Came upon this quote today (above) as I was listening to Atlas of the Heart written and read by Brene Brown (worth the read; audible version is amazing!) and felt validated! I sent the quote to my partner and said, “This is why I sigh!”
Throughout my adult life, I have been a “sigher.” Whenever I would experience emotional dysregulation, I would often hold my breath and then release an audible sigh. My partner will often ask, “Why are you sighing?” Before I started meditating, I found it difficult to explain why I was sighing. I just sighed. I did not realize how my body was caring for itself.
Now that I have been cultivating a keener awareness of my body, I notice how sighing releases tension in my belly or chest and the nagging thoughts in the mind. I notice when I am holding my breath and let it out. The relief experienced as the sigh occurs and ends is a moment of presence and calm. There’s no wonder I sighed so much! Now that I am aware of this effect, I use the sigh consciously to regulate my emotional and physical response to stressful and difficult experiences.
When I guide meditation, I invite practitioners to take 3 deep, nourishing and conscious breaths – in through nose, drawing the air all the way down into the belly, and exhaling out like a deep sigh. I start every meditation this way.
I have begun to encourage practitioners to use an audible or vocal exhale, to feel the vibration of the exhale, to give sound to the energy being released. This brings awareness to the emotional residue in need of clearing. Sighing vocally is not only a reset for the body, but a an act of self-care.
I sometimes add the shaking out of the arms or torso as I exhale. The physical release of energy helps regulate the activated nervous system; it helps complete the stress cycle (click to listen to brief explanation from the authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle).
Below is a brief guide to take you through this experience. You can use it anytime you need to reset the body, need to complete the stress cycle, or just need some relief. It is also a beneficial way to settle the mind and body at the beginning of a meditation.