Why is the Out Breath calming?
Several breathing exercises ask you to focus on the out breath which may seem counter-intuitive but there is a reason.
When we breathe out unconsciously this is actually a letting go rather than an action. Breathing in is an action which is why when we choose to breathe consciously we instinctively start with the in breath. Breathing out is actually a release of air, when we breathe out we let go a little, releasing the air in our lungs and at the same time, our muscles let go a little, relaxing and softening. Try it now and notice how your muscles respond to the in breath and out breath, notice what your shoulders do.
Anyone who does Yoga or Pilates will tell you that they can stretch just that little bit further on the out breath when their muscles let go a little as they relax and breathe into a move or position. You are much more likely to be able to touch your toes on an out breath than an in breath!
Extending and lengthening the out breath to be longer than the in breath means that you relax a little more as it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxation and recovery. Pursing the lips so that you are gently blowing as if blowing bubbles or candles, rather than just breathing out normally helps to control the breathing by slowing it down. If you can notice a little pause between the in and out breath even better.
Experts recommend that starting with and improving the out breath will automatically improve the quality of your in breath and improving your overall breathing habits.