I vividly remember my first massage class. It was a two week intensive in how to give a professional massage. As I started the first day of class I was dumbfounded when I found out that we were going to be doing nothing but breathing for the first two days.
But I wanted to learn massage! Breathing wasn’t about strokes or anatomy or how to relieve muscle strain. As we went through the breathwork it hit me. The breath is the foundation to everything we do. Breath is interconnected with massage and breath is connected with body. If I’m not breathing, I’m not open. I’m not listening. I’m going through the motions, but I’m not present to the person on the massage table.
During my first massage class I learned how to breathe!
If we don’t breathe well, it’s very difficult to feel pleasure. If we breathe completely and deeply we’re opening our bodies up to more experiences – including more pleasure. On the surface, this seems really simple. Just take nice, deep breaths. Besides we’re all been breathing since we were born – don’t we know how to do this by now?
Yes, we’re constantly breathing. But we’re rarely conscious about it. Consequently, most of us spend our days breathing just enough to survive. We limit our breath. We cut back the energy available to us by shallow, limited breathing. We learn to be numb and regulate what we’re feeling. When we’re numb and regulated it’s hard to experience good, fulfilling sex.
Have you ever looked at most men when we’re really sexually aroused? When we’re deep in ecstasy most of us hold our breath and clench our muscles. We look like we’re a champion weightlifter rather than having this amazing experience of orgasm. The foundation to a healthy sexual life for men (actually for everyone) is to breathe!
Take a look at children playing and having fun. They’re all expressive in their breathing. All that laughter makes children take in deep breaths of air. All that movement facilitates breathing. Unfortunately, by the time that we’re adults we’ve learned to ‘control ourselves.’ We’ve learned ‘to be seen and not heard.’ We’ve been punished for being too loud.
When we take a full breath of air into our lungs, we can feel the difference in our body. Breath is the food for your life force energy and is deeply interconnected with erotic energy. By consciously focusing on your breath and the sensations it brings in your body you will access and expand erotic energy throughout your body.
Breathing deeply and fully can open up a range of sensations and feelings in the body. Let’s try it right now. Make yourself comfortable and take a nice deep breath. Breathe from your belly. Most men learn to breathe from our chest to expand the chest and keep the belly small. Try a deep belly breath and notice how your lungs are filling with air. When you can’t inhale any more gently relax and let the air out naturally. There’s no need to push it out.
What do you notice after taking a few nice deep belly breaths? Many men notice more energy in the body. Sometimes there’s a bit of tingling at the extremities. This tingling is due to oxygen getting to the smallest blood vesicles and nourishing the cells in your body. Usually we notice these extremities as the hands and feet. Don’t forget that the penis is an extremity too and many men report a sense of tingling here too!
Notice how the deep breath relaxes your body. You may feel waves of relaxation travelling through your body. You may notice your muscles relaxing and the tension melting away. Noticing your breath is the first step toward conscious breathing.
When I started my exploration with Body Electric I worked in computer technology and managed a large team spread out over four locations. Much of my day was taken up with meetings and many of these meetings were one on one meetings between myself and those who reported to me. I remember a particular busy day when I was focused on several tasks that I needed to get done. Funny, now I don’t even remember what those tasks were, but at the time I’m sure they were important.
While I was in one of these meetings with a direct report I suddenly realized that the other person had been talking for about 10 to 15 minutes and I hadn’t heard a word she said. My mind was focused on the other tasks. Suddenly I reflected on my Body Electric experience of being so focused on my breath and the sensations from my body. Often called ‘presence’ – simply noticing and not focused on the busy mind. Boy, I sure wasn’t present in this meeting. I wasn’t doing the only thing I could do to acknowledge this person – listening to her.
I remember this meeting well because I realized that I needed to focus on being present in all parts of my life. I also began exploring how presence impacts our erotic life.
Let’s try a short exercise. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Take a few nice deep breaths and stay in this position for a minute. Notice how your body feels. You may be aware of some tension that you weren’t aware of before. You may notice subtle movements. You may notice that you’re hungry or full. Just notice what’s going on for you. Now comes the hard part – don’t try to judge, analyze or interpret what you’re noticing. Just notice.
After a minute open your eyes again. Did you find that exercise hard to do? For most people it’s really hard to notice but not analyze. Usually our head has a lot to say. Breath is the foundation to erotic enjoyment. Presence closely follows.
Try the exercise again. This time when you notice that your mind is wandering bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the inhale and the exhale. Imagine that this is your first breath and you have never had this experience before. Note every little detail of your breath. You will probably find that the mental noise disappears because of your intense focus on your breath. Of course the mental noise will come back; this time just intently focus again on your breath!
When it comes to our erotic life we’re often in a different time. Some of us may be experiencing a lack of fulfillment in our erotic lives. We can be searching into the future to look for the perfect erotic encounter. Anticipating every need and solving that need in advance so that the experience, when it happens, is perfect. Rarely is this a satisfying approach. We can’t anticipate every possible situation, nor can we predict how our partner will feel at that time.
Many men are also focused on a particular goal around sex. That goal may be ejaculation or penetration or any number of things. When we’re focused on a goal, however pleasurable that goal may be, we’re not savoring the present moment. There’s a phrase I use often with clients and that’s “Enjoy the journey.” Savor the feelings in your body that are happening right now; anticipating what’s going to happen in the future just takes us away from what’s happening now.
Another advantage to being in the present is to break big issues into small, manageable pieces. For example, many men experience difficulties in getting and maintaining an erection. Sometimes we get so focused on having an erection that we aren’t aware how pleasurable touch can be on a soft penis. Often when we’re fully present – savoring the pleasure happening right now – the body takes over and does what comes naturally. For many men the key to erection problems is staying present and an erection will happen naturally. Of course, it’s not always this simple, but being present can often be a major step to reclaiming your erection.