Friday, 19 April 2019

Part Two: The Exhale

And moving to the next part of the breath...the Exhale.

For me, this has been where my practice with the breath has focused.  I'm a great inhaler: on the go, full of ideas, and ready to jump in.  I have struggled in balancing it with the exhale, which is the releasing, the discernment of what I want to let in and what I don't, just being and receiving, no need to do.  With my yoga practice, using pranayama that emphasizes a longer exhale has done wonders for my mind state and my ability to be more present.  When I'm aware that I'm holding in the inhale, I focus on long exhales and it grounds me and brings me back to the now.  I make better choices for myself and take much better care of how I spend my time.  It's a work in progress and I get reminders all the time to come back to the exhale, which I'm forever grateful.

What about you?  Do you let yourself be in the exhale?

Here are two breath practices that help with being in the exhale:

1. The first I mentioned above. Just simply start practicing lengthening your exhalation.  Start by breathing in and out of the nose (this activates the parasympathetic nervous system to calm us), do a few normal breaths and then start to inhale for 3 or 4 counts and exhale for 5 to 6.  Use abdominal breathing so you are using your whole respiratory system.  Over time, move towards a 1:2 ratio for the inhale and exhale.  For example, if I inhale for three, I would exhale for six.  In only a few breaths, you'll feel everything slowing down.  Here's a YouTube Video on this practice.

2. The other breath technique that is helpful in slowing down the breath is called Ujjayi Breath or Ocean-Sounding Breath. Think Darth Vader breathing.  Think about fogging up a mirror with your breath.  Hold your hand up, palm facing you.  Pretending your palm is a mirror, breath as you would to fog it up, a slight constriction in the throat.   Then closing the mouth do the same thing with that slight constriction in the throat while breathing.  You should be able to hear your breath, almost like the sound of the ocean.  It helps to control and slow down the breath, especially the exhale. Notice how you feel after doing five breaths like this.

The wonderful thing about the exhale is that you can focus on it at any moment!  No one has to know that you are even doing it. Yogis have known for a long time that the breath is the other side of the coin with the mind.  If the mind is fluctuation, controlling the breath helps to settle the mind.  If the mind is unsettled, you can bet the breath is also unsettled.  Control the breath, control the mind.