“I just wanted to stay there forever – this pause feels so comfortable and peaceful,” – said one of my students after a yoga practice designed around Patanjali’s yoga sutra 1.34 (The mind attains serenity through prolonged Exhalation and Suspension of breath). Whenever we choose to emphasize exhalation in our yoga practice, it is not surprising that the overall effect will be calming, since exhalation is closely linked with parasympathetic activation of the autonomic nervous system (its “rest-and-digest” mode). In yogic terminology the practice would have a langhana effect, which means it would eliminate, reduce unwanted sporadic energy.
But there is something else that happens when we hold the breath out (comfortably) and linger in that space of stillness between breaths. It’s a place where there is no need to rush, no need to get somewhere or to do something – it’s just a place to BE. It is a welcome pause in a life full of activity, and striving, and accomplishing. It is a doorway to serenity.
Not everybody can find peace in that place though. Those who have trouble slowing down or letting go of effort might find it challenging. If you force the pause or try to control it, you might become agitated instead. One trick that might help is to make a tight fist when you inhale and then relax the hand, allowing it to open when you exhale. After you observe how it feels to relax your hand for few breaths, try to bring the same feeling to your exhalation (as if you were deflating), and then linger at the end of the exhalation for a second or two – whatever feels comfortable. Sometimes it takes practice to teach our bodies and minds to let go.
The practice below is a short yoga practice that uses breath and simple movement to help you relax the body, deepen your exhalation and quiet the mind. It is particularly useful when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Give a try and please let me know how the pause after exhale feels to you.
This practice has been added to Sequence Wiz home yoga practice app. You can find it under Energy > Stressed > Under 20 minutes. Learn more about the app >