By Gary Hagman, San Francisco master bodyworker. Edited by Michael Grant White, breathing development specialist.
For the purposes of this article, the word breath-work is meant to refer to both breathing work and breathwork.
Breathwork implies the energy of the breath. Breathing work implies the mechanics or motions of breathing. They have similar, identical, different-even opposing results.
There are many good treatments that explore the relationship of love, sexual expressions, and the breath. It is not the aim of this writing to be a sexual therapy primer the Kama Sutra, or replacements for The Multi-orgasmic Man by Mantak Chia, or The Art of Sexual Ecstasy or Magic by Margo Anand.
It is the aim of this writing to invite and inspire people to discover. develop, and free them to achieve the fullest potential. While the aforementioned more comprehensive treatments are invaluable, the insights and practices offered in this book can greatly accelerate and enhance the desired results sought through other works. It is in the domain of sexual expression that due attention to the breath can pay off a billion fold. At every level of erotic intensity, from overcoming anxiety and impotence to multiple orgasms and sustained levels of ecstasy, ... relaxation and cultivation of the breath are indispensable.
A tense body inhibits relaxation, pleasure, and intimacy. The exercises in this book help one to locate and progressively dissolve breathing blockages, chronic tensions, and inhibitions to authentic self-expression.
It is here that breath work can be so key, for, in erotic encounters, the ability to establish and sustain mutual rapport at many levels is of primary importance. Breathwork can help one become more present in the encounter, and thus be more capable of being with and encouraging another to also be present at the encounter.
The breath work outlined in this book can not only be of value in the near term for love relationships but can also help people from staying within the possible malaise of too-familiar patterns, while it fosters spontaneity, passion and increased the sense of self in relationship to others.
The ability to give, receive, and actually tolerate more pleasure in relationship with another invites closeness and encourages each other to be more engaged in the relationship. Couples need to learn to create increased energy with each other, stay present with, and in contact with, that increased mutual intensity on a moment to moment basis.
The breathing work outlined in this workbook can be invaluable in the near term but can also dissuade people from remaining in too-familiar patterns that previously fostered predictability, boredom, and apathy.
With optimal breathing one’s future becomes more readily shaped and nurtured by spontaneity, passion and meaningful growth, at is in this keeping open the possibilities of authentic relationship, self-discovery, self-revelation, and commitment to the present moment of relatedness rather than expectedness and resignation that breathwork manifests itself as a vital life discipline.
Breathwork is no guarantee of effortless commitment less and ecstatic relationship. It does not automatically banish fear and disappointment but it does allow one to continually discover the ways of being and doing in that relationship.
The broad brush guidelines for integrating breathing and breathwork with intimate relationships are as follows:
1) discovering responsibility for one's own critical breath profiles (assessments of critical areas, detecting and removing breathing blocks, then charting and navigating one's way to greater intensity, spontaneity, and self-expression);
2) becoming more adept at discovering and accepting the energy profiles of others
3) becoming more adept at discovering and accepting the new patterns created in the space of new relationships. Herein lies the big trick, for although one may become familiar with one's own usual ways of being and become more observant of others, there is always a new and essentially unpredictable pattern created when two or more evolving beings are in communication.
Being present to and taking responsibility for this vastly larger space of relationship is what a lot of your personal life will be about, whether you like the idea or not.
In addition to transcending the mental and emotional patterns that may have supported or limited one's ability to be in the moment, breathwork can also help one have more direct access to an expansion of one's energetic comfort zone of intimacy and pleasure. Breathwork can provide an entree to heretofore inexperienced domains of pleasure and rapport.
This may not seem like a problem to some people, but for too many others, the prospect of greater pleasure, more often, with greater authenticity and completeness, may be quite outside their normal expectations.
This again brings into focus the need for responsibility and comfortably constant reality checking. Breathwork can lead to greater fulfillment at many levels, but if intolerable anxieties or other difficulties arise with oneself or with one's partner, seeking the counsel of a professional sex or psychotherapist may be helpful.
From a practical standpoint, in addition to the suggested exercises for assessing and expanding one's own breathing energy, there are several recommended exercises for couples to enhance intimacy. The basic themes of these exercises are to enhance awareness of oneself and one's partner and to facilitate the depth of surrender in these intimate encounters. For increased sexual energy click here
Everyone has persistent areas of tension and holding that resist stretching, breathing, massaging, and wishing. These are the areas where we store hurts and fears, where we shut down the flow of feeling and expression. The initiative here is to locate and acknowledge these areas and bring connection and compassion to them.
You and your partner should warm up and relax for a few minutes, sit together, scan your bodies and tell each other where you feel areas of persistent tension or pain, areas that need to be touched.
Take turns and go from head to toe. Your partner simply places his or her hands on or around the area requested. The idea is not to manipulate, massage, or zap, but to invite compassion, respect, and feeling. Keep this up until a mutually felt sense of completion is achieved. Acknowledge this completion verbally.
Move to the next area. The person being touched should live in the questions ''What can I do or stop doing or allow more of that will relieve tension and increase feeling in the area?''.
Somewhere in this process, both partners want to see how much they can feel their muscles relaxing, their skin softening, their blood circulating more freely, and certainly breathing more fully and easily in synchrony with their partner.
It is not unusual for people to experience bodily sensations of streaming, buzzing, tingling, warmth, coolness, and breeze like sensations. These are physical sensations of the life-force and they may be increasing and becoming more apparent or "conscious’.
Do not rush, do not force, refrain from judging yourself or your partner. Take your time, allow the other to take their time. Do not be attached to notions of having to 'get through all the areas' and move on.
You are there to bring compassion to areas of your own and another’s body that by definition tend to persist. These areas are difficult for anyone. One area met with true compassion until felt-completion can be extremely validating, tension relieving and healing to someone. Do what you can, facilitate what you can, be what you can and move on.
Stand close to your partner, and feel the outer layer of your bodies...the skin, muscles, the bones. Feel how your body is supported (or not), how it is contained (or not), how it separates you from your environment.
No; hug your partner and experience how these outer layers feel when they touch to another person. Attend to what parts touch, what parts don't touch. Extend your awareness to the other person's skin, muscles, bones. Experience how the other person is supported. how they contain their energy. After a few moments, bring into the embrace your bellies, hips, and the quality of your breathing. After a few more moments, stand apart and be with your new perceptions.
Now, bring your awareness to the deeper parts of your own body-your stomach, your lungs inhaling and exhaling, your heart beating, your intestines, and certainly your genitals. Allow your breath to move into the deeper parts of your body. Feel it move to the deepest core, then expanding and pulsating through to the skin.
Now embrace your partner again making contact with your whole body.-heart to heart, belly to belly, organs to organs. Along with the skin contact, Include as best you can, a whole body breath.
Stay with this process and ask yourself, ''What am I now able to feel in myself and my partner? Am I able to let go more? Is my breath deepening, getting easier, fuller, longer, wider? Can I let go more?''. Can I surrender more? Where am I holding back?"
When you feel complete with this, separate and allow you and your partner to be with your new experiences. Share them with your partner.
Do not insist that you or your partner not hold anything back. The process here is to notice what is happening and allow that to happen, not to impose goals, value judgments or agendas.
Some areas of tension or concern can be dealt with readily, other areas and issues can be quite disproportionately problematic. If you want trouble, just become attached to the notion that all areas of tension or concerns are essentially the same for everyone and can be dealt with in the same way.
The better you and your partner become at assessing and dissolving breathing blocks, the greater sense of intimacy you will experience in doing these exercises. It is an inseparable process. Greater ease and fullness in breathing will support greater and more authentic self-disclosure--intimacy. Greater intimacy will support more intensity and continuity of whole-body breathing.
Exercise three assumes and builds upon a certain level of competence at the skills developed by Exercises One & Two: acknowledging and dissolving breathing blocks, increasing ability to sustain awareness of one's breathing/structure/energy patterns, increasing ability to include another's total presence, mutually agreed upon commitment to exploring expanded erotic intimacy.
A 'certain level of competence', in this case, does not mean total perfection, or no energy blockages whatsoever, or no delusions about whether this will magically compensate for every person or relationship issue or past-mastership at guiding any and everyone through any difficulties or intensities.
It does refer more to relative sanity for both partners, a grounded belief of both people that this kind of enterprise will likely enhance the relationship, and some fluency with the skills learned through Exercises One & Two.
The new elements of Exercise Three are: bringing into the mix a basic knowledge of the energetic diaphragms of the body (pelvic, thoracic, cardiac, and throat) and doing this while engaged in intercourse.
The first part of Exercise Three involves the same basic outlines in the first two exercises: that of personal inventory first, then expanding one's ability to include another's presence. Stand or sit close to your partner and go through the self-monitoring as in Exercise Two. When you both feel complete with this, you are now ready to include a systematic inventory of the body's energetic diaphragms.
Begin with the pelvis into how the whole pelvic area (bowl) feels. Shift your weight. Does the right feel different than the left, the front versus the back, contract and relax the anal sphincter muscles, the P.C. muscles. Does your breath extend easily into the pelvic floor, are their chronic tensions. If you are not sure, you can try the assessments in the Optimal Breathing workbook. When you each are complete with this area, share your insights.
Move onto the thoracic diaphragm, including the abdominal area. Again feel the differences right/left, front/back, contract the various muscles and the diaphragm, how does breathing affect these respective areas, do some areas expand more easily. Share your insights when complete and move on.
Continue up through the rest of the areas to the top of the head. Bringing in the specific energetic diaphragms can help each of you be more thorough and begin to establish a convergence between what you feel and the actual anatomy and geometry of the body. This will make it much easier for each of you to respond in a progressively more total response to erotic encounters with fewer tensions to accelerate the flow and circulation of erotic energies throughout your body.
The next step is to include this total approach while you are sexually engaged. There is no one right way to proceed, but some basic principles with respect to the position are useful. You want to be able to see each other and gaze into each other's eyes. You should both be able to breathe fully and easily.
Neither of you should be in a stressful position, your hips need to be able to rock easily, your feet should be able to ground your energy. You each want to be able to generate, sustain, and be aware of how erotic energy circulates throughout each of your bodies. Any comprehensive monitoring while engaged is going to give each of you the information you cannot get any other way.
One good way is with both of you sitting on the ground on top of a good mat or pillow, the man with legs folded or extended and the woman guiding herself sitting down onto the man with her legs wrapped around his waist (the classic Yab-Yum position).
Another similar availing position is with both of you sitting on a large strong chair or ottoman, such that your legs reach the ground easily and your feet allow each of you to ground your energy.
In any case, when you are both ready, go through the diaphragm monitoring sequence individually, sharing your insights at each level. Then, or perhaps another time, expand your ability to include the other's experience at each moment.
Share, ask, check, validate, correct. You want to be with not only your own experience but also with your partner's experience. Not guessing, not wishing about their experience, but to be able to enter into it and celebrate with them.
You want to get better and better at knowing yourself, clarifying yourself, choosing to make your own energies available for yourself and for blending with the other and to linger at levels of intimacy' and pleasure that was just not happening before.
This exercise is best experienced by recording it and listening to the playback version.