Practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises with your partner can improve your relationship and mental well-being. Here’s how.
Are you looking for new ways to deepen your bond and get in tune with your partner? Practicing mindfulness can help you do exactly that.
According to integrative therapist Janine Ilsley, a licensed master social worker, RYT-500, mindfulness is a fundamental part of building love, intimacy, and a lasting partnership.
“Intimacy is the gateway through fear into the divine connection that lives inside each and every one of us and bridges us to our partners,” she says.
In addition to the mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation, like reduced stress and anxiety, synchronized partner breathing exercises can bring you and your partner closer.
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By engaging in somatic-based practices, like partnered breathing, we can rekindle emotional connection and support the emotional expressions of our partners with full-bodied attention, whole-hearted awareness, and compassion, Ilsley explains.
She notes that intimacy exercises can be challenging because we’re instinctually wired and conditioned to protect our boundaries and ourselves.
But “the body’s nervous system is the foundation for self-regulation, and the breath is the doorway into reclaiming that home within ourselves that allows us to invite and receive the presence of others.”
“For couples that have an advanced breathwork practice, it can really help integrate those unresolved, distressful emotional experiences or memories of a relationship, thereby allowing individuals to release mental grudges and emotional holds locked in the body,” she adds.
Ilsley lists other benefits of practicing mindfulness with your partner:
- promotes positive coping mechanisms between partners
- increases sense of gratitude and appreciation
- enhances trust, openness, and expansion within couples
- helps you more deeply understand your partner’s emotional state
- allows you to slow down and respond appropriately to the present moment, your needs, and your partner’s needs
Below, Ilsley offers instructions for four partner breathing exercises — or “touch, breathing, and intimacy exercises” (because they incorporate all of those elements) — along with questions to further guide and deepen the experience.
She encourages you to let your breath be your teacher and allow any small movements to happen or amplify as you and your partner practice these exercises.
Ilsley says that this is one of the most common partner breathing practices because it’s a solid foundation to build upon.
- Sit crossed-legged on the floor with your backs pressing against one another, hands resting on your thighs or knees.
- Keep the attention first on your own body before shifting the attention to how you are in relation to your partner.
- As you breathe, relax your shoulders away from your ears and broaden across the chest so that the back becomes a stable and steady resting place for the other.
- Take note of how the back of your ribcage feels against your partner’s.
- Allow the breath to be as natural as possible as you let go with your partner – letting it move through and touch where it touches.
Here are questions to reflect on during this exercise:
- Can you notice what the breath is communicating?
- Where on the back do you first make contact with your partner?
- What happens when you gently press the back of your heads together?
- With your backs touching, take a deeper breath in.
- As you exhale, gently twist. Take one hand and place it on your opposite knee while the other hand reaches back for your partner’s knee — going in the opposite direction of one another.
- Stay for 3-5 breaths before switching to the other side.
Ask yourself: Can the stability of your partner’s spine help lift you more as you inhale? And can that be maintained as you exhale together and twist more deeply around the pelvis?
- Stand back-to-back with your feet hips-distance apart as one unit while also clasping your hands in a relaxed manner.
- Depending on where one partner’s head lands on the other, it’s often just around the area of the occipital ridge (the soft tissue underneath the crown of the skull) that activates a relaxation state.
- Stay there for 3-5 breaths, or on the exhalation, drop your hands to the floor and bend at the hip, while keeping the buttocks touching and legs as straight as possible. You may stay here in the inverted position quieting the mind or stand back up to repeat.
The next two exercises are practiced facing one another. Ilsley refers to them as “conversations through the heart.”
- Sit in a crossed-legged position facing one another.
- Take your hand and place it on your partner’s chest in front of you.
- Take your other hand and place it on top of their hand on your chest.
- If it’s comfortable, close your eyes, soften your forehead and eyebrows, release your jaw and tongue, and begin by noticing the sensation of breathing (the breath moving in and out of your nose).
- Do this for a few breath cycles.
- Start to notice the connection of your partner’s hand on your chest, noting any somatic sensations in the experience.
- Can you feel your partner breathing with your hand on their chest? Breathe into your heart space.
- Think of something that you feel grateful for, whether it involves your partner or not.
- Allow those feelings to well up in your chest and soften into that as you exhale.
- Stay for a few rounds of breath to bask in the felt-perception of gratitude.
- Slowly open your eyes to make eye contact with your partner.
- Take a moment to thank each other for this shared individual experience of gratitude.
There are so many benefits to practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises for couples. Ultimately, they can strengthen your bond with your partner and improve your mental health.
Start by practicing these four touch, intimacy, and breathing exercises:
- back breathing
- back breathing with a twist
- back breathing while standing
- breathing for gratitude
If you enjoy practices like this, consider looking into tantric sex breathing techniques, intimacy-building exercises, and other activities to help couples reconnect and deepen their relationship.