Does breathwork make you better at giving head?
Can learning to be better at breathing help you level up your sex game?
words Megan Wallace
As a sex writer, people are always asking me for advice in the DMs: whether it's how to handle your first sex party or how to actually stay friends with an ex. And yep, I've spoken with enough relationship therapists and tested enough sex toys to impart some sound advice. But sometimes there are questions that not even a seasoned sexpert knows the answer to.
One such conundrum came to me a few weeks ago, when I was talking to a friend about breathwork (different breathing exercises): specifically the role it played in the latest Avatar film, where cast members had to learn how to hold their breath underwater for the movie's many water-based scenes. Suddenly, my friend had a question: if breathwork can make you better at controlling your breathing, would it make you better at giving head?
For the first time in a long time, I was stumped. On the one hand, it can be really hard to foster a consistent breathing pattern when your mouth (and sometimes face) is otherwise occupied, meaning that more breath control could definitely help in oral sex. On the other, if you're paying too much attention to breathing you might wind up being unnecessarily stiff or not focussing enough on the main event.
In the interests of discovering whether a breathwork session could be the key to becoming an oral sex pro, I reached out to intimacy and sex coach and podcast coach Sarah Rose Bright for answers. And while the answers weren't really what I expected, they truly were illuminating.
For starters, Bright is a bit sceptical of this goal-orientated approach to oral sex. "The focus for enhancing sex is often on technique and I find technique is only part of it," she points out. "The person's state of being is more important. Are they enjoying it? Are they relaxed? Are they present?"
Rather than being focussed on being "good" at a sex act, she's a big advocate for being in the moment and trying to relax and enjoy the ride. "The more the person giving oral sex is enjoying it, the more the person receiving will enjoy it too," she says. "Pleasure and arousal flow in the body when the body is relaxed. Breath holds could limit that."
Instead, she recommends getting crafty with how you use your tongue and mouth: simply try a different pressure or movement and see how the person responds. "To have more pleasurable oral sex, I encourage using the mouth and the tongue in lots of different ways and lots of different places and breath hold is not needed for this," she recommends. And, yes, this isn't always possible in all forms of oral sex - like if someone is using your face as a rubbing post or hammering at your mouth as if it's a fleshlight - but it's a solid and actionable point all the same.
She also raised an eyebrow at the concept of "controlling" breath. Rather, she thinks that we should all be a lot more conscious and aware of our breath whenever we get under the sheets. "During sex, the majority of people have patterns of unconsciously holding their breath or breathing quickly and shallowly," Bright explains. "The energy and attention is usually focused around the genitals and then if or when orgasms happen, it’s like a balloon popping and it’s over in seconds."
The antidote? Building a more loving relationship with your breath whenever you get it on (whether with a partner, or by yourself). "By bringing more awareness to the places where is the breath is held or is short you can breathe more consciously and more fully," she says. "Imagine the breath as an erotic pump, moving pleasure and arousal around the body so that you can feel and experience more. I have had many clients where that alone has helped them to relax more and to have orgasms which are better or last longer."
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What I'm gathering is that engaging with breathwork in order to fulfil a sexual end goal is kind of missing the point. Breathwork isn't just about ticking a box: rather, it's a means of engaging with our breath and feeling more embodied. When it's approached along those lines, breathwork has the potential to broaden and deepen all kinds of sexual experiences (not just giving head) just by making us more mindful, present and connected to our and our sexual partner's pleasure.
As it turns out, this feeds into erotic practices which have long, deep roots in multiple cultures. Specifically, they're present in both Tantric and Taoist traditions, which have origins in East Asia and South Asia, respectively. "In Tantric and Taoist traditions, breathwork is used to move the sexual energy to the heart and the spiritual centres of the third eye and the crown," says Bright. "Not only can it heighten sexual pleasure, but it can also enhance feelings of love and connection and can be a profoundly transcendent experience."
Erotic breathing tips and exercises to try at home
In the interests of giving you a little something extra to try during your next spicy session, Bright has some tips on how to incorporate breathing exercises into your sex life. Take notes!
Bring your attention to your breath The first step is paying attention to how you breathe when you're having sex, and identifying any instances where you are holding your breath or breathing in a more shallow fashion. "Bring your awareness to how you are currently breathing. Most people are not aware of this and are experiencing sex with themselves and/or other people with habits that have developed over years and decades."
It's time to unclench Another thing to look out for? Places where you are tensing your body, which will prohibit the flow of your breath. "Pretty much everyone I work with has patterns of tension and gripping in their body when they are aroused such as squeezing their buttocks. It you squeeze you buttocks now, notice how it affects your chest. We cannot contract and expand at the same time."
Relax your body Once you've mapped out the issues, it's time to let go and work towards more open erotic sensations. "By bringing more awareness to these habits, you can choose to breathe more fully and to let go of any places where you are contracted so that you can open to what is known as ‘relaxed arousal’: arousal where you body is relaxed and not contracted. You might contract as something feels good but try to open after the contraction rather than hold on. You might have to do this many, many times but it is worth it as you become open to experiencing more and more pleasure in your body."
Breathe to your heart Now you've got the groundwork covered, it's time to experiment. Try this beginner's exercise next time you get it on and bring more lingering pleasure to your sexscapade. "A beautiful technique to get started is to consciously breathe your aroused sexual energy up to your heart, imagining a circuit that comes from your genitals up to your heart and down again. Breathe in; feeling or imagining your sexual energy moving to your heart. Exhale; feeling or imagining your sexual energy moving from your heart to your genitals."
So there you have it: breath could be the secret ingredient missing from your sex life. Thank us later!
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