Most people accept breathing as an autonomic process that doesn’t require much thought. It turns out that, although our breath will rise and fall without our direction, adding a little agency and consciousness to our breathing goes a very long way in improving our health. If you haven’t yet picked up the New York Times bestseller by James Nestor “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”, there has never been a more relevant time in history to get literally inspired.
After years of meditation practice and education, I didn’t think I had so much to learn about breath, but I have to admit this book has changed how I think about breathing – and not just when I meditate.
In the details of the history of how humans breathe, from ancient cultures to modern innovations, things like our facial structure and our unconscious breathing patterns explain how and why we are breathing so poorly with all of the accompanying health issues. Nestor details how making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can not only accelerate internal organs, and stop snoring and sleep apnea (it has for me), but also improve outcomes from all kinds of autoimmune conditions. Seems impossible but true.
Most of our chronic health issues can be linked back to our unconscious poor breathing and some of the oldest texts and most impressive Indian gurus described in the book demonstrate how learning to master our breath changes how deeply we can live in our body and how profoundly this impact our relationships in the world.
One of the techniques that I had long practiced is the idea of slowing down the breath: extending the inhale and taking it all the way to the bottom of the lungs and fully exhaling, taking even more time to expel all the air. In the space that naturally arises between the breath, you come to a stillness which has long been taught as an entrance point to the divine connection in each of us.
One thing that the book doesn’t get into – but has long been a fascination for me – is how synchronizing our breath to our lover both in lovemaking and in daily activities bolsters our connection and adds rocket fuel to our sex lives. Hafiz, one of my favorite ancient poets describes the experience like this: “There are moments in moist love when heaven is jealous of what we on earth can do.” This idea of “moist” love is a reflection of how we adhere to each other. The breath is a literal way to make this happen.
The communication you share in your relationship represents the air that exists between you and your partner. It is this breathing connection that is the currency of energy that sustains or depletes the life force between you. Sharing real intimacy with our words, and listening deeply, behind the words themselves, is how you cement the foundation of your trust and provide fuel for physical intimacy.
Get Closer to Your Partner with This Breathing Exercise
One powerful practice is to align your breathing with your partner by listening more to the pauses between the words, to the tone of voice exchanged, leaning into the what is trying to be said, rather than just the words alone. Not uncommonly, we don’t have the language to express what we need to be heard. Learning to listen to the message behind the words is a profound daily practice of aligning your breath to your partner’s natural rhythm.
By slowing down the communication, you reduce miscommunication because there is more moisture in the air between you. This softer space encourages opening in places you might not even have known were closed.
Taking this practice into the bedroom can get very sexy, very quickly. This exercise both slows down and speeds up sexual connection. Beginning with the initial foreplay, take a moment to breathe together. As you progress to intercourse, sync your breath with motion so you are inhaling and exhaling together during penetration. This gives you agency over depth and pace of penetration and connects you unlike anything else.
Aligned breathing is like adding rocket fuel because it simultaneously regulates and heightens the awareness of each other’s deepest arousal. It transforms sex into a kind of intimate listening that levels up your intimate life both in and out of the bedroom.
Breathing consciously takes practice, both on your own and in tandem with your partner. But given how stuck we are these days, there has never been a better time to be breathing better.