I, as a health and fitness expert, interpret the quality that some call sex appeal. If I can simply get you feeling more "in your body," and help you develop a better sensory-and sensual-appreciation of your body, the sexual dimension will take care of itself, and will develop in a way that is right and appropriate for you.
A Sensual Disconnect
A friend recently described a workshop she'd attended on "Sacred Sexuality."
(This tantalizing idea is a modern offshoot of the ancient Hindu tradition of tantric yoga.) To break the ice, the participants had to say the first word that came to them when they thought about making love. There were many: connectedness, melting, release, oneness, boundaryless, waterfall, yummy ...
My word would be playful. This is an aspect of sexuality we sometimes overlook in our culture, for various reasons, but which Eastern philosophies have always understood: Sexual energy is playful energy. En route to my own reawakening, I spent a lot of time thinking about the playful, sensual spirit in our lives-about what causes it to thrive, or to retreat.
I remember back when the feeling of sexual vitality was simply there, effortlessly, all the time. That adventure of early womanhood, before career and family took center stage, was a very exciting part of my life. Time passes, though, and those days give way to practical, survival-oriented concerns. You get busy with your career, you get married, you focus on buying a house and making it a home. You're perpetually short on time, drained of energy; as a result you become less active, perhaps putting on a few pounds, then a few more. Your romantic life succumbs to habit; sex is less frequent, more routine. Meanwhile, you start developing a repertoire of stress-related symptoms such as stomach pains, back pain, or insomnia.
Before you know it, you can't get going without your coffee, can't fall asleep without a glass of wine, can't climb to the top of that little hill to watch the sunset. This is how you start to drift out of your body. Meanwhile, life marches on. Eventually, kids arrive, you hit problems in your marriage, you worry about your aging parents. Maybe you find yourself, as I did, dealing with a physically or mentally ill family member. Suddenly, you're a full-service caretaker.
And what happens? That free, playful spirit-that creative sexual energy that used to dance and sing through your arms, your legs, your hips, your breasts, your smile-begins to fade. Instead of finding expression through your body, it's trapped there and forgotten.
Does any of this sound familiar? Think about how it felt to be first discovering your sexuality. Was there ever a time when your sexuality was fun, unselfconscious, free?
It's almost as though a line is drawn between that free-spirited, sensual enjoyment of the world ... and becoming a responsible member of society. It's almost as though settling down required simmering down.
By the time I hit my late forties, I felt like someone who goes to look up a favorite recipe and finds the page missing. How did I ever create that energy? Would I ever feel that spark, that aliveness, again?
Hot-Wiring the Stalled Libido
Newly single at fifty, I was soon inundated with "empowering" quick fixes from media "sexperts." "Girl, get yourself a good vibrator and a younger boyfriend," a licensed sexologist told me, "preferably about half your age!"
I had to laugh. Isn't science wonderful? No problem at all to hot-wire that stalled libido-all it takes is fresh batteries and a boy toy! Of course, for some women, that might be just the ticket. But for others, such quick fixes don't address the real issue. Most of us, depending on how long we've been out of the water, are not ready to dive into the deep end of our wildest fantasies. We need to start at a more basic level.
After all, it's not as if I didn't know there were such things as vibrators or younger men in the world. It's just that those approaches-and all the adventurous new things you might try with your husband, if you happen to be married-can take hold only when you first open up to the possibility.
It can start small. Maybe a day comes when you look in your dresser and say to yourself: Okay, this is it, I'm taking all this ratty old underwear that I see every day, that I can hardly wear it's so stretched out, and I'm throwing it all away and buying new stuff. Then-then-you pick out a pair with just a slightly lower cut ...
And it builds from there. Sure, the first step might be that curious-looking "toy" you brought home from your friend's bridal shower. It might be anything. Maybe it was buying this book.
It's about opening up to possibilities.
The key is to find things that put the fun back in your body. Because putting the fun back, and putting you back, are one and the same.
Excerpted from Kathy Smith's Flex Appeal by Kathy Smith, with Micheline Berry, with Robert Miller Copyright © 2004 by Kathy Smith Enterprises, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 2, 2004
Just seems like the same old information reprocessed. It's a nice try but found the yoga and east/west philosophy on this subject to be pieces of what I have already read in many other books. Little self indulgent, wish it was better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.