“When all else fails, exhale”
A student of mine recently said this to me during a lesson. It resonated with me as it is such a simple and effective fallback plan for lots of situations.
If you are tense, anxious or nervous chances are that you are holding your breath at least a little bit. Letting the breathe out can help to release the tension and should kick start normally breathing.
Most people place more importance on breathing *in* as opposed to the breathing out. This is a mistake, the in breath and out breath are equally important parts of the same action. In fact if we want to change how we breath we are better off focusing on the out breath than the in because when the lungs are emptied an in breath is automatically triggered.
It is worth paying considering how you exhale. Ideally when we exhale our spine is still working to maintain uprightness. But most of the muscles of the torso (particularly around the ribs) can release and soften to allow breath to come out. Aim to keep this softness while allowing a full and natural in breath to come back in. The whole torso should expand a little with an in breath and contract a little with an out breath. Note that this doesn’t mean that the torso (or spine) needs to flex during an out breath or extend during an in breath (as is often done in breathing practices).
Most people will have habits around how they breathe that will require objective feedback and guidance from another person to help resolve. In the mean time, letting breath out will help.