The Importance of Exhaling in Yoga by Andrea Cespedes,
The Process of Exhaling You inhale to bring oxygen into the body and exhale to release carbon dioxide. The act of exhaling causes the diaphragm, a muscle in your lower abdomen, to move upward into the chest cavity and the small muscles around the ribs to contract. These muscular actions reduce the space in the chest cavity, forcing carbon dioxide out of your lungs and out through your nose or mouth. Exhaling is normally an involuntary activity. In yoga practice, however, you make an effort to exhale fully and completely to stimulate the central nervous system, explains Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, Advanced Kripalu Yoga Instructor, Holistic Health Nurse and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, in “Yoga Journal.”
Purpose A full and purposeful exhalation helps you clear out your lungs so you can take a fuller in-breath, which provides you with fresh, oxygenated air. Focused exhaling gives you more control over your breathing in general, reducing shortness of breath or other breathing discomforts. Strong exhalations also strengthen muscles in the chest and abdomen, which are important to a powerful physical yoga practice.
Evidence Exhaling fully and completely can help reduce stress and lower your blood pressure by stimulating the calming parasympathetic nervous system, National Public Radio reported in December 2010. Complete yogic breathing programs can help diabetic patients control glycemic levels, found a study in the May 2012 issue of the “Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.” Another study, also published in May 2012, in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,” found that a regular practice of yoga breathing among cancer patients receiving chemotherapy correlated with better sleep, reduced anxiety and improved mental quality of life.
Nose or Mouth How you exhale depends on what pranayama technique you are using in your yoga practice. Some exercises ask you to exhale through the mouth to release a large volume of air quickly while relaxing the jaw, tongue and shoulders. Nose breathing is more commonly used in yoga practice, however. Nose breathing is considered cleaner, as it filters out pollutants and pathogens while adding moisture and warmth to the in-breath. In yoga philosophy it is said that exhaling through the nose stimulates the olfactory nerve in the brain which, in turn, activates other glands in the brain and sinus chamber, helping to bring balance and stillness to the mind.