Breathwork for the Sensual Self

Here is an article I recently wrote for Spirituality & Health magazine. These two topics are something I am quite passionate about, breathwork and sensuality. I define sensuality as an intimacy with one’s core being and one’s desires, and a capacity to give and receive pleasure. Sensuality is also a personal expression—an attitude and an ability to live life as an act of pleasure or to channel the spirit of Eros so that life itself becomes a delightful dance of exploration through the senses. 

Sensuality is an intimacy with one’s core being and desires. When we practice breathwork, we arouse and express our sensual self.

Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.” —Dogen Zenji

The way we feel within our bodies is intricately connected to the quality of our breath. Thanks to people like Wim Hof and James Nestor (who wrote Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art), breathwork has become more popular in mainstream culture, with countless breathwork practices offered to alleviate anxiety, heal the body, curb overthinking, and ignite more conscious states of awareness.

There also exists a pleasurable art to breathing that can awaken our sensuality.

Sensuality can be defined as an intimacy with one’s core being and one’s desires, and a capacity to give and receive pleasure. Sensuality is also a personal expression—an attitude and an ability to live life as an act of pleasure or to channel the spirit of Eros so that life itself becomes a delightful dance of exploration through the senses. When we practice breathwork, we arouse and heighten our sensory world, thus becoming more sensitive to our internal and external environs.

How Does Breathing Become Pleasurable?

Below are some breathwork practices to invite your sensual self to blossom. Allow these practices to become a more integral and steady part of your life.

Setting a Space

Before you begin, create a space of quiet and comfort in your own home. You may wish to light a candle or some incense and slip into your most comfortable clothes. Perhaps make a cup of tea. Sit up straight yet relaxed in a chair or on the floor with your hips elevated (you can sit on a bolster or meditation cushion for this). Please tell housemates that you are completely unavailable during this time and allow for at least 15 minutes to try the following.

6-Step Sensual Breathwork Practice

  1. Embody delight in yourself. The body is where sensuality can truly find a home. Begin to roll your shoulders and neck slowly. Breathe fully into any tight areas and envision releasing tension with each exhale. Massage your neck, hands, shoulders, face, temples, feet, and more. Do this slowly, do this intently, do this by focusing on your breath with each movement. Simply allow yourself to become at home in your body. Becoming the sensual self means living it as a way of life, connected to how you feel in your physical being. [Read: “Ayurvedic Abhyanga: The Benefits of Self-Massage.”]
  2. Now relax the body with the art of breathing deeply and presently. By fully relaxing the body with awareness and intent, we can begin to feel the more sensual and pleasurable parts of your natural state. Begin by breathing in and out of the nose without pause. Breathe each inhale to the count of six up your spine and then exhale, letting it fully release to the same count of six. If you can, extend your inhales and exhales to an even longer count of eight or even ten seconds. Settle deeply into your being and focus your attention up and down your spine, relaxing your entire body yet keeping your mind focused and clear. Envision there is a current of healing and vibrant energy running through the blessing of your breath, up and down your spine, and radiating out of your entire being.
  3. Continue to breathe even more deeply in and out the nose in equal counts of inhalation and exhalation. Go even deeper and longer if you feel there’s still tension in your body. Now focus on the crown of your head by breathing into that area and allowing each inhale and exhale to expand that area. Imagine your favorite flower (maybe a lotus, rose, or dahlia) opening up to receive the gift of your breath. Know that with each inhale you are breathing more light into your body, more new energy, and releasing tension with each exhale. You can envision that you are expanding your auric field into a sensual array of new energy and colors, bringing forth sensations you didn’t know you could experience just by breathing intently.
  4. Continue to breathe down into each area of your body, or chakra system. Go down from the crown to third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral area, and root or base chakra. Remember to breathe in and out—long, deep, and pleasurable inhalations and exhalations in each area. (There is no wrong way to do this; you are your own curious guide with each practice.) Envision each area expanding like your favorite flower, the sun, or just a swirly energy of the light in stars. Spend at least five rounds of inhales and exhales on each chakra system, until it feels expanded.
  5. Now do the same practice as above, but this time start from the root chakra all the way up to the crown. For this round, spend at least ten rounds of breaths on each chakra. See if you can slow down your breath even more to a still place within you. As you are breathing up your body, imagine a golden egg of new vital and loving energy is building, so that when you get to the crown you are feeling full of life. [Read: “5 Kinds of Breaths Everyone Should Take.”]
  6. Now that you are warmed up and receptive in your body, begin breathing with three quick inhales through your nose as you make a slight movement that brings your chest forward like a wave. As you exhale through your nose, allow the wave of your body to recede back. You want to embody a seamless and natural movement with this breathwork so that you are rocking your body with each inhale, almost like an S-curve, or the rhythm of the ocean. When we move our bodies subtly and expand our chest with the inhale, while relaxing and releasing with each exhale, we can begin to further tap into the sensual body. Allow this movement to take shape however you desire—and remember, there is only a right way to explore this!

• • •

After your breathwork practice feels complete, as a bonus sensual delight, massage more areas that are calling for your attention with your favorite oil, like coconut or jojoba. Or slip into a warm, salted bath with essential oils like jasmine, rose, or bergamot.

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