Thursday, August 31, 2017

Emphasizing the Exhalation

I recently led a yoga class with the theme of emphasizing the exhalation. Have you ever noticed how much a nice, long exhalation can trigger a feeling of relaxation in the body? Whether you are practicing pranayama (yogic breathing) techniques or relaxing at the end of a physical yoga practice, extending the exhalation of the breath brings more control to the parasympathetic nervous system. The more this system is in control, the more the body is able to recover from effort, and again becomes ready to begin to expend energy.
The effects of long, slow exhalations are not only physiologically beneficial. To extend the exhalation a beat or two longer than the inhalation forces us to take pause, slow our often-racing minds, and bring on a decrease in blood pressure. This is healthy to do off the mat, whether it be during conversation with others, between bites of the food that sustains us, and even during times of conflict. On the mat, taking that extra second or two to elongate the exhalation can help us to go deeper into a yoga posture and enjoy a more meaningful connection with our personal practice. The benefits of emphasizing the exhalation of the breath are endless.
Many yogis silently chant the mantra, 'Inhale peace, exhale tension,' but I wonder if this mantra could be altered to 'Inhale peace, exhale peace.' Sometimes there is nothing more deliciously peaceful than a long, soothing exhalation.



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