Let it Go: The Gateway to Serenity in Yoga Practice
“I just wanted to stay there forever—this pause feels so comfortable and peaceful,” said one of my students after a yoga practice designed around Patanjali’s yoga sutra 1.34: “The mind attains serenity through prolonged Exhalation and Suspension of breath.”
Whenever we choose to emphasize exhalation in our yoga practice, it is not surprising that the overall effect will be calming, since exhalation is closely linked with parasympathetic activation of the autonomic nervous system (its “rest-and-digest” mode). In yogic terminology, the practice would have a langhana effect, which means it would eliminate or reduce unwanted sporadic energy.
But there is something else that happens when we hold the breath out (comfortably) and linger in that space of stillness between breaths. It’s a place where there is no need to rush, no need to get somewhere or to do something; it’s just a place to be. It is a welcome pause in a life full of activity, striving and accomplishing. It is a gateway to serenity.
Even Letting Go Can Be Challenging
Not everybody can find peace in that place though. Those who have trouble slowing down or letting go of effort might find it challenging. If you force the pause or try to control it, you might become agitated instead.
One trick that might help is to make a tight fist when you inhale and then relax the hand, allowing it to open when you exhale. After you observe how it feels to relax your hand for few breaths, try to bring the same feeling to your exhalation (as if you were deflating), and then linger at the end of the exhalation for a second or two, whatever feels comfortable. Sometimes it takes practice to teach our bodies and minds to let go.
The practice below is a short yoga practice that uses breath and simple movement to help you relax your body, deepen your exhalation and quiet your mind. It is particularly useful when you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Study Yoga Asana Alignment with Olga Kabel and YogaUOnline – Avoiding Common Injuries: Alignment Mistakes in Backbends and Lateral Bends.
Reprinted with permission from Sequence Wiz.
Educated as a school teacher, Olga Kabel has been teaching yoga for over 14 years. She completed multiple Yoga Teacher Training Programs but discovered the strongest connection to the Krishnamacharya/ T.K.V. Desikachar lineage. She had studied with Gary Kraftsow and American Viniyoga Institute (2004-2006) and received her Viniyoga Teacher diploma in July 2006 becoming an AVI-certified Yoga Therapist in April 2011. Olga is a founder and managing director of Sequence Wiz- a web-based yoga sequence builder that assists yoga teachers and yoga therapists in creating and organizing yoga practices. It also features simple, informational articles on how to sequence yoga practices for maximum effectiveness. Olga strongly believes in the healing power of this ancient discipline on every level: physical, psychological, and spiritual. She strives to make yoga practices accessible to students of any age, physical ability and medical history specializing in helping her students relieve muscle aches and pains, manage stress and anxiety, and develop mental focus.