The Power of Exhaling – Stop Breathing In

The Power of Exhaling - a man focusing on exhaling

Most of us are mouth breathers because we are not taking in enough oxygen. We need to use our mouths to increase the oxygen we take in. This habit adversely impacts our relaxation, overall well-being, and contributes to us having low energy levels.

Another key factor in mouth breathing lies in our tendency to concentrate solely on inhaling when we think about breathing. This means we are overlooking and neglecting the potential that exhaling holds in influencing our thoughts, emotions, and physical movements. Its time to stop focusing on breathing in. 

Last week I was working with Mark in a session. Now although Mark hadn’t come to see me for his breathing, its where I always begin. Breathing is after all top of the tree when it comes to life!

Mark, being a yogi, incorporated breathing into his daily practice. However, he was surprised when I asked him to change his usual deep breathing style. I had Mark focus on exhaling rather than inhaling, breathing solely through his nose and pulling his abdomen in as he exhaled. The results were immediate. 

Mark transitioned from the sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) state to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. His breathing deepened, and he felt remarkably calm. Mark experienced a light-headed feeling as oxygen flooded his body, and even walking became effortless. He became more aware of his connection with the ground and couldn’t stop smiling.

Mark was intrigued by the impact of emphasising exhaling and found he could contract his abdomen more with just a few rounds of this breathing style and inhaling deeply was effortless. I explained it to him using a simple analogy: it’s like filling up a car at a petrol station. If your tank is already half full, you can only add so much more fuel. However, if it’s nearly empty, you can fill it up much more. The same principle applies to our breath—fully exhaling allows for a fuller inhalation.

If you never fully exhale then you can’t fully inhale!

When we focus on exhaling significant changes happen:

Increased Lung Capacity: By consciously focusing on the exhalation phase, you allow your lungs to expel stale air more fully. This, in turn, creates more space for fresh, oxygen-rich air to enter during inhalation. Think of it as making room for the new by releasing the old. This increases your lung capacity and a boost in lung capacity brings about various benefits, including increased energy, enhanced stamina and endurance, sharper thinking, easier completion of daily tasks, reduced mental and physical stress, greater oxygen reserves for when required, and improved recovery post-exercise or illness.

Effortless Inhalation: When you exhale completely, you naturally set the stage for a more effortless inhalation. The act of releasing tension during exhalation allows the diaphragm to contract more efficiently during inhalation, resulting in a smoother, calmer and more natural breath.

Reduced Breath Shallowing: Stress and anxiety often contribute to shallow breathing, where one takes short, quick breaths. Prioritising exhaling helps break this cycle, with deeper and more rhythmic breathing, and helps you to feel relaxed. 

As breathing is so natural and simple, we rarely focus on it until something makes us focus on it. However, the way we approach breathing can have profound effects on our overall well-being.

Practical Techniques for Exhaling First

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Exhale completely through your mouth, pulling in your abdomen – imagine your belly button touching your spine – then inhale effortlessly and slowly through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand without forcing it. This technique enhances the efficiency of both exhaling and inhaling.
  • Extended Exhalation: Try extending the duration of your exhalation. Exhale for a count of six or eight and inhale for a count of four. Deliberately  elongating the exhale can have a calming effect on your nervous system.
  • Mindful Breathing: Pay attention to the sensation of the breath as you exhale, letting go of any tension or stress with each breath out. 

Incorporating Exhale-First Practices into Daily Life

  • Morning Ritual: Start your day with a few minutes focused on exhaling. This sets your mind and body up for the day by transitioning from sleep to being awake, enhances your respiratory capacity and helps you feel calm and better equipped to face the day. 
  • Stressful Situations: In moments of stress or tension, take a conscious pause to exhale deeply before responding. This simple act can create space for clearer thinking and a more composed reaction.
  • Pre-Bedtime Routine: Wind down your day with a mindful breathing session, emphasising the importance of exhaling fully. This can promote relaxation, making it easier to transition into a restful sleep.

In the hustle and bustle of life, the power of intentional exhaling often goes unnoticed. By prioritising the exhale before the inhale, you unlock the potential for increased energy, better sleep and improving your well-being. 

Now breathe out. Your body and mind will thank you for it.