When I was about 10, I was first intrigued about the breath. When swimming in the pool,I would see how long I could go underwater holding my breath. I would see how few breaths it would take to blow up a balloon. And no matter what I did to try and hold my breath, something would always make me start breathing again. Fast forward a half century and I have to say that I am still intrigued by this mechanism in the body that keeps us alive.Of most interest to me of late has been the part of breath I have often most ignored. The exhale.
In yoga we look at the exhale in a more complex system of energy or winds. Prana is the life force or energy we inhale while apana is the energy we exhale. It is the apana that takes away the energy that no longer serves us. With good breathing we improve physical and mental health and avert disease.
Looking at the exhale colloquially, we refer to exhales as "sighs of relief" or "letting it all out" or "letting go."
In biology we view the exhale as the discharge of metabolic waste from the lungs. And at the same time the carbon dioxide we releasee is the metabolic intake for the plants that we share the planet with.
In meditation we can use the exhale as a release from thoughts that bind us. It is easier to let go of thoughts during an exhale and harder to drive new ones. Try creating a thought on the exhale. You will find it easier to materialize that thought on the inhale!
So by bringing mindfulness to our exhales we begin to see a way to let go of all the "junk" that gets in the way of a blissful life.