Because our breath is such a normal and automatic thing, we tend to push it off like it doesn’t mean anything. In yoga there are multiple uses and meanings to our breath in general but today we’re going to focus on what our “Inhale” and “Exhale” are actually used for in yoga.
Have you ever wondered why your yoga instructor tells you to do specific movements on inhales and others on exhales? It’s because there is a sort of dance you do with your breath in yoga. Each section of your breath is tied directly to a number of purposes and uses. Let’s start off with your inhale.
What Your Inhale Means in Yoga
The purpose of your inhale in yoga is to consume. Your inhale is a time where you can take up space that you just can’t take up during an exhale. You can ingest anything like energy, emotions, space, etc. It is an invigorating part of the breath and that’s what makes it a great time to set intentions and find confidence in your yoga practice.
When you are inhaling you should generally be moving either upwards or forwards. If you are familiar with sun salutations you can even try thinking about it for a second and pay attention to all of the upward and forwards movements. The sun salutation and any yoga flow should abide by these rules. Anytime a flow has an exception to the rule you can probably notice it because it feels awkward or wrong in some way.
What Your Exhale Means in Yoga
The purpose of your exhale is to release. This can be expressed in multiple ways. It can be expressed by releasing energy, emotions, and space or it can be expressed by transferring your energy into something new while you rest. Your exhale should not be a collapse but just a release of what no longer serves you. There is still strength and incredible purpose to your exhale but it is more passive or transformational than your inhale.
The movements associated with your exhale are naturally the opposite of the inhale. Anytime you move down or backwards your exhale should be right there with you. Again, I encourage you to consider the sun salutation and run through it in your mind as you fall and move back every time you exhale. Another way that this section of your breath is used is by moving deeper into poses.
How Your Inhale and Exhale Work Together
Now you know how both your inhaling and exhaling work on their own but they do some amazing things together as well. They build on one another in a very practical and beautiful way. When you become aware of the uses of your breath in yoga, it becomes a sort of dance. Yoga is like a dance and your breath becomes the music that you dance to. It suddenly feels as if the sequences were made up for you by your own natural and internal rhythm. Your body rises with your inhale and lowers with the exhale. The next time around you move forward with your inhale and then go back with the exhale. After some practice with being mindful of your breath in relation to your movement, you can almost begin to anticipate the next movement before the instructor even calls it out.
Your breath can really take your yoga practice to a whole new level. It can help you with your alignment, energy, and as you read today, a whole lot more!