When we breathe our muscles expand to allow us to draw air into our lungs, then they contract to expel the air as we exhale. Constant expansion, the drive to do more and more is a leading cause of burnout in employment and business, and in our life. Our culture pushes us to do more with less. There’s the myth of the “super parent” who can do it all, work long hours and take care of children and spouse along with taking time for themselves. Phrases, especially on a female-oriented world, like “Girl Boss” or “Boss Bitch” thrive on this kind of constant expansion. There’s just one problem (well there’s several actually when you think about the binary language employed, but that’s a topic for another blog), if you constantly inhale and expand, you’ll suffocate if you don’t relax and exhale.

In doing breathwork, especially if I’m feeling extra stressed, it’s not the deep inhale that relaxes me, it’s the long exhale. Accompanying this exhale with an audible sigh creates a release of tension in the body. The next time you’re doing deep breath work, I invite you to feel the relaxation in your shoulders and back as you exhale, the way your shoulders naturally come down from your ears. It’s a sinking into your chair or bed, a rush as the tension leaves your body.

It’s also a conscious, focused effort. When we’re so used to being tense in our muscles, it can be hard to remember to let the bed or chair support you, to sink into it’s comfort, to feel it hold you and support you. If you’re not used to that kind of support, and let’s be honest many of us aren’t, then it can feel odd at first to allow this inanimate object to hold your body without trying to perch on top of it like a bird on a wire.

Life is very much the same way. It can feel odd to exhale, to rest, to lean into the relaxation that your body sorely craves. However it’s vital you do it. If you don’t exhale, you’ll suffocate. And if you don’t relax and rest, you’ll burn out. Exhaling prevents burnout.