“Inhale the present, exhale the past and the future.”Leticia Rae
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or guided meditation session, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “on your exhale…release everything that is not serving you in this moment.” Maybe the first time you heard it, you were just a little bit confused. I know I was. What is no longer serving me? How do I release it? Why do I release it on my exhale?
After a few classes, I just stopped thinking about it and just ‘let it go.’ Once I did this, it kind of started to make sense.
I stopped thinking and just let it go.
I also started to realize a few things. I not just ‘let go’ but I was truly put in a more relaxed state – both mentally and physically. I then got to thinking about the exhale.
What is it About the Exhale?
The inhale: Taking a deep breath in is actually linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response.
The exhale: Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences our body’s ability to relax and calm down.
In the yogic practice, pranayama is the practice of breath regulation. It’s a main component of yoga, an exercise for physical and mental wellness.
In Sanskrit, “prana” means ‘life energy or life force’ and “yama” means ‘control’. The practice of pranayama involves breathing exercises and patterns.
Mini Breathing Practice
The best way to illustrate the magic of the exhale is to invite you to just do it and become aware of how it makes you feel.
- Take a slow breath in through your nose. Now, slowly breathe out through your mouth with a soft, sighing sound.
- Maybe do this a few times just to really become aware of how the act of exhaling makes you feel.
- Extra credit. Do the same thing but this time, on your exhale – release or let go of anything that no longer serves you.
Pretty cool, huh?
What is ‘Letting Go?’
Quite simply…letting go is the opposite of holding on. Letting go is cultivating the willingness to surrender as we go along. Letting go is becoming free to discover a deep sense of peace that lies within us. Letting go is separating ourselves from our thoughts. Letting go is creating space. Letting go is detachment from expectations.
Advanced Breathing Exercise
- Lie on your back or sit in a comfortable position.
- Bring one hand to rest right over your belly button and feel the tummy expand with each inhale and relax with each exhale.
- Slowly begin to start counting each inhale and each exhale. It doesn’t matter what the number is, try not to force anything. Just breathe naturally.
- Now, begin to make the inhale and exhale equal in length.
- Once the inhale and exhale are equal, slowly lengthen the exhale until you get to a 1:2 ratio. For example – if your inhale is 4 seconds, try to double the exhale to 8 seconds. Again be aware that you are not forcing the exhale to a place of discomfort.
- If at any time you feel discomfort or short of breath then return to equal inhales and exhales.
- Finally, notice how you feel. 🙂
Real Life Practice
Just becoming aware of your breathing is beautiful. Sometimes we really take this amazing gift for granted. I mean, it’s something we just ‘do’ every second of every day, from the moment of our birth until the day we exhale our last. Well, when I put it that way – it is pretty spectacular.
Some great times to harness the power of your breath is during times of stress or anxiety, before we need to make a big decision, right before we respond in conversation, before meditation, before drifting off to sleep…well, you’ll just know.