This breathing exercise is particularly good for stress relief. Whenever you lengthen the exhalation it stimulates the vagus nerve and the autonomic nervous to trigger a state called parasympathetic state also known as “rest and relax”. Because it helps to relax, improves immunity and digestion and relieves stress.
Take a moment to sit comfortably or lie down on your back. Let’s begin by becoming aware of the breath whether one does this by focusing on the tip of the nose or by observing the rising and falling of the belly or by mentally following the breath as it moves in through the nose, gently filling the lungs and out through the same path is not that important right now. Just become aware of it.
Now let’s begin the first exercise of controlling the breath, in this exercise the inbreath is passive so simply allow the air to flow-in through the nostrils naturally and then allowing a tiny pause, we actively breathe out of the mouth opening larynx making a “haaaaaaaa” sound as if taking a sigh of relief. Let’s do this for a few rounds and see what happens.
Don’t try to breathe in actively, simply allow the air to fall into the lungs as a tired man falls gently and passively on a soft and comfortable mattress. After a few rounds of breathing in this fashion try to elongate the “haaaaaaaaaaa” sound of the outbreath.
Don’t try to achieve this by overexerting the effort during the outbreath such that the belly button is pulled in completely towards the spine, this may lead to fatigue and jerks. I am not telling you to exhale more air than you have inhaled but what you should do is try to prolong the period of outbreath by making it slower, this can be done by making the “haaaaaaaaaaaa” slowly and gently with each outbreath. And soon the inbreath would follow it would also become slower and deeper with each breath.
I want you to continue breathing this way but simultaneously become aware of what’s going on with your body and mind. Do you feel calm and relaxed? Do you feel sleepy? Do you notice the tiny involuntary pause between inhale and exhale? Do you feel any mental strain or worry or effort during inhalation? Then release it with the outbreath with a long sigh of relief. You are safe and sound now. Did you notice this amazing ability of the mind to control the breath and simultaneously the ability of being aware of itself, as if it is detaching from itself and watching itself as an outside observer? If not don’t worry sooner or later you’ll with consistent practice.
When you are ready to end the exercise take 3 forceful in breath and outbreaths. Now slowly start moving your body, starting from fingers and toes. Gently stretch your body as you have just awakened from a deep relaxing sleep. Rub your palms together till they get fairly warm then cup them around your eyes with a very light touch. Then slowly sit-down for a little while and allow the calm and peace to settle in your mind and heart before you continue with your day.
This exercise adds to the relaxation of the previous exercise and also adds a new dimension, that of sound to it. It also introduces us to the minds ability to stand back from itself and observing itself.