Updated: Mar 15
You can also listen to me discussing this topic with Relationship & Sex Therapist Becky Crepsley-Fox on the podcast Sex Unshackled.
Before we begin, what is Transformational Breath®?
Transformational Breath® is a therapeutic breathwork system, awarded Best Complementary Medicine Organisation by the Institute of Complementary & Natural Medicine. Facilitators like me get to know your unique breath pattern, as individual as your fingerprint, before getting to work increasing the depth and flow of your breath. This unlocks a whole host of physical and emotional benefits, and expands your conscious awareness.
For a fuller explanation of how Transformational Breath® works, the science and a list of benefits read my previous column, but for now let's get into how it can boost love and sensuality...
1. Transformational Breath® can help you open up to love:
There are times in everyone's life when it's natural to feel less open to love. A few examples...
Perhaps you've come out of a relationship and are still grieving.
Maybe you've decided to focus on yourself for a while, your career or healing and don't have the headspace to get romantically involved with someone else.
You weren't shown much love or affection as a child. No-one modelled this behaviour for you, so it can feel alien, uncomfortable...
I have seen this in my work with clients. They're common, natural reactions to the challenges life throws at us, manifesting in a breath pattern that is shallow in the chest. However, it's possible to open your heart if you feel the time is right. Use acupressure points in the centre of your chest. Feel for the muscles between your ribs, either side of the sternum. Press gently but firmly and hold whilst doing the Transformational Breath® breathing technique. Get my free PDF 'Conscious Connected Breathing' if you're not sure how to do it.
Try some affirmations too, designed to speak to your unconscious mind and re-program it:
Hold the points on the left side of chest and say 'It is safe to receive love'
Right side - 'It is safe to express love'
Be patient with yourself and your Transformational Breath® Facilitator. Your body will only let go of low vibrational energy around the heart (negative programming, trauma...) when it is ready. We can work together to encourage this to happen but ultimately your body's own wisdom will decide when the time is right. As it should be. What you can do is keep holding the intention. Tap into the infinite power of your mind.
2. Re-wire negative conditioning around sexual pleasure
Many people have been conditioned by their culture to believe that sex is sinful, dirty and shameful. I've also had clients confide that they feel like sex is a performance for their partner's pleasure. They find it difficult to tune into their own pleasure and sensation. There are acupressure points that help address this. Run your fingers just below your ribcage, being careful not to press on bone (ribs are fragile!) We call this whole area the 'fear belt' as it's the first to contract when you feel fear. Move outwards towards the lowest part of your bottom set of ribs and feel into the muscle here. Tuck your fingertips under and push up slightly. Keep breathing in the Transformational Breath® style. Can you feel tension here? Any tenderness? How is your breath in this area? Is much air flowing? Tenderness and lack of breath indicate blocked energy, corresponding with blocked pleasure and play.
Try these affirmations:
Left side under bottom rib - 'It is safe to receive pleasure and joy'
Right side - 'It is safe to express pleasure and joy'
Now move your fingertips towards your pubic arch, the bone just above your genitals. This area correlates even more specifically with sexual pleasure. Angle your fingers downwards, tucking under the bone. Hold. Breathe deeply. Continuously.
Affirm out loud:
Centre above pubic arch - 'It is safe to be a sexual being'
Or a phrase with the same sentiment that resonates with you. Always form it in the here and now. As positively as you can.
These same points can be used to unlock creativity. Sexual energy is vital, life force energy; 'Qi' in the Chinese/Taoist worldview, 'prana' in Sanskrit/yogic philosophy. It's the same energy that gives rise to our creativity. It's all the same stuff, and when it flows freely we have the sense that our life is flowing beautifully too.
A note on sexual abuse
It's common for people who have been sexually abused (and not yet integrated and moved past the experience) to have trauma stored in their lower abdomen, around the pubic arch. If this could apply to you, know that Transformational Breath® is a safe and effective practice to 'go there' when you're ready to integrate these past experiences. I recommend asking yourself some questions before trying out the technique.
Do I have enough time and space in my life right now to feel any feelings that arise, without pushing them down or suppressing them?
Do I have support? Friends, family or a loving partner? An experienced professional like a qualified Transformational Breath® Facilitator who can hold a safe space for me?
Releasing trauma can be life-changing. Choose your moment mindfully and believe that you have the capacity to release any aspect of your life and experience that no longer serves you. Thousands already have with the power of their own breath.
Beyond Transformational Breath®...
My research into health and wellness regularly goes beyond the limits of Transformational Breath®. As it must. There are so many modalities, ancient and new, that benefit us. I learned that tension and trauma can be stored in the genitals, which in turn can lead to painful sex. Gently pressing, holding and breathing deeply into any tender areas on/inside the genitals can help integrate tension and alleviate pain - quickly for some and over time for others. People can try this technique alone or with a partner they trust; someone mature enough to stay present if they feel emotional or need to cry. Oh and go gently when applying pressure. I've said it already but it's worth saying again. Unpleasant, painful experiences have the capacity to re-traumatise. Approach but don't go past 'your edge'. There is no need. Please also visit your GP before trying this exercise. Check there aren't any other reasons why you could be experiencing painful sex, such as infection.
Of course you don't have to be experiencing discomfort to benefit from exploring intimate pressure points. In Taoist Sexology the genitals are believed to have a number of reflexology points that correspond with different organs such as the heart, lungs and liver. Energetically speaking organs can either be well balanced, over-stimulated or lacking in flow. Activating and breathing into intimate reflexology points re-balances the energy where needed, benefitting organ function as well as our holistic system. It's the same principle you're probably already familiar with from Foot Reflexology.
Scientific research into this specific area of breathwork and intimate reflexology is limited. (Research into other breathwork topics less so - check out my Science page.) However interest and funding into the body-breath connection is increasing every year and more Western institutions are embracing Integrative Medicine as their preferred treatment model. Perhaps we will gain new understandings around ancient Taoist therapies in time. Until then, I write about the things that have either worked for me or my clients. I draw on my own life experience. Draw on yours and decide for yourself what works for you. Your comments are always welcome. Let's learn and grow in this field together.
3. Get comfortable expressing your needs:
Here's an interesting nugget for you. My on-going education in Transformational Breath® takes me to different parts of the world. In each place I've had the opportunity to practice breathwork with locals and I've observed some pretty interesting cultural differences, manifested in their breath.
In London I witnessed a room full of forty to fifty people (mostly women living and working in the city) who struggled to let their jaw hang loose when asked to breathe through their mouth. They also had a lot of resistance to 'toning', to making an 'aaaaa' sound like a long, held note. When I watched how their breath moved through them I could see muscle tension around their jaw, neck and throat - restricting the flow. Everything I witnessed pointed to energetic blockages around the throat chakra, the area of the body used to generate speech and bring forth our truth - or not in this case. In London inhibition ran deep, more so here than any other country I've practiced in. So far at least. I can imagine all too well there are many other places where people struggle with this.
Energy around the throat becomes shut down when we suppress what we really feel and would like to say. When it comes to sex it's important to be able to communicate what we want, what we don't want, what feels good, what might feel better; not to mention how we feel about who we're with, something they might like to hear... If this is something you find challenging you're certainly not alone. There are things you can do. Breathe according to the Transformational Breath® technique and apply gentle pressure for a few minutes over your thymus, the first few inches of your sternum below your throat. You can also explore the muscles in your neck and throat. Avoid pressing on blood vessels and pulses. Go gently and keep breathing.
For affirmations try:
Throat - 'It is safe to express all my needs'
Also try toning. Making a noise like a note, rather than a scream. Sound is an incredible therapeutic tool to shift stuck energy. Outside of your breath sessions try singing. I sing in the shower, when I'm walking, driving... You can't shut me up! I invite you to do the same. The more you exercise your vocal chords, the better you'll be at speaking your mind.
4. Boost the flow of yin/yang energies within:
Regardless of our biological sex, we all fall somewhere along a spectrum of feminine and masculine in terms of the behaviours that feel most natural and authentic to us. If 'feminine' and 'masculine' feel too loaded for you, too charged, replace them with 'yin' and 'yang' because that's what I'm actually talking about here: falling somewhere along a spectrum of yin and yang. Your biological sex is not necessarily what determines these energies. You may already be familiar with these terms:
Yin - Positive traits include intuitive, open, receptive, reflective, empathetic, trusting, creative... 'Wounded' traits include insecure, needy, co-dependent, manipulative... i.e. the traits that arise from the ego, out of fear.
Yang - Positive traits include present, non-judgemental, focused, logical, confident, honest, honest, stable... Wounded traits include controlling, aggressive, withdrawing, avoidant, overly competitive, unstable.
You can use Transformational Breath® to create a better flow of yin/yang energies in your body, to tune more deeply into the positive characteristics you would like to embody. You can also use it to raise your awareness of any wounded aspects that are showing up, to integrate and release that which no-longer serves you.
To balance yin hold your left inner thigh and breathe. This one's useful for people who believe they must always be strong and never allow themselves to be vulnerable. Or for people who embody masculine traits a lot in the workplace, although that's not the most natural fit for them. Here's your affirmation:
'I love and accept my feminine/yin self' (choose the word that feels right for you)
For yang hold your right inner thigh and breathe. Try this if you want to be more assertive or take more action in your life. It's also good for biological men who are worried that their positive yang traits are being perceived as 'toxic'. Remember positive yang traits are positively masculine. They are needed in the world.
'I love and accept my masculine/yang self'
5. Heighten polarity between you & your partner to stir desire:
Number four sets the stage for our final insight. If you want to create more desire between you and a partner, try increasing the polarity between you. You've heard the saying 'opposites attract'. Get conscious of your yin- and yang-ness and play with dialling up one of these two opposite energies. This technique can be applied in any relationship, regardless of sexual orientation. Experiment and see how it works for you.
Remember it's normal to feel self-conscious at first, so start with some of your interactions outside of the bedroom. How might you be more yin as you share a meal together? How might you be more yang? Take things at your own pace and have fun with it. No-one's saying you have to be all yin or all yang all of the time. Just think of it as a tool in your tool box, that you can pick up when the mood takes you.
I hope this month's column has gone a small way towards normalising conversation around topics that some people find hard to discuss. Try the exercises out for yourself and let me know how you get on. Subscribe via my website to receive next month's column straight to your inbox, and thank you as always for your time and support.
Further reading -
The Tao Of Sexology: The Book Of Infinite Wisdom by Dr. Stephen T.Chang