Deep Breathing Exercises for Erectile Dysfunction

Learn this simple trick that can help you cure ED

Man practicing deep breathing exercises for erectile dysfunction

Did you know that something as simple as controlled breathing can help you beat erectile dysfunction? In this article, we’re going to cover some simple yet effective breathing techniques. In particular, we’re going to practice belly breathing.

Belly breathing, also known as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, is a tried and tested technique that can help reduce stress and performance anxiety. Performance anxiety, if left unchecked, can lead to a number of sexual problems, including low libido, premature ejaculation and psychological erectile dysfunction.

Before we show you how to practice “belly” or “deep” breathing, however, let’s take a look at the science behind this approach.

How does breathing affect one’s erection?

Any trained therapist will tell you that proper breathing is one of the best ways to control anxiety, depression and stress. Stress and anxiety are leading contributors to erectile dysfunction. Research tells us that slow, deep breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system. In particular, it stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the bottom of your brain right down into your abdomen.

When it comes to sex, the vagus nerve is really important, because it controls the action of the lungs, heart and digestive system. When the vagus nerve is activated, your heart-rate and breathing slow down. Your body moves into a state of calm, as does your mind.

What about the way that breath influences the body during sex? Research shows that there are certain physiological processes that happen in the body during sexual excitement: muscle tension increases, the heart rate rises and breathing accelerates. When breathing becomes faster and more thoracic (from the chest), stress levels automatically increase.

How does deep breathing help manage erectile dysfunction?

When we practice deep breathing, this calms the state of tension that the body goes into during sexual excitement. As a result, anxiety is replaced with relaxation and wellbeing. When your body and mind are in this state of calm, you’re most likely to be able to overcome performance anxiety and maintain your erection.

When we are anxious, our body triggers the fight-or-flight response. The purpose of this response is for the body to direct blood flow to the organs which are essential for your survival. So, when the body triggers the fight-or-flight response, it redirects the blood flow that is needed for an erection from the penis to other organs, such as your legs and arms.

The body also releases stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol which make it harder to get or keep an erection.

Shallow mouth breathing has a stressing effect on the body, while deep nose breathing has a relaxing and calming affect on the body. We can use controlled breathing to combat performance anxiety, even if the source of the anxiety is not simply problematic breathing habits.

How to practice deep breathing exercises

Part 1: Technique:

Step 1: Find a quiet and calm space in which you’ll be able to practice this exercise for the next few minutes. Ensure that you are in a place that is free from distractions. Make sure that you are in a comfortable position, either seated or lying down.

Step 2: Start by taking a slow, deep breath in through your nose. As you inhale, ensure that you are breathing deep into your belly and not simply into your chest. Shallow chest breathing can trigger your anxiety response, whereas deep breaths help calm your nervous system. As you inhale, visualize your belly expanding, as if you’re pumping-up a balloon.

Step 3: Now, exhale. Allow the air to flow slowly and smoothly out of your mouth. As you exhale, feel the air emptying from your belly. Imagine the balloon, previously swollen with air, now shrinking. Notice how your diaphragm lowers as you empty your lungs. Continue to exhale until your belly and chest are empty – then pause and exhale just a little bit more.

Pointer: If you are struggling to get this technique right, you can try lying down on your back and placing a book on your belly. As you inhale and visualize the balloon expanding, you should see the book rising upward into the air. Similarly, as you exhale, you should be able to see the book lowering as your belly is emptied of air.

Part 2: Timing:

Now, once you feel that you’re able to perform this technique, proceed to the next steps, in which we’ll be fine-tuning the timing of your breathing. 

Step 4: As you continue to practice belly breathing, we would like to encourage you to time your breaths. This helps ensure that your breathing is slow enough to calm your body and mind.

To do this, you’ll need to count seconds as you breathe. Try to inhale for 8 seconds, hold the breath for 8 seconds and then exhale for 10 seconds. Pause for 5 seconds without breathing and then repeat.

Step 5: Set a timer for 10 minutes and continue to belly breathe using this timing schedule:

  • 8 seconds inhale,
  • 8 seconds pause,
  • 10 seconds exhale,
  • 5 seconds pause.

Pointer: as you continue to belly breathe using this timing schedule, you might find that your mind begins to wander. Know that this is perfectly normal and this doesn’t mean that you are not performing the technique correctly. When you become aware of your mind drifting, simply redirect your attention to your counting and the visualization of the balloon.

How do I apply this in the bedroom?

There are three different points at which you should practice this exercise, in order to maximize the benefit. Specifically, you can practice belly breathing:

1. Before sex:

If you are able, take a few minutes right before sex to practice the timed belly breathing exercise. This will help you enter into a state of calm before sex, so that you’re less likely to get anxiety during it.

2. During sex:

Performance anxiety and thoughts about not being able to last long enough often happen in the heat of the moment. When you notice the anxiety building, you are encouraged to practice belly breathing while having sex with your partner.

If you’re doing this, however, you’ll need to abandon the timing schedule, as this may make you seem distracted. Rather, just make sure that your breaths are slow and deep, rather than rapid and shallow while you’re having sex. This can help you last longer during sex.

3. During Masturbation:

Masturbation provides a great opportunity to get to know your body better and improve your sexual control. By practicing belly breathing to make yourself last longer during masturbation, you will train yourself to apply this tool more easily when needed during sex.

4. Daily:

If you want to maximize your chances of reducing your performance anxiety, you should be practicing at least 10 minutes of timed belly breathing each and every day. Why?

For starters, this will lower your overall anxiety levels, making performance anxiety less likely to happen while you’re in the bedroom. Additionally, by practicing regularly, belly breathing will come more naturally to you. This will make it easier for you to draw on this technique during sex, when you need to.

Need more help with performance anxiety?

While for some men, practicing deep breathing can help remove the anxious mental block which prevents a healthy erection, other men will need more help. Luckily there are few other research-proven methods that can help you beat psychological erectile dysfunction.

Guided imagery:

Guided imagery is a visualization exercise in which you repeatedly imagine the scenario that you are anxious about (in this case sex); but you do so in a positive way. In other words, you imagine yourself succeeding and having a great experience.

Since the mind can’t always differentiate between imagination and realty, practicing guided imagery gradually helps re-wire the mind to stop being anxious. Imaging and hearing positive affirmations for erectile dysfunction can do wonders when it comes to overcoming performance anxiety.

Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is a technique in which we learn to be in the present moment. Anxiety often happens when we think about a bad experience we’ve had in the past, or if we’re anticipating a negative experience in the future. When we “force” ourselves to be in the present moment, we don’t leave any space for negative anxiety-provoking thoughts to arise.

Being present for long periods of time, without letting the mind wander, is easier said than done. That’s where mindfulness exercises come into play. In a recent study, 9 out of 10 men with psychological erectile dysfunction overcame performance anxiety after 4 weeks of daily practice.

Mindfulness practices may involve different breathing exercises, such as rhythmic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, boxed breathing and more.

About Daniel Sher, MA

Clinical Psychologist and Sex Therapy Expert

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist and a sex therapy expert practicing in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniel gained his master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2014. A component of his training and practice involves working in the context of sexual and sex-related issues.

Daniel is a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, where he writes, edits, and reviews, professional materials and articles. He also treats patients at his clinic for male sexual dysfunctions including, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and sexual performance anxiety.