“Nothing can so pierce the soul as the uttermost sigh of the body.” ~ George Santayana
During a yoga class, a teacher said, “The body loves a good sigh.”
I did a big sigh and realized she was absolutely, 100% correct. I felt pretty good after that sigh.
When a yogi sighs in class, I can almost see the stress drain away from their body. They look a little lighter. And when I sigh in class, I, too, feel lighter.
When I’m teaching, I can always tell the pro yogis because they sigh. And those pro yogis aren’t always the ones getting into advanced poses. To me, pro yoga means that person gets the whole enchilada when it comes to yoga. They aren’t just there for exercise, or because they’ve been told it is a good thing to do for the body. Pro yogis understand they are there to release and heal.
And here’s the other important part. When these pro yogi’s sigh in class, it isn’t a quiet, dainty sigh. It is a sigh that starts as a huge inhale from the lungs and then asks the gut, “Hey, you want in on this action?” The sigh then releases as a full-throat, loud primal sound.
All of this led me to ask, Why do we sigh?
Turns out, sighing is vital to the proper functioning to our body. Essentially, it is a reset for a lungs. When you are breathing normally for a while, eventually you will sigh. Just before you sigh, your breath becomes irregular. This is the alveoli collapsing. The alveoli are the tiny air sacks that fill up your lungs. Sighing keeps the alveoli from collapsing. It’s a big breath that fills up the aveoli with extra air, creating a reset for your lungs. After the sigh, your breathing is regular again. Turns out, we need to do this sighing lung reset around every 5 minutes to keep our lungs functioning properly. Who knew?!
Furthermore, there is an emotional connection to sighing. Scientists have learned that breathing patterns are related to emotions. It is believed that sighing is connected with the emotion of relief. Because of this, the mind uses sighing for both positive and negative emotions.
For example, you may sigh when you sit down after a long day of being on your feet. We will often sigh after a good long laugh. On the other end of the spectrum, you may automatically sigh when you are stressed. This is your mind attempting to create relief.
Furthermore, forcing a sigh can help create relief. In a past blog, I talked about the power of smiling. By putting a smile on our face, you shift your energy and release chemicals that can lighten your mood. The same is true for sighing. Making yourself sigh when you are nervous or upset can help you feel relief.
So, it makes total sense that sighing during yoga class is a form of release.
This idea of sighing also makes sense when you think about how powerful breath is in general. (Check out my previous blog on the power of breath.) I’m always telling my meditation class that by simply taking three deep breaths, you are able to shift your energy to a calmer place, a more grounded place.
Sighing isn’t much different than a deep breath. Then add some vocals to that deep breath, and you’ve got one heck of a powerful sigh!
So, in the future, think of sighing as a super power. When you are happy, sigh and soak it in. When you are stressed, sigh and release it. When you are uncomfortable, nervous, or angry, give a big sigh a try. And when you are filled with joy, sigh with gratitude for your abundance.
Give yourself a sigh, my friends. It’s like giving yourself a hug.
“Did you ever observe that immoderate laughter always ends in a sigh?” ~ Leigh Hunt
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