Take a long inhale through your nose, and then sigh it out through an open mouth.

In class, you might hear these called releasing breaths, sighing breaths, clearing breaths, or even falling-out breaths. It is one of the easiest and most beneficial breath practices in yoga.

​These breaths signal the body to relax, inviting it to release tension and bringing softness into your yoga practice. They also invite the mind to let go of unnecessary thoughts and become more present. They are especially helpful as you begin practice, to help ease the transition from your busy day to your yoga mat, but can be used at any time and in any pose where you begin to feel tension.

Your exhalations connect the downward, outward flow of energy in the body, known as apana vayu. This energy is responsible for elimination and cleansing, removing anything that no longer serves you.

When apana vayu flows freely, it carries away stale thoughts, emotions, and habits, leaving you refreshed and open to new experiences. It also breaks down physical and mental blockages, allowing you to go deeper and feel more grounded in your practice. Conversely, when apana vayu is weak or blocked, you may feel anxious, insecure, stagnant, or unwell.

Shortened or labored exhales are a signal that this cleansing, grounding energy may not be flowing freely in the body. To reinvigorate apana vayu, try this breath exercises, which uses a few of those deep, sighing breaths:

Inhale deeply through your nose and retain the breath. Bring your attention to the back of your throat, and then exhale a sigh through an open mouth.

Again, inhale deeply through your nose and retain the breath. Bring your attention to the center of your chest, and then exhale a sigh through an open mouth.

Finally, inhale deeply through your nose and retain the breath. Bring your attention to your belly, and then exhale a sigh through an open mouth.

Give yourself permission exaggerate the exhalations – focus on completely emptying your belly, chest, and throat to push that stale energy out! You might just experience an immediate sense of lightness and relief.

[Image source: http://www.elizabethtrego.com/just-breathe-the-power-of-breathing-for-stress-relief/]