1:2 Breathing – The Long Exhale
This is a very simple yoga Pranayama technique which can soothe the nervous system, and can be practiced any time you are feeling stressed.
This is how it works – The two branches of the autonomic nervous system regulate the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. The sympathetic system helps the body prepare for physical activity by accelerating the heart rate, raising blood pressure, and increasing tension in the large skeletal muscles; the parasympathetic system does the opposite—decreasing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and releasing muscular tension. Inhalation stimulates the sympathetic system, and exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic system.
So when we lengthen our exhalation, and sustaining this breathing pattern for a minute or two, our heart rate slows, blood pressure drops, and muscles begin to relax.
Unlike most other yogic breathing practices, learning 2-to-1 breathing doesn’t need a teacher. All you need is a little bit of practice, and soon you can switch to this breathing pattern and soothe your nervous system any time you need to.
When practiced correctly, 2-to-1 breathing eliminates waste from the lungs while calming and nurturing the nervous system. It’s also an effective way to prepare the body, breath, and mind for meditation. Do this practice for as long as it is comfortable—starting with five minutes a day.
Keep in mind that even an exhalation that is only slightly longer than the inhalation can have a calming effect, so take care to breathe at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
If your breath feels uncomfortable or short, or if you’re gasping on the next inhalation, back off to a ratio that is more comfortable for 8 to 12 breaths. Then finish with 6 to 8 natural, relaxed breaths.