Even if you’re a pro at the O, experts say you might be hampering your climaxes without realizing it. To determine whether you fall into that camp, mentally transport yourself to those moments when you realize, oh yes, you’re about to orgasm, there’s absolutely no going back. Now, focus on what your breathing is usually like when you’re right on the brink. Are you taking deep, full breaths? Or are you holding it instead? If it’s the latter, you could be undermining your orgasms.

Holding your breath as you get closer to orgasm is a pretty common instinct. It happens for a variety of reasons: nerves, excitement, fear of letting go, an attempt to muffle your sounds so as not to disturb the kids. But since breathing is a subconscious reflex, the way you alter it while exerting yourself can be, too—think of how often group workout instructors have to remind their classes not to hold them.

No matter why you’re doing it, holding your breath during sex can limit the amount of new oxygen flowing into your system, which may be counterproductive to the entire point. Maximizing your breathing helps to boost your circulation, which is essential to the sexual response cycle. Blood flow to the genital region is a natural part of the process of building to orgasm.

Depending on the reason you’re holding your breath, like because you’re too focused on the sounds you’re making, it might also make it tough for you to get out of your head and into what’s happening in real life. Training yourself to breathe deeply and naturally can enhance your sexual experience, deep, slow breaths make the orgasmic contractions more intense and numerous.

One easy way to get more used to this is to try deep breathing during masturbation. That way, you can get accustomed to what you’re doing so it becomes secondhand during sex. Try to draw your breaths out a bit longer to see how it changes the sensations. There’s no targeted amount of time to aim for—it’s just about breathing deeply through your diaphragm instead of taking shallow inhales and exhales through your chest.

Here are five breathing exercises that lead to better sex


Use Your Muscles

When you take a deep puff, it engages your pelvic floor, the hammock-shaped muscles that stretch between the tailbone and pubic bone. These are the same muscles that contract during orgasm and are connected to your core, experts explain. If you’re having a hard time differentiating between the two types of breathing, try paying attention to the sounds you’re making.

Go Deep

According to experts, we don’t often take deep enough puffs during sex. Too often, we lean into shallow breathing, especially around orgasm. By doing that, we’re actually cheating ourselves out of a better sexual experience. Deeper breathing can help us achieve deeper, stronger and longer-lasting orgasms, it can also help us feel more connected to our partner in the moment.

Stay Calm

For many people, lower stress is a major part in having more intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex. Deep breathing, is key to staying calm. That’s because it’s linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, the reflex responsible for the “rest and digest” response. Shallow breathing, on the other hand, is more closely associated with the sympathetic nervous system, the reflex responsible for the “flight or fight” response. Of course, different folks enjoy different kinds of sex, but having sex in a relaxed state seems slightly more appealing than getting it on under acute stress.

Get Nose-y

Experts suggest breathing through just your nose. This brings in more oxygen than breathing through your mouth, gives you a natural high from the nitric oxide, and engages your core and pelvic floor differently. But breathing adventurers beware: This is an exercise to start out, as it will get decidedly more difficult the as things heat up.

Breathe Into Your Body

During sex, experts recommends breathing deeply and focusing on your genitalia while doing so to enhance pleasure. As your pleasure builds, think about taking deep breathes all the way into your genitals. This will shift your focus there, heightening your sensation and making it more likely to experience orgasm.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practicing focused breathing on your own can help prepare for a partnered experience. Experts suggest doing a little yoga before diving into bed. “Inhale through your nose,” they suggest. “Imagine your pelvic floor moving down and away from you, as if you arched your back. As you exhale, feel it lifting up.” Doing this, she says “helps bring your attention to the pelvic floor, allowing you to engage with it more completely and heightening your sensations so that every stroke, lick, and plunge feels that much yummier.”