In yoga, we breathe in through our nose and out through the nose. This breath is intended to filter the air we take into our body and filter the air we release from the body. This breath is meant to keep our inner body warm throughout class, so that our joints and muscles heat up, offering us more flexibility in class. This in breath allows large amounts of oxygen to aid the muscles in getting stronger, while releasing toxins from those muscles on the out breath.
Near the end of class, we come to what I jokingly call our favorite pose: we come onto our backs and give ourselves a spinal massage. At this time, we exhale out through our mouth, adding a wonderful “AHHHH” as we release the breathe. Our class is nearly finished, and so the importance of keeping that heat in the body takes less significance than the importance of releasing any leftover toxins. And we all know it feels really good to say “AHHH,” as our spines sink into the mat.
But there can be an added benefit to this final release at the end of class.
Yoga is a transforming exercise. We see a physical transformation in our body, with leaner muscles and more strength as we practice yoga over time. We see more flexibility and improved balance. Yoga also transforms us mentally, as we learn how to breathe into our parasympathetic nervous systems, which teaches us how to calm our bodies. We can apply this breath to any of our stressful daily situations. Yoga also teaches us to stay present, and so when our minds worry, we are reminded to “let go” and “just be.”
Yoga over time can also lead us to a more spiritual transformation. As we become more aware of our physical and mental transformations from yoga, we then begin to pay attention to other transformations in our lives. We learn that if we keep our throats open, that aids us in speaking our truth. If we open our hearts by rolling our shoulders back and lifting the heart, we allow ourselves to be more open-hearted, loving, forgiving, friendlier, etc. Spiritual transformation is the change in ourselves that affects us to our core. It is our redefining who we are. It is our connection to that True being who many of us had buried over the years because of the outside influences of the world: jobs, families, partners, expectations we place on ourselves. The list goes on, and we can all add another item to the list of influences in our lives.
So, at the end of class, when we roll onto our backs in our favorite pose and give ourselves a massage, releasing that audible sigh, we are also allowing our inner self to come to the surface with that deep, releasing exhale. We are expressing our True being. We are practicing, on our mats, in a safe environment, a release of the many layers of life that have covered who we REALLY are.
Inner world, meet outer world. Outer world, this is ME.