How To Engage In Breath Play: Part Two

In part two of her series, Lola Jean talks us through how to get started with breath play. 

Image Credit: Audrey Fatale

Did you miss the previous article detailing what breath play is and demystifying the potential draws psychologically or psychologically as both a giver and receiver? Catch up on your required reading before you get into this article, looking at how to safely engage with breath play. 

When Do You Engage In Breath Play?

For Dominatrixes Empress Wu and Mistress Shayne, this is not something they tread lightly with first-time play sessions.  Shayne won’t do intense breath play sessions with new subs “because it requires a level of trust and clear nonverbal communication”, whereas Wu likes to have them experience what it feels like outside of the scene first. When you decide to engage, the first session may be more of a mix of education and play. Andre Shakti takes this approach with both her clients and partners, “I want to know about the best and worst experiences they had with breath play as well as what made those experiences good or bad. I always ask lots of questions about why they’re interested in that kind of play, what they know about it so far, their comfort and boundaries, as well as health and safety hazards”. Even when a bottom is informed, due to the risky nature of this kink it is still up to the top to exercise their best judgment. In Audrey Fatale’s case, she doesn’t have expectations of what the other person could or should take based on her experience. “I don’t try to push them too far and I don’t necessarily trust them to recognise their limits immediately – as a pro, it’s my job to be cautious and sometimes to temper the overeager newbie”.

Safety & Safewords

All kinks should be approached with risk awareness. Any type of breath play assumes a high level of risk, whether it’s a hand covering the nose and mouth or several layers of rubber and wrap. As Shayne explains, “out of all different types of BDSM play, this one could cause severe damage or kill someone very easily”.

As you may have guessed, safewords are going to look a little different in breath play due to a potential lack of easy access to speaking! It is a good idea to create multiple non-verbal safewords for you and your partner. These should be used liberally, as if they are your “yellow” in a stoplight system, to keep in constant communication with one another. You can have a separate non-verbal cue for stopping the play entirely versus the specific act of restriction. The bottom can hold onto an object like a pen or brush and when this object is dropped it is the equivalent of using a safeword. Similarly, they could also hold a squeaky toy and squeeze this so that the noise alerts you to the safeword. In Shayne’s case, she likes her subs to “make a fist to communicate they are hitting a limit and need to breathe”. Shayne notes that they also practice non-verbal safewords before any play takes place. Her planning doesn’t stop there, creating an aftercare plan that incorporates what happens if a hard limit is hit. “Fear of suffocating/drowning may come up and you will want an easy-to-implement aftercare plan if it does”.

As a bottom, it is important to remember the goal shouldn’t be what you can withstand, but what is enjoyable. Perhaps withstanding is what is enjoyable for you, but you’ll have to make that decision. 

Regardless of what you enjoy, you should never engage in any activity that restricts airflow or blood while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Time On, Time Off

With any type of choking that involves restriction, there should be a significant easing in process. This is so that both parties can assess what range they enjoy playing within as well as establishing what is comfortable for both partners. You’ll want to have a timer or clock as well as a mirror or phone in selfie-mode on hand. The mirror/phone will enable you to see your person’s face if you happen to be in a position where this is not visible to you. Note any changes in their complexion, eyes, and breathing patterns. Always err on the side of caution and release any choke when these change until you have a thorough awareness of your partner’s visible cues and what they mean. The clock or timer will be used to quite literally time how long you are in a choke. Sometimes 20 seconds can feel like 5 minutes, so having a timer can alert you to how much felt just right and what was way too much. Practice a balance of 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off, etc… There’s no rush to build up to a certain number so take as many breaks and for as long as you both need! 

Don’t Fly Solo

Google auto-erotic asphyxiation and you’re sure to find many a horror story on how this can go wrong. If you’re working through the shame of this kink and cannot bring it up with a partner, consider hiring a professional. However, never use devices or implements alone! Wu advises to “have a spotter or play partner when using any prop that allows you to engage in breath play hands-free”. 

Guided Breathing

Guided breathing can be a very meditative experience, but is also a form of breath play. Wu likes using this method at the beginning of sessions as “it helps relax someone into the scene and establish a sense of bodily presence”. This type of breath play doesn’t deliver the same headrush as forced restriction, but that is also what makes it slightly safer than other methods. For added physical touch you can apply a bear hug by wrapping your arms around your partner’s upper body – arms and chest included – and squeeze slightly as they breathe out to intensify the effect. Rose uses guided breathing on her own via masturbation or partnered play, ”I breathe slower than usual as I touch/tease myself. And when I’m really stimulated, close to orgasm I hold my breath”. 


In this practice, a person will kneel or hover over someone’s face so that they are smothered by the butt and other surrounding parts. Many of us don’t think of face-sitting (sometimes referred to as ‘Queening’) as breath play. However, it very much is a type of smothering that limits one’s ability to breathe via their mouth, nose, or both. Shayne finds that “most don’t realize [face-sitting is] functionally breath play. They get excited about the idea of your ass on their face in a submissive position but [they] don’t realize they’re asking for you to cut off their ability to breathe in the process”. 

Don’t Risk It For The Biscuit

If you’re not ready for the dangers or sensations that come with breath play but you’re still curious to engage, rest assured, “There are many ways to mindfuck someone into thinking that they can’t breathe,” without actually closing off their breathing. Wu suggests “putting a bag over their head but not securing the opening, putting a hand over someone’s mouth but not their nose, or to blood choke someone instead of air choking them”. Always access how comfortable both parties are with assuming risk, how much risk, and always defer to the lower risk party.

Final Thoughts On Breath Play

Take it from a pro, Fatale has been playing with breath play for years and her most exciting sessions aren’t always the most extreme ones. “My favourite types of breath-play are those that restrict the breath in a gradual way rather than immediately/completely,” she says. “I like my sessions to be hypnotic and immersive so I enjoy slowly building up the intensity”.

You don’t get a gold star for holding your breath the longest or withstanding the most discomfort. A top can only give you a better and safer experience the more you honestly react. If there’s anything all of these Dominatrixes can agree on, it’s that the responsive and emotive subs are the most fun to play with as it’s easier to gauge their level of comfort. Even if your breath play involves fear, discomfort, or pain, it should still be enjoyable – whatever that means for you.

While staying safe is of the utmost importance for this risky kink, should you choose to engage, remember to have fun!

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