Let your exhale lengthen by releasing...
When people think of a full breath, they focus on inhaling. Without first effectively exhaling, it’s like trying to fill an already partially full tank beyond capacity…
Instead, learning to allow more volume of air to leave on the exhale sets up conditions of release and more space for fresh air to mix in with the residual levels of atmosphere in your lungs.
*Set yourself up for self-work on the floor. Place enough books under your head that you are recreating the angle of an upright neck with your head balanced on top. (image) If you have had lessons, you probably have a sense of how high a pile of books to place under your head. If not, this picture gives you an idea of the relative height based on your upper back and the depth of your chest. I recommend one or both knees bent, and one or both hands resting on your abdomen, the other can be on your sternum (breast bone).
Begin by spending some time thinking your directions. (My neck is free, to allow my head to release out way from my lengthening, widening torso, as me knees release to the ceiling, my shoulders widen and I lengthen through my arms and out my fingertips.)
Then begin to add the idea of not holding or controlling your exhale. Instead, allow the outbreath to lengthen through release. You can sigh out on the vowel “ah” of father; you can hiss out on “sssssssss” or “ffffffffff”. Your intention is to be easy in the muscles around your abdomen and ribs, so you aren’t squeezing in any way to wring out the breath, but are letting go to allow the exhale.
As you come to the end of the breath, be mindful not to push or force the air out. Instead, wait until an inbreath comes through the nosewithout any effort in your neck or upper back.
When you are resting in this position, you may breath less frequent and your breathing may not be as deep, because there isn’t as much cardiovascular demand on your system.
Let each breath fall in and out in a unique volume and tempo. For this exploration, there is no need to have even, timed breathing.
This will allow you to shift the balance between alertness and relaxation, or the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. (google search results: https://www.google.com/#safe=off&q=sympathetic+and+parasympathetic+nervous+systems)
Give yourself time to extend the outbreath, and let your system slow down. If you find yourself distracted, or your mind is wandering, you have spent enough time slowing down. You may feel tired, or you may feel relaxed and refreshed.
(This post originally appeared on brookelieb.com)
N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com