Being in the throes of sex can do funny things to your body; all inhibitions are gone and everything is in overdrive. Lust and desire cause your heart rate to ramp up, your skin to perspire, your fists to clench and your voice to tremble.
With this sensory overload often comes the urge to hold our breaths. We see it when we experience strong sensations like pain too — but shallow breathing and held breaths often increase the feeling of pain, and likewise, hinders our orgasm experience.
“You need to breathe deeply instead of holding your breath when you’re about to cum,” reads one TikTok video with over 3.1 million views. “So I’m not the only one who holds their breath… that’s nice to know,” reads one comment with over 29.7k likes. “THIS IS SO TRUE… it takes longer but it’s 2x better,” reads another comment with over 15.5k likes.
Once again, we thank the TikTok geniuses that have helped popularise sex trends like the ‘knee thing’ and the ‘speed bump’. It turns out that what we’ve learnt from meditation isn’t just useful for grounding ourselves, reducing anxiety and inducing calm, but our breathing practices are beneficial for our sex lives too.
Why do we hold our breaths during sex?
“However as your muscles tense up in the build up to climax, it’s also pretty common to hold your breath too. A tension orgasm can feel great — but for some, when they hold their breath, they notice their energy levels drop [and] arousal can lessen,” Grace adds, explaining that this can look like a loss of erection or engorgement.
For many people, holding their breath can be a response to focusing on the task at hand. “[It's] very common to hold your breath by accident because you're focusing on the task of pleasure or what the other person is thinking, or how do [you] sound. We get really in our heads, which gets in the way of our big O,” says TikTokker @sonya_maya.
How can deep breathing improve sex?
Let’s not pretend otherwise: sex is tiring business — after all, it’s a full body and mind workout. But the way we breathe actually impacts how tired we get.
Grace explains that when you hold your breath, it reduces your muscles’ flow of oxygen, making you tireder, faster.
“Breathing can help boost circulation and blood flow, which is important for your sexual response cycle. [It] increases blood flow to your genitals and as a result, increases pleasure, sensation and orgasmicity,” she says.
The benefits don’t stop there. Consciously controlled breathing helps prolong sex, stimulate arousal, heighten pleasure and intensify orgasms. And just as deep breathing helps relieve stress and tension outside the bedroom, it can assist your mental state during sex by helping you get out of your head and experience the pleasure at hand.
“Deep breathing during sex also elevates the sensation of euphoria. So the more you breathe, the better you feel, and the better the sexual experience,” Grace says.
How do I use breathwork for better orgasms?
Around 60 to 80% of us actually experience “dysfunctional breathing” and being able to tap into deep breathing can assist our wellbeing throughout our day-to-day lives.
Here, Grace explains a few breathwork methods that can enhance your sexual experience:
Breath exercises to increase arousal
Suck in your breath through pouted lips to build arousal in your body. Start doing this for 10 seconds only as it can make you feel light-headed (If you feel light-headed, sit down and lengthen your exhale).
Synchronise your breathing
When you’re having sex with someone, try to sync your inhales and exhales with theirs (without straining too much). This can be beneficial for relaxation and connection to each other.
Move as you breathe
Engage your pelvic floor, thrust your hips and grind on something in tune with your breathing.