Thursday, April 14, 2011

The power of the exhale...

I had a really interesting chat with my fabulous yoga teacher Denise from Wellbeing@Work before class yesterday...she always has a pearl of wisdom to offer, and last night was no different.

Make the exhale active.

This was the succinct message that came out of a meditation course that she attended on the weekend with a Swami...yep a real Swami!

So what does that mean?

Well as Denise said, we put so much emphasis on the inhale - particularly in yoga. 

And usually, the exhale is all about relaxing and letting go so you can sink further into the posture. We just let that happen.

If you use the same analogy for life, usually we put the emphasis on the bringing in...getting more and more and more.

And we don't tend to put as much focus on the exhale, which is letting go and it of possessions, commitments, beliefs, memories, addictions, habits etc.

I think it's also about appreciating what you've exhaled into your life. What have you finished and achieved, what stuff have you actually gotten? What have you put out there, and then seen the result of it come into your life?

And the exhale is also about what can you give back to life. Whether it's on a personal level - who can you help? What can you impart on the world around you? Or on an environmental level...having your own compost and vege patch, recycling, less waste. Or on a community level, be it as simple as getting involved in your sporting club or donating to a charity.

So what if you turned it around? What if you put more focus on the exhale?

Right now, take a deep breath in, then really focus on the exhale, emptying out your lungs completely.

And just let the inhale happen.

You don't have to make that happen - your lungs will do it automatically, you don't even have to try.

See how much power you feel when you make that exhale active? I certainly did. 

It was like I was making way for the next breath, clearing out my body completely - and then the inhale could sort of float in, bringing in the new.

So bringing that back to life now, if you take the focus off of the inhale for a while, then it's not all about what's next, what more do I need, what don't I have enough of. Not about what you can take from life.

Because really - how much stuff do we all have...and better yet, how much of it do we actually need?!

When you focus on the exhale in your life, you can focus on what you can release from your life, what you no longer need.

That could be getting rid of any possessions that you no longer need in your life.

Whether that's cleaning out the pantry, your wardrobe, the crap drawer...I've done the first two of those, and boy does it feel good! Crap drawer - you're next!

It could be simplifying your busy schedule...something else I've done in the last month. I've let go of all commitments throughout my week - so now I've got a bare week, ready to be filled with new activities...which does feel a bit odd really!

But I think I'm just going to enjoy having it to fill!

Or it could be letting go of some old beliefs or habits that no longer serve you - and just watch the difference it makes to your mental and physical self.

Geez have I had a whole bunch of that in the past few months!

Now that I've thought about this a bit more, I've realised that I've been doing a bunch of exhaling/releasing this past year, on all levels of my life...but I haven't really sat back to appreciate just how much.

Which is a great segway to my next point...

How often do you stand back, just to appreciate how great your life just as it is?

Believe me, I've got some practicing to do in this arena. As I've written about in a past blog, I love the good old Attitude to Gratitude, but it's something that I've been forgetting about lately.

And like anything, practice makes perfect. If I don't use my Gratitude muscle for a while, it gets weak and flabby!!!

I've gotten to caught up in what I don't have (and in turn how that makes me not good enough, or worthy of criticism from myself!), instead of appreciating all the fabulous things in my life.

That can be as simple as having a great night's sleep in a comfy bed, to having enough milk in the fridge for your cereal, or even just having air to inhale!

The third part of the exhale - what can you give back?

I personally love getting involved in the community. Something that I've forgotten these past few years, but am trying to bring back into my life more and more.

When I was a kid, I loved making muffins to sell at church to raise money for someone. And I loved getting involved in fundraising events - something I still love doing now. I was always more than a player at netball too, and didn't really think twice about.

I'm lucky, because my parents were/are both really active in the community through different things, so it's something that was encouraged from a young age.

And come to think of it, now that I've got spare time coming back into my schedule, I think giving back is going to rise up the list so it's part of each week.

The other thing with letting things go - then you've got room to bring in the new.

It's really not healthy to focus on more, more, more all the time. Or me, me, me.

Because if all you're trying to do is layer things, stack things, cram other things into the corner and still bring in more things...pretty soon, you're on overload.

Whether it's not having room to move in your house or head - hoarding isn't healthy!

If you're life's already full - where can the new come in?

The last great point that Denise made last night...once you've exhaled in life, what if you just step back and allow in what you need.

Like the next inhale, know that it's going to be there. Not forcing it, not going looking for it. Just trusting that what you need will be there.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all of this, but it definitely struck a chord with me. And I'm amazed how long this post ended up being!

Here I was at the start thinking I was going to say a few words on "instead of focusing on what you can get, focus on what you can release."

But now I've realised that the exhale is a little bit more complex than that...turns out the breath is a lot more holistic than I first thought! I love delving into stuff like this!

So now my challenge for this week is to take my focus off of the inhale/bringing in (because I've got plenty of toys I don't use already!), and to focus on the exhale/releasing/gratitude/giving.

In fact, I think I'll take it one step further...

This week, I take the time to honour the exhale.

And to finish off, I'm going to invite you to do the same thing as Denise suggested last night...

Just take a moment to ponder this, you might be interested to find what comes up.


  1. I focus on exhale every time an acupuncture needle is inserted... With the view that as I relax my pores open up and allow the needle to enter painlessly. Haven't quite mastered it yet but I am getting there ;-)

  2. Love it Grace - I'll think of that the next time I'm getting acupuncuture!