Breathing Practice: Embodiment & Grounding

The Exhalation

  • The exhalation is associated with calming, grounding and soothing anxiety. (For more information, see Pranayama Terminology: Breathing Aspects in Pranayama.)
  • In today’s modern society, of course, calming and grounding is often the need for most students.
  • In addition, Donna Farhi notes in The Breathing Book that the exhalation is diminished in many breath holding patterns and in lung disorders such as emphysema and asthma.

Practices for Lengthening the Exhalation

The general practice of lengthening the exhalation is called rechaka pranayama in Sanskrit. There are a number of practices that can help students lengthen their exhalation:

  • Students can simply bring increasing awareness to their exhalation. This can be first noticing it, counting it, and then lengthening it to be longer then the count of the inhale.
  • Another practice known specifically as Viloma Pranayama (Against the Grain Breathing) is a practice of dividing the inhalation and/or exhalation into parts.

Viloma Pranayama Variation

  • In this variation, we divide the exhalation into two or three parts with a brief pause between.
  • The pause is simply a moment of suspension—not a strong holding of the breath.
  • After the two- or three-part exhale, inhale completely.
  • Take one or two normal breaths before doing the practice again.
  • Pausing and dividing the breath “tricks” us into taking a longer breath.

While this can be effective in a meditation, centering or pranayama practice, it also fits really well with asana. For example, students can practice a flowing Bridge pose: roll down slowly, pausing half way while pausing the breath… then continue to roll down while completing the exhale.