"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Complete Exhale

"Be sure you exhale completely. You've got to get the old air out to make room for new."

So much of our instruction in yoga has to do with breathing: Breathe through your nose. Find your breath. Breathe normally. But I'm pretty sure I'd never heard any of the teachers talk about a complete exhale before. So I started paying attention to my exhale, and sure enough I would breathe deeply in and push out a quick, sharp puff of breath before pulling in as much new air as I could.

Which, it turns out, is far less than I can when I'm taking the time to allow for a full exhale.

I've learned that I'm much calmer and can go deeper into the postures if I honor my breathing first. When I hold my breath to push through, or when my breathing is ragged because I've pushed too far - that's when I hate yoga, hate my body, hate my life. Dramatic, yes. But the heat and the humidity and the heart-exposing stretches leave me with little defense.

For the rest of that session, I consciously finished an exhale fully before allowing my inhale to take over. What I found (no surprise to anyone but me) was how much deeper I was able to inhale and how much less dizzy I got during the harder poses.

It's how I live my life. Impatient to fill myself with information, truth, the world around me, I pull in as much as I can. But I have a harder time pushing out what's no longer useful, necessary, helpful. Just like it's hard to allow that small pause between each part of a breath: inhale, pause, exhale, pause.

My pattern has been: INHALE, pause, exhale, INHALE.

I often have a hard time breathing deeply enough to feel like I've drawn in enough air. And then I hold my breathe. Reluctant to release. Afraid to rest in the betweens, to trust the next breath to come on its own and to bring exactly what I need.

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that I'm not going to be able to skip over the foundation and get right to the good stuff in yoga. Even more important, I'm finally beginning to understand that focusing on my breathing, the foundation of it all, will eventually get me to deeper postures and a stronger core in a way that my own stubborn determination will never do.

image from Flickr

19 comments:

Deb said...

This is strange because I just had a conversation with a coworker about breathing, about how often people don't breathe properly and how much it impacts their health. I'm thinking that with two reminders in the past three days that something's up. Time to take a deep breath and exhale. Thank you.

Suzy said...

Wonderful analogy.

Breathing in too much= taking on too much.

Letting in all out- keeping most of it in.

Great post Deb.

Love you

Suzy

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"It's how I live my life. Impatient to fill myself with information, truth, the world around me, I pull in as much as I can. But I have a harder time pushing out what's no longer useful, necessary, helpful."

Love this, and as you know, I'm all about throwing *&^% off the boat these days!

Wanda said...

"Writing the Breathings of your Heart"

...hmmm.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Deb,
This post could have been completely about me. Always. You described how I take in too much and hold onto things that should have been released with the very next breathe. Yoga is about more than yoga. Impatience has no place in the yoga world. We have to remember that. And to take time for yoga and breathing properly every day. Our lives depend on it.
Yet I'm out there trying to slay the dragons that aren't even mine to slay.
What a great post! Thanks for writing it. I feel as though it was written specifically for me.
Are we women all alike in our A personalities?
Blessings on this sunshiny day.
B

fullsoulahead.com said...

Just reading this caused me to breathe. Thank you.

Happy Mother's Day.

patti said...

This is such GOOD advice for me.

When I'm stressed, like RIGHT NOW, I feel myself holding in breath.

I LOVE this blog.
Patti

Carol............. said...

I love this post!

And how true. I practice Tai Chi moves
...well, mainly the warm up excercises which also concentrates on breathing.

Breathe it out...let it go!

Journaling Woman said...

I am a firm believer that if we would breathe - life would be better, problems would be solved and we would have to take less medication.

Teresa

She Writes said...

I have often found myself not breathing.

She Writes said...

Lovely way you handled this!

Tabitha Bird said...

It is funny how much of life in general has to do with breathing. Just breathing and being in the moment. Even when I box my coach is constantly saying, "Breath, Tab. You can't see punches coming if you are not breathing!" There is a lot of wisdom in that, hey :)

Jerri said...

Brilliant observations, beautifully written.

Once a day, taking 20 conscious breaths where you inhale to a count of four and exhale to a count of eight can reduce your blood pressure almost as much as medication. Fascinating, yes?

Amber said...

Wow, a light went on for me when I read this post! I never dare breathe in enough... I can exhale long and well, but then my inhale in always, always fast, short and small. Like I need so little. Like I should be able to live and thrive on less than enough nourishment...
Even when I had that panic attack a few weeks ago in therapy, and the therapist was trying to get me to calm myself by coaching my breathing, I just could not seem to make myself open my lungs! Like I walled myself in, and up.

Yikes. See what you do when you share your story? My head hurts from the brick that just hit it. lol

You keep sharing. I'm counting on it.

:) ox

Jessica Nelson said...

Very interesting! When I jog I've always concentrated on taking really full breaths then blowing it all out, but I've never thought of doing it throughout the course of the day! Good stuff Deb. Thanks so much for sharing. :-)

Jody Hedlund said...

Very thought-provoking post, Deb. I really like this statement: "trust the next breath to come on its own and to bring exactly what I need." I need to do that to with life. Sometimes I get focused to much on what's to come next. Instead I need to just trust that each breath will come in its own time, and to relish each one while I'm in it.

patti said...

This was such a good post I had to come back and reread.

Love you,
P

colbymarshall said...

Haha- this is fun to read, because I'm in a role right now where my main problem while singing? FORGETTING to breathe. It's kind of important...I should remember it!

kario said...

It is part of that whole yin/yang thing, isn't it? Both sides are equally important, but only when they're used together. I love that you continue to find deepening meaning in yoga and share it so selflessly.

Thank you.