Rarely have I been concerned about breathing other than that time I was stuck in a Russian elevator or when I was ten and my friend sat on my chest just for fun or the time I’d been under a lot of stress and hyperventilated … every couple days. It’s taken me a lot of years and connecting the dots to understand how vital breath is to sports, mental health and you guessed it … sex.
Read any romance — gasping and quivering pants rule the pages, especially of really hot erotica. When it comes to sex, breathing becomes totally involuntary and is the unmistakable mark of arousal. Locked in an embrace with your lover when sweat is stinging your eyes and your balls are ready to bust, few of us are counting our breaths. When I’m teasing the edge of cumming for at least an hour, breath is a runaway steam locomotive and hardly an exercise in zen.
In With The Good Air
Breath is mostly involuntary. We spend the vast majority of our days and nights without giving breath a thought. If our body needs an inhale, it takes an inhale without the courtesy of permission. You can mostly trust your body to take it when it needs it, and when it’s not getting it, believe me, your body will let you know.
There’s magic is in all other facets of breath. And the magic that can throw open the windows of your sex life and let in a surprisingly fresh breeze!
Most of us learn to regulate breathing to achieve certain body control or performance. We take a breath and hold it to squeeze off a round at a rifle range or to grab a telephoto shot with our SLR. We sync our breathing to improve performance in swimming, weight training, music, and voice. Or we find great value to pace our breathing when giving birth, controlling pain, or meditation.
The artist in me enjoys the metaphorical facets of breath — inspiration for writers, musicians, and artists; breath of the divine as creator and indwelling of creation; the intimate breath shared among friends and lovers. Breath is an expression of life and essence from deep within connected to what shares and gives life and newness from without.
Breath always moves.
Out With The Good Air
If you’re like me, you learned young that you inhale the good stuff and exhale the bad stuff. Oxygen is good and CO2 is bad. Watch someone hyperventilate and you’ll change your tune on that. You know that person is getting plenty of the good stuff because they’re puffing like a dog on an August afternoon. The problem is in the exhale. That’s why the paper bag routine works well. The paper bag simulates a slowed exhale for the hyperventilationist giving him a healthy dose of CO2.
Maybe you’ve noticed the extremities curl up on the dude that’s hyperventilating? It’s a sure sign that the body is starved of CO2, the stuff that’s important for the calming and lengthening of smooth muscle and certain heart and brain functions.
The Breath That Calms
We know that your body is going to take a breath when it wants. It’s best to let it do what it wants. Exhaling is another matter and we’ve adopted some habits that aren’t entirely helpful. Babies are probably the best breathers. The trick is to learn to slow your exhale as your body and activity allow. A slowed exhale compared to the inhale unloads oxygen to help your body perform and repair itself. It also relaxes smooth muscle allowing blood vessels to dilate and improve blood flow.
Try it for five minutes. Sit in a quiet, comfortable place without distraction and focus only on your breathing. Lengthen your spine so your airway is long and unobstructed. Inhale for three counts and exhale for four. Do this for a minute or two. Then increase a little and inhale four counts and exhale six counts. Try that for another minute or two. Then if your body doesn’t protest, try five counts on an inhale and seven on an exhale.
With only five minutes of intentional breathing, notice how you feel in your body— particularly your extremities. Notice your emotions and sense of calm. Try this several times in a day and notice how it makes you feel.
What that has meant for me is mental clarity, better sleep, and a calmer disposition. I incorporate that breathing into my yoga practice, my creative process, spiritual meditation, and my sex life. It also means for me a more firm and enduring erection. When I breathe intentionally, I notice broad arousal moving from my genitals to the pelvis to outlying areas of my body. I enjoy a clearly delayed inevitability of ejaculation allowing me and my lover to enjoy many levels and kinds of arousal, latitude for experimentation for both of us, and to experience orgasmic sensations in many parts of my body.
Intentional breathing can allow you to sync with your partner in an intimate way. As you give some attention to your breathing, your partner may at some point match your breathing allowing you to connect at another sexual level, move your sexual energy to different parts of your body as well as back and forth with your partner.
Try This At Home
Here’s something you can try. You can certainly do this with a partner, but I suggest trying it alone a couple of times to get the benefit of your own focus. Spend a few minutes doing the breathing exercise mentioned above. Then, gradually incorporate your breathing into some easy masturbation. Stroking your penis in a way that feels good to you, then stroke toward your body on the inhale and away from your body on the exhale — three to four counts of inhaling toward your body, then four to six counts of exhaling toward and off the head of your penis. If you do this with a partner during penetration, the same principle applies.
Notice how you feel as you focus on your breathing as well as sexual stimulation. Notice your arousal, where it starts, where it goes, and where it’s most intense. Notice your own desire.
You can add an enhancement. At the end of your exhale, hold your breath out for a couple of counts while adding extra stimulation to only the head of your penis. If you’re doing this with a partner, you could add an extra quick thrust or two while you hold out your breath just before your next inward thrust and inhale.
Give yourself a number of days or a couple of weeks of very intentional breathing during times of relaxation, exercise, work, meditation, or sex with a focus on an extended exhale and notice for yourself what breath can do for you.
–Photo Flickr / Martin Cathrae
–Photo Flickr / TMAB2003