In this essay we will look at the inhale and exhale. Then break down the active (Yang) and passive (Yin) aspects within both sides of the breath. Then explore their effects on physiology, neurology and psychology. Introducing you to how this map can be used to listen to the mind and body. Then conclude with tools you can use to experience and explore your breath.
This may seem a tricky concept at first. I invite you to plant the seed of curiosity in your awareness.
Within life there are flows. There is, day and night, hot and cold, the change of seasons. We all individually have flows through states of consciousness, waking, sleeping, dreaming, trance. Then every 90 minutes with in these states the flow of our circadian rhythm.. the circulatory system, endocrine system, digestive system, ah the list goes on! In fact they say we have completed new physical body every seven years!
Let’s focus back on the breath. Within each cycle of inhale and exhale there is expansion and contraction.. activation and relaxation. Yang represents active. Yin represents passive.
Yin and Yang is an amazing map which can be applied to all experiences. It can be used to sense where we are and how we are acting. Thus helping us observe where we are out of balance, where we are striking a good balance, adapt to the natural flow of the environment and prepare for change. Notice in the symbol there is a dot of the opposite side in both. Here we are applying it to the breath.
When we have an awareness of the breath, it can allow us to listen to how we are at a deeper level. Then we can choose to use it as a muscle. It can be used to let go and relax into a situation. Or it can be used to call for more strength and motivation in an act of creation.
In my experience developing the breath as a tool to rest my awareness in has created a freedom to listen to my mind and body in the present moment. Then an ability to observe the breath whilst reflecting on the past to draw insight from a situation. Then over time I have learnt to reflexively use the breathe to adapt appropriately. Do I need to rest, refocus or recharge? Choosing my actions in the present to create a more conscious future… when I remember!
Active – Yang
Passive – Yin
Active – Yang
Passive – Yin
As you inhale the heart speeds up… When you exhale the heart slows down. (i)
Take a few breaths with your eyes closed. What do you sense when you apply this map to your breath right now?
Let’s Look at the inhale.
Take a strong exhale out through the mouth now and simply allow the air to to flow back in – This is a passive inhale
Take a large expansive inhale through the nose lifting the ribs high and wide, then exhale through the mouth without any effort – This is an active inhale, with a passive exhale
Each natural cycle of breath has both active and passive within it.
What happens if we have a stronger active inhale.
This trains our will power to connect. Speeding the heart up. Amplifying a key lense in the body for connnection (ii). It also engages the diaphragm and breathing muscles, expanding the lungs for a greater tidal volume of air, thus delivering more oxygen to fuel our muscular movement. These are all physiological that signal and prepare our body to move towards our object of focus.
Developing the Yang in our inhale strengthens the breathing msucles. An often forgotten key to exercise. Imagine being able to create a greater flow of fuel for the cells for the expression you create, wether lifting a weight, climbing a tree or riding a bike. We can then learn to isolate these muscles from engaging any other patterns of myofasical tension and their associated psychological states. This can create a physical ease and mental freedom toe engage in the present, without imprinting old reactions and armouring of the psyche into our physical bodies.
This movement also engages the Sympatheic Nervous System. Sending blood, energy and resources to our muscles for movement.. Or if in a more relaxed state it can signal for us to enter Ventral Vagal Function of the Parasymaptheic Nervous system. (Active social engagment, moving with our metabolic systems still online) This creates a deeper connection through the nervous system, organs and heart, using the whole body.as the lense of perception and engagement of our mind, soul in relation to our environment. (Link to PMES post)
When we have a stronger inhale it can create he ability to connect with what ever we are perceiving, how ever we are feeling, tired, low, confused or energised , motivated and inspired. The inhale can pick us up and guide our bodies towards our focus. Our willpower can be woven through the breath, when held with sustained focus and stability of the mind this is a state of mental freedom.
If we look at our whole body as a lense of our perception and focus, a stronger inhale and a soft passive exhale can increase our heart rate and nervous system to tone to amplify our senses and focus. Let’s apply this to meditation. Imagine over time developing an ability to inhale into different states with a clear, calm and steady focus. Or use a soft inhale and stronger exhale be able to give more expression to the object of mediation whilst slowing the heart down, yet breathing as if we are expressing firmly.
How would this change your focus and perception?
The inhale can also be completely passive.. Developing the Yin. Receiving the air around us as information. A soft inhale signals neurologically that we can receive with an ease. The air gently cascades through the nasal cavity as olfactory information signalling to the limbic system we are clam. It also increases the perfusion rate within the avelio in the lungs as the gases have more time to exchange. A softer inhale can also means one can learn to take a full breath speeding the heat up without having to exert any force. Delivering oxygen in as our key source of energy (ATP) – energy our mitochondria the power houses of our cells make form combining with carbon (Crebs cycle). Turning our thoughts and ”e”motions into physical motion.
How can a stronger inhale create more energy for you?
How can a softer inhale create ease for you?
A soft inhale can allow the heart to speed up without creating tension in the body. Perfect for tuning your self into a high state of nervous system arousal, alert ready to act, yet calm and ease. This state can be golden in mediation.
Each inhale can be a balance of effort between Yang and Yin. How can you shape yours?
Now lets look at the exhale.
The active (Yang) exhale is linked to our expressiveness, reciprocation and response. The mind braded with our will chooses to move the body through physical movement, or communication creating a vibration through subtle movement creating sound or using symbols of langague giving expressing a representation of our thoughts, feelings or emotions back into the world. (Link to future post)
Physically it is an aspect of our strength drawing in our core stabilisers muscles creating a strong structure and foundations to be able to push, hold or pull. Socially it activates Dorsal Vagal Function of Parasympatheic Nervous system. This slows the heart down and signals to bood, energy and resources to be sent to our various bodily systems.
There is a time to have a strong exhale.. Can you imagine where this may be useful for you?
There is a time to have a soft exhale.. Can you imagine a situation where this would be helpful?
If we have too much Yang force in our exhale with out the letting go of the Yin aspect, we can tighten in neuromuscular patterns. This can increase tension and tightness. Amplifying the quilted mental, emotional states and the structures of self we have attached to these physical settings in our bodies.
Tension is needed for certain situations. It allows us to hold shapes, and interact. Yet If tension is chronic in the body it can create dis-ease, inhibiting the flow, of blood, the nerve currents, lymph, the digestive system and cerebral spinal fluid. The free flow of information is a key to the health any system. Here I propose having a dynamic relationship with the breath to create and release tension within the body is foundational to overall health.
Take a strong inhale, then allow the exhale release with out effort. This is a passive exhale.
The (Yin) the passive of the exhale is our letting go. Accepting of the consequences of the inhale. It is also the ability to let go of myofasical tension and charge in the nervous system, which also translates as mental tension. Mind and body intertwined, the breath loosening or tightening this relation as we explore space and move in time. A soft exhale can also translate as an ease of expression able to breath out with tightening any physcial armouring we have.
When entering state of rest a with asofter passive exhale, this encourages the heart slow down to tune our nervous system into parasympathetic response without forcing or increasing any of the physcial and mental tension our body is carrying. If we push and force into a state of rest we can inhibit or blocking parts of our system in their resting, regenating process. The more we can invite our exhale to be soft we can invite our physical body to create states of ease. Creating more conduicive states of rest and homeostasis.
Then there is the natural flow of breath.
Developing a curious relationship with the breath can be a lense into our body and mind, We can then have an awareness of our breathing patterns. Our patterns of how we deal with stress often correlate from the micro to the macro. Being aware of how we are breathing can give valuable insight.
What automatic patterns of breathing do you have? Think and feel into the effect “software” of your mind.
Imagine how you can choose to breathe in the optimal outcome of a situation.
From a place of awarenesallow us to learn how to shape our rebate to create more conscious engagement in life. instead of running on old data and or reactions we can use the breathe to choose and help our
There are different techniques you can learn to strengthen or soften the inhale or exhale. In my expereince this has allowed me create greater states of adaptibilty for Heart Rate Variability, Neurological Adaptabipty and Brain wave states. Creating a more streamlined operating system for this living computer called the body.
When we have an adaptable breath this creates Neurological fitness, the ability of the nervous system to sense, respond then return to homeostasis. A dynamic nervous system is a major pillar in our overall health. It is the same body, nervous system and breath we use to navigate all of our environments. Internally and externally.
Kapplabhati – In yoga trains the Yang of the exhale and Yin of the inhale. (Link to future post)
Conscious Connected Breathing specifically trains the activation, strength and willpower of the inhale, Developing the ability to distinguish, feel and focus on any sensation, thought and emotion. Then develops the Yin of the exhale. The ability to let go in response to that perception we just breathed into to fully. This trains neurological flexibitly. The ability to feel fully, move into. Then ability to insatnalesouly let go and be at a state of ease in our nervous system. It is the same body, breath and nervous system we use to perceive the physical, mental, emotional and social environments. Both internally and externally.
Here are some questions and tools, you can use to shape the breath and tune your instrument(s) of perception.
We use Sama Vritti (Equal action) a 4 to 6 second count to create adaptability of the nervous system as your explore, sensations, thoughts, feeling and flow of focus through different physical postures.
Think about equal length of the breath and equal effort.
What changes when you make the breath stronger?
What changes when you make the Breath?
How do you sense the movement of the breath in the body? Feel the subtle flows, sense the gross movements.
To rest or to enter deep flexibility training
1:2 ratio. Inhale through nose 4: exhale softly through the mouth 8.
Explore what ratio you can build up to.
Meet and beat your time daily in any posture you wish to make flexibility gains in.
How is your breath naturally flowing?
What happens to your object of focus and your expereince:
When you exhale with strength and inhale passively.
When you inhale with strength and exhale passively
What happens when you exhale stronger?
What happens when exhale softer?
How much strength do you need in the inhale?
Can you sense the balance of strength and ease you need for the movements you are doing?
How quickly can you return to a soft exhale?
What blend Yang and Yin to you sense with each cycle of breath?
The is a beginning to explain one of the many ways you can shape the breath. This has been synthesised through my own experience, observation and working with others. I invite this to serve you as a map. To become aware of where you are unconsciously forcing the breath, with too much Yang. Are you forcing the exhale when trying to rest? Then to become aware of the breath as primary resource for both motivation and relaxation. Can you create a dynamic ability to find the right balance of effort and ease, Yang and Yin for the Mind, Body and Breath?