Co-Regulation Through The Breath

Regulation is often defined as the ability or capacity be in control of ourselves, including our physiology, mental, and emotional state.

While it is practical to learn how to Self-Regulate, meaning to bring oursevles back to balance on our own, it is also equally valid to Co-Regulate, or to come to balance with one or more other people.

One of the most powerful ways to Co-Regulate and create resonance with our partner, friends, or even strangers is a three-step process of working with the breath: Mirror, Connect, and Guide.

Before we jump into it, remember these are simply tools and are devoid of right or wrong. Much of what I share can easily be used as gateways to manipulation and such, or they can be invitations to soulful intimacy and connection. Choose wisely.



Mirroring begins with paying attention. First to our own state, then to our partner’s.

We begin with our own Breath as it serves as our reference point and grounding. Being unaware of the state of our breath is similar to not knowing where we are on a map. Not only is it easy to get lost, but it also creates confusion as we can end up somewhere we thought was elsewhere and end up getting nowhere.

Becoming aware of our breath and state is a sharing all on its own. For now, I’ll simply say that a good baseline to become mindful of is our breath first thing in the morning when the mind, body, and energetics are still. Then, as we go through the day, we can build a practice of inquiring as to the quality of our breath during different activities, situations, and locations.

Once we have a sense of the state of our breath, we can turn our attention to our partner. How are they breathing? Is their breath quick or slow? Is their mouth closed or open? Can you hear their exhales or inhales? What is the quality of their chest and shoulders? Is their body language open, closed, still, or in motion?  

Let me be clear that we don’t want to be too much of a weirdo about this, especially if the person we’re engaging with doesn’t know what we’re doing. The best is to have a consensual partner with whom you can practice this with. Over time, we can be out of the mind about this as recognizing these cues will come more naturally.

Once we have a sense of the other person’s experience, we can begin to Mirror their breath. As they breathe in, we breathe in. As they breathe out, we breathe out with them.

This first step usually takes the least amount of time, but much of that is really based on how connected we are to our own breathing as a sense of contrast.



Once we have some amount of recognition and awareness with our partner’s breath, we can quickly find ourselves in the Connect phase. This step can last a few moments or take as long as it needs to.

It’s in this step that we begin to harmonize our breath with our partner’s. Whereas the Mirror step is more about finding the rhythm of our partner’s breathing, Connect is more about establishing resonance and harmonizing with their inflow and outflow.

Here, we are a bit more active and intentional. A good analogy is that of the locomotive and the boxcars that it seeks to move. 

For a locomotive, the engine and initiator of movement for a train, to lead (or guide) its boxcars, it must first connect with them. This usually happens by the locomotive connecting to the cars slowly but also gently enough that it doesn’t push them back.

We can see how this relates to our desire to Connect with our partner. Rather than just Mirroring, which is a somewhat passive action, Connecting requires a more dynamic desire and willingness to move towards and sync with our partner for the sake of supporting their Regulation.

Another important aspect of this is how this is very much a body and embodied process. Human bodies are naturally designed to attune with each other, and when we bring our bodies online to this process, other bodies respond. More than just being in our heads about the process of breathing, feel into your body’s sensations as you sense your partner’s experience, and vise versa.



Once we have a sense of established resonance and sync, we can then begin to Guide. As with all interactions with other humans, this is best done with care, presence, and gentleness.

If our partner is, for example, in a state of Hyperarousal (or an agitated state) and their breath is quick and shallow, we can Mirror their breathing for just a litte bit. We can then Connect by syncing our bodies together through breath, sound, and movement, which then allows us to begin to Guide them towards their Window of Tolerance.

In the example of someone experiencing Hypoarousal (or a depressed state), their breath may be slow and short, their chest may be tight and constricted. Once we Mirror and Connect, we can introduce a bit more breath by ourselves breathing deeply (best with some slightly audible sighs), open our bodies ever so slightly, and begin to invite their body to recognize a more engaged experience.

A big part of why this can be so effective in helping those around us to feel more at ease is how our bodies naturally want to be in their Window of Tolerance. Through the invitation of our Mirroring, Connecting, and Guiding, we help our friends, co-works, and loved ones come to more balance and presence. 



One important aspect to note is how if it doesn’t seem to be working, then it’s not working. There are a variety of reasons why someone may be difficult to Mirror. Often the simplest reason is that it’s actually our own bodies that don’t want to go into the state in front of them. Honor yourself and remember this isn’t meant to be a magic trick.

Even after we Connect and find resonance, while this usually always creates a more spacious field of ease than was before, this doesn’t mean our partner is truly open and willing to being Guided through our invitation. Don’t force it, and there’s nothing wrong. 

Remember, my desire to share this tool is that it is used for benevolence and invitation, and not for malevolence or domination.

We live in a world that seems to constantly want to throw us out of balance. Whether we get low or get too high, remember that we are not alone in the journey.

As you learn to be more skillful and artful in these aspects of connection, you’ll find you can create positive impact wherever you are. Often simply by regulating our own breath, slowing down, and coming to a more embodied sense of balance, we affect everything and everyone around us, whether we’re at home, in the boardroom, or on the subway.

By becoming more skillful within ourselves and of service to those around us, we play our part in creating deeper experiences of inner and outer stability through utilizing what is already always present: breath, awareness, and our natural desire to be at peace, together. 



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