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[Yoga Home][Postures][Breathing][HolisticOnline Home][Meditation][Prayer]

Importance of Exhalation or Breathing Out In Yoga

The object of pranayama practice is to emphasize the inhalation, the exhalation, or retention of the breath. Emphasis on the inhalation is called puraka pranayama. Recaka pranayama refers to a form of pranayama in which the exhalation is lengthened while the inhalation remains free. Kumbhaka pranayama focuses on breath retention. In kumbhaka pranayama we hold the breath after inhalation, after exhalation, or after both.

Whichever technique is chosen, the most important part of pranayama is the exhalation. If the quality of the exhalation is not good, the quality of the whole pranayama practice is adversely affected. If you are not able to breathe out slowly and quietly, you are not ready for pranayama, either mentally or otherwise. "If the inhalation is rough we do not have to worry, but if the exhalation is uneven it is a sign of illness, either present or impending."

Yoga's essential aim is to eliminate impurities and reduce avidya. Through this elimination alone, positive results come about. When the blockage is cleared from a sewer pipe, the water will flow. If something in us is preventing a change from occurring, then we need to remove the obstacle before the change can take place. The exhalation is vitally important because it transports impurities from the body, making more room for prana to enter.

Often when pranayama is discussed it is the holding of the breath that is emphasized. Yet the ancient texts talk about the total breath, not simply kumbhaka, breath retention. The Yoga Sutra discusses the breath in this order of importance:
bulletbahya vrtti or exhalation as the most important,
bulletabhyantara vrtti or inhalation as secondary,
bulletstambha vrtti or breath retention.

All three of these are aspects of pranayama. Do not become interested only in holding the breath; many people think they can progress quickly along the yoga path by practicing breath-retention techniques, but in fact problems often arise with this emphasis.

The most important tenet of pranayama is this: Only when we have emptied ourselves can we take in a new breath, and only when we can draw the breath into us can we hold it. If we cannot breathe out and in fully, how are we going to hold our breath? Breath-retention exercises must be done in such a way that they never disturb the in- and out-breaths. When we reach the stage where we have improved our ability to breathe in and out and to hold the breath, then breath-retention may become important because as it is held the breath is at rest, and with it so hopefully is the mind.

Go To: A Breathing Exercise for Good Posture

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