Following are the four kinds of breaths that I can count on to provide delicious, body-and consciousness-altering experiences on a regular basis.
Practice each of the following breaths for five to ten minutes a time, with the exception of the Breath of Fire, which you should only practice for a minute or two at a time. While you practice, keep in mind these general guidelines:
- Keep your eyes open and focused gently at a point across the room so that you stay focused on your breathing and don’t nod off or space out.
- Set a timer so that you don’t have to keep track of time.
- When your time is up, take three deep breaths, and then just breath normally.
- Notice how you feel after each of the four conscious breaths.
- Breathe through your mouth while you are learning each breath (except for the Breath of Fire, which is always done through the nose). When you become familiar with the breaths, you can experiment with nose versus mouth breathing.
The Bottom Breath
Practice for five to ten minutes.
Bottom breathing is a gentle, easy way to calm you down and open up your senses. It’s the ideal breath to use when you want to move out of the busy or stressful state of doing into the easy, relaxed awareness of being.
1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed (or on a hard-backed chair with your feet on the floor) and your spine straight. With your hands, pull the fleshy part of your buttocks aside so that you are sitting on your sit bones. (Once you learn the breath you can do it in any position.)
2. Place your hands on your belly. Relax your belly. Just let it go. Let it be round in your hands. (Despite out culture’s fascination with concave bellies, bellies are supposed to be at least slightly rounded.)
3. Begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs.
4. Then, as you inhale, very gently push out on the anal sphincter. Imagine that your anus can “kiss” the floor or the seat of the chair.
5. On the exhale, don’t do anything. Don’t contract your anus; don’t hold it; don’t push. Do nothing. Just let it go.
6. Repeat. On the inhale, push out with the anal sphincter; on the exhale, do nothing.
7. Keep going.
That’s all there is to it. If you find it hard to focus on your anus, try focusing on your belly button – it’s the same thing. As breath in, your belly button and your anus move outward. As you exhale, they return to their original position without any effort on your part.
This breath may take a little while to get used to, as we are not used to focusing on our anuses. Although it may seem a little odd, this is actually a very natural breath; it’s just not one we usually do when we’re awake. This is how we breath when we are sleeping deeply. If you watch someone sleeping on their side or stomach, you will see their buttocks and belly button moving outward on the inhale and relaxing on the exhale.
What can you expect to feel from this breath? Many people feel a warm flush in their face as the breath releases the tension in their bodies. Others report that it feels as though their whole body becomes a sensitive organ. Still others say it connects their upper and lower charkas. It produces a state of relaxed awareness quite unlike any other breath I have tried.
The Circular Breath
Practice for five to ten minutes.
The essence of the Circular Breath is breathing in a continuous flow, with no break or pause between the inhale and the exhale. The inhale flows effortlessly into the exhale, which flows seamlessly into the next inhale. You can do this breath sitting, standing, or lying down.
1. Breathe gently through your mouth, keeping your jaw relaxed and your lips slightly parted.
2. Feel the back of your throat open and relax. Do not force or push the breathe. The inhale will require a bit more effort than the exhale, which should just gently fall out.
3. Imagine your breathe making a complete unbroken circle.
This breath is particularly useful for circulating erotic energy around your own body and between yourself and your partner(s). It builds and moves energy, and it intensifies feelings – both emotional and physical.
Some variations on the Circular Breath include breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, and visualizing and unbroken figure eight instead of a circle.
The Breath of Fire
Practice for no longer than one to two minutes.
The Breath of Fire is a Kundalini yoga practice. It is a powerfully energizing breath that gets the little neurons in your brain humming as it clears your lungs and cleanses your blood. The Breath of Fire is aptly named. I usually feel a lot of heat spreading out from the center of my body when I do this breath. This rapid, continuous breath is done entirely through the nose. It can be done in any position, but it’s best learned standing or sitting up with a straight spine the emphasis of this breath is on the exhale.
1. Exhale. As you exhale, push the air out by rapidly pulling your navel up to your spine.
2. To inhale, simply release your navel outward. The breath fills your lungs automatically.
3. Put your hand on your diaphragm to focus your attention there and to feel the power of this breath.
4. Begin with one breath every two seconds; work up to one or two breaths per second.
I use the Breath of Fire whenever I want to build energy. This could be aty any time before or during sex. It also wakes me up and brings my attention back if I’ve started to space out. A couple of minutes of this breath is also a great substitute for the caffeine and sugar we star to crave at around 4 p.m. A writer friend of mine uses the Breath of Fire to focus on a particularly difficult passage she might be working on.
The Heart Breath
Practice for five to ten minutes.
If you never learn or practice any other kind of breathing (which would be a shame, but I know some people are minimalists), you could have a perfectly lovely time with this one alone. You can speed it up or slow it way down. You can take in a lot of air with a minimum amount of effort and tension. It’s a great all-around breath for erotic purposes. This is the breath we used at the beginning of this chapter, when we first explored how changing our breathing could change our consciousness.
1. Yawn. Feel how the yawn opens the back of your throat and stretches out your whole mouth and face? That’s the feeling of openness you want when you do the Heart Breath.
2. Breathe. Let your mouth fall open slightly. Relax your jaw and face, open up the back of your throat, and breathe in through your mouth, gently but fully.
3. Exhale. Don’t push the breath out; just let it fall out with a gentle sigh, ahh.
4. Take in as much air as you can, as effortlessly as you can, then let it go.
5. Keep breathing.
After you’ve become familiar with these four conscious breaths and how they make you feel, add sex. Try the breaths while you masturbate. Alternate them. Notice the different effects each one has on the ebb and flow or your erotic energy. You may notice that it will take longer to reach orgasm while you are doing any or all of these conscious breaths. This is good! It means your breath is moving your sexual energy all over your body. When we masturbate by holding our breath and bearing down (the classic quickie), we limit our sexual energy to the area around our genitals. When we breathe fully and consciously, it’s like filling a five-gallon jug instead of a coffee cup. It takes longer, but the payoff is a bigger, deeper, longer orgasm and a more delicious afterglow.
Breathing consciously simply means being mindful, aware, and attentive to your breath. Remember, we can only focus on one thought at a time. If we keep our mind full with our breathing, we don’t have the space to think things like “I’ll never come,” “I wonder if they really love me,” or “Did I mail in that bill?” Now, I’m not suggesting that you think only about your breath when you have sex. But if you focus on your breath as you might in meditation – that is, using breath as the technique that allows you to actually arrive at the place of mediation – you’ll find your way to conscious sex.
Reprinted with permission from Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Carrellas. Published by Celestial Arts, www.tenspeed.com. Learn more about Barbara’s teachings at https://barbaracarrellas.com. Be sure to check out Transcendent Bodies: Erotic Awakening Massage for Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People.