Inhale. Exhale. The rhythm of our breath is more than just a biological necessity – it's a tool that can influence our body's response to stress and promote a state of relaxation. One technique that's gaining attention for its calming effects is "extended exhale breathing." By exhaling for a slightly longer duration than inhaling, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a cascade of physiological responses that support relaxation and tranquility. Let's explore how this simple yet impactful technique works and why it's catching the attention of both ancient practices and modern research.


When we exhale for a longer period than we inhale, we engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of our autonomic nervous system is often dubbed the "rest-and-digest" mode – it's responsible for slowing down our heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and creating an overall sense of calm. The vagus nerve, a vital player in this system, gets stimulated during an extended exhale. This stimulation triggers a series of responses that culminate in a state of relaxation. Imagine it as a switch that shifts your body from the stress-driven "fight-or-flight" mode to a more serene and restful state.


Recent studies have delved into the effects of different breathing patterns on heart rate variability (HRV), a marker of autonomic nervous system activity. Two studies conducted by Bae et al. (2021) and Laborde et al. (2021) caught the essence of extended exhale breathing in action. The results echoed what yogis have been advocating for centuries – that a prolonged exhale duration correlates with heightened parasympathetic activity and increased HRV. Essentially, this means that individuals who exhale for a longer duration than they inhale exhibit greater signs of relaxation.


These are small studies that provide a scientific glimpse into the power of extended exhale breathing. Yet, the findings lend support to the claims rooted in ancient practices like yoga. The yoga community has long advocated for the benefits of conscious breathing techniques, and modern research is beginning to validate their wisdom.


So, how can you tap into this technique for your well-being? It's simple. During deep breathing exercises, pay attention to the length of your exhale. Aim to make it slightly longer than your inhale. You don't need a timer; just allow your breath to flow naturally, extending the exhale gently. As you do this, you're activating the parasympathetic nervous system, invoking a relaxation response. For those of you with muscle tension and pain-related issues like GPPPD, extended exhaling can be a useful strategy to assist with invoking a relaxation response prior to, and during, physical examinations or dilation therapy. Best of all - it’s a tool you can take with you wherever you go. You’ve got this!


(PS - Don't forget you can access our free eBook guide to managing physical examinations here ).




Bae, D., Matthews, J. J., Chen, J. J., & Mah, L. (2021). Increased exhalation to inhalation ratio during breathing enhances high‐frequency heart rate variability in healthy adults. Psychophysiology, 58(11), e13905.


Laborde, S., Iskra, M., Zammit, N., Borges, U., You, M., Sevoz-Couche, C., & Dosseville, F. (2021). Slow-paced breathing: Influence of inhalation/exhalation ratio and of respiratory pauses on cardiac vagal activity. Sustainability, 13(14), 7775.


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