Why it's important to breathe during sex and techniques to try.
Breath is life. As well as supplying the body with oxygen needed to create energy for our cells it is a direct message to our entire body of what is happening in our surroundings, i.e. danger or safety.
The science of breath
Breath connects us with the autonomous nervous system which controls our internal organs and vital body processes such as digestion, pupil dilation, heart and breath rate and of course sexual response, among others.
The autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) prepares the body for stressful or emergency situations ie. “fight or flight” and slows down processes less needed in an emergency situation such as urinating or digesting food.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for the everyday processes we need to function, such as building tissues, eliminating waste and resting.
When we inhale (giving our cells more energy in order to run or create muscle tension) we accelerate our heart beat and when we exhale we slow it down.
To prepare their bodies some athletes may take a few short sharp inhales before a match or race where as a person about to meditate will regulate themselves by inducing a calming state through longer, deeper exhalations.
More inhalation = prepare for action.
More exhalation = all is well so rest and maintain.
Breath and the sexual response
Both parts of the autonomic nervous system are involved in sexual response and of course; so is the breath.
PNS induces penile and clitoral erections This is why creating a space conducive to relaxation where we can take long conscious breaths (PNS) is beneficial for heightening arousal. While the SNS is associated with orgasm and ejaculation. This is why forgetting to breathe when you approach orgasm is going to limit the amount of oxygen flow and be very counterproductive of reaching climax.
Holding the breath during moments of intense pleasure is common. Maybe you don’t want to make too much noise, feel overwhelmed with excitement or nervous with a new partner but it can really hinder your experience and definitely your orgasm.
The body (specifically the genitals in this instance) need lots of fresh oxygen and blood during sex and self-pleasure to reach climax. Ruling out deeper psychological reasons (which can be helped with the assistance of a sex coach or therapist) you might want assess your environment. Are there any ways you can make your space more comfortable so you can relax and feel less inhibited? Practise breathing deeply beforehand and during the build up to sexual activity i.e touching, hugging, kissing where it is easier to steady your breath.
Make sex sounds
During masturbation, make a point of letting any noise that comes up out. Mainstream porn often shows women squealing and writhing during sex when, as Betty Dodson says, real-life authentic sex noises is often much “deeper, gutteral... animalistic.” Being uncomfortable with hearing ourselves in this way is a likely reason for concealing and sound and staggering the breath. Self-pleasure is a great chance to get used to connecting with what authentically feels good and the natural byproducts of that (maybe its soft panting or a loud grunting). If this speaks to you, can you let that insecurity go and not hold back in this way?
Partner sex has been compared to the affects of a workout so just like any cardio - get those quick inhales going to support your exercise!
Benefits of incorporating the breath into self-pleasure
Breathing techniques that focus on the genitals, can also help us shift into a state of desire or even arousal as it brings a sense of full body awareness we may have neglected throughout the rest of the day. That sense of being embodied, is in itself deeply sensual. Hilary Kimball, a female embodiment coach, shares that these techniques help to train us to breathe more deeply during sex, bringing more oxygen and blood flow to the genitals for heightening sensation. They also create an experience of “awakening” as we learn to bring more awareness to the vulva and vagina.
A pleasure practise for awareness
To start off, sitting comfortably you can visualise your inhales drawing deep down into your pelvic area and as you exhale; letting go from this space also.
Moving on, you might squeeze or create a sense of lifting in your pelvis as you inhale and relaxing as you exhale.
Practise this without forcing or holding the breath until you establish a comfortable rhythm.
The next step would be to repeat the steps above focusing specifically on the labia or vagina during the inhales. Try this in stages; starting off by focusing on the area that naturally has the most sensation for you.
This might look like;
Inhaling for a count of 4 as you bring some tension to the vagina walls and the exhaling for a smooth count of 4 as you relax the vagina walls. The relaxing is just as important as the tension!
Don’t be alarmed if this is not something you can sense right away, many of us are not used to having so much awareness in this part of our bodies.
Experiment with your breath counts. Hilary recommends inhaling for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 8.
A part of Hilarys’ P*ssy Breathing coaching involves imagining that your vagina can take air and that exhaling allows you to release whatever is not serving “her”. This practise, she says, is helpful for people who want to release tension, trauma and emotions trapped in their sexual centers. She invites her clients to always practise the breathing techniques without judgement and with loving awareness.
What could you release sexually? Shame, body-issues, limiting beliefs around sexuality and pleasure? The breath can be a helpful way to access and let go of these things. That being said, our breath is intricately woven into our emotional body and feelings of overwhelm and great resistance could be counterproductive to pleasure; so take things slowly. If you do want to go deeper, working with a coach might be a better fit for you.
Breathe to awaken arousal
Somatic sex coach, Stella Anna Sonnenbaum talked participants, in our recent workshop, through a breathing practise that brought their focus to very specific points of their vulva.
Try bringing your awareness to the clitoris glands as you inhale deeply exhaling and letting go of any tension. For many of the participants this took a while to figure out but eventually those who were able to focus found that it felt pleasurable.
Others were able to do this practise focusing more on the vaginal entrance. See what works for you!
Want to try some breathing techniques before or during self pleasure? Begin by using the breathing practises mentioned in a comfortable position such as sitting or laying down and repeat for a few cycles before stimulating yourself. Let yourself get into a comfortable rhythm and then when you are ready, listen to your body; how do you want to be touched and where? You can experiment with moving to the rhythm of your breath and see how that affects your experience.
Turn on your other senses by listening to an erotic story, music or incorporating textures and smells around you that you find sensual to create your ideal ambience.
Enjoy expanding your idea of pleasure? The Smile Makers' Sensorial Play collection is all about going beyond just genital stimulation to find pleasure and arousal.