Breathing 101: Extending the Exhale.
If you completed the breath ratio exercise and discovered that your inhale is longer than your exhale, or it is equal and you’d like to extend your exhale, here are a few tips on how to do that.
As a reminder, an extended exhale helps to trigger the relaxation response, shutting off the flow of stress hormones (think about the need to fall asleep after you get home from a performance that ended at 11pm…). If you are a singer who struggles to sing longer phrases of music this exercise can help you as well – as will exercises that improve the efficiency of your vocal cord closure, but that’s another post for another day!
***Nota Bene: If you are an asthmatic, please don’t try to attempt to extend your exhale when you are symptomatic, you are likely to trigger an asthma attack. Please wait until your breathing feels calm to try this. You may do even better to begin by thinking about shortening your inhale rather than stressing your system with extending your exhale.
1. Lie on your back in constructive rest and allow the body to completely relax into the ground.
2. Place your hands on your belly and take a moment to tune into breathing that involves the motion of the belly out on inhale and in on exhale.
3. Do a few cycles of counting your inhalation and exhalation. Let’s say your ratio is 6 inhale, 3 exhale.
4. Now try these three options to extend your exhale 1 count at a time:
- Try first just thinking about slowing down your exhale to see if awareness is enough to bring about change.
- Inhale normally, purse your lips and exhale like you are blowing bubbles. Changing the shape of your aperture (opening) changes the rate at which you exhale, slowing it down.
- Inhale normally, and exhale creating a whisper sound in the back of the throat called Ujjayi breathing – Please, please, please don’t make yourself sound like Darth Vader. This should be a noise that is only perceptible to your own ears.
If it feels easy to extend your count by 1, you can work more quickly toward doubling your exhale length, putting your count at 6 and 12.
Once you’ve mastered things lying down, move on to trying them sitting up and then standing.
As always, just explore without judgement and enjoy!