Duration of inhale vs. exhale


The ration between the time of inhaling and the time of exhaling, is an important factor, when it comes to breathing. With this ration it is possible to achieve either relaxation or stimulation.

When inhaling, acceleration on the heartbeat occurs. When exhaling the heart slows down. Exhaling is the passive, effortless part of the breathing, Inhaling is the active part, the part that requires muscle power and an effort. On the inhale ‘fight or flight’ becomes dominant and on the exhale ‘rest and digest’ becomes dominant.

For most people, the exhaling part of breathing is the relaxing part. By prolonging the time of exhaling time compared to the time of inhaling, the period of ‘rest and digest’ becomes longer, compared to ‘fight or flight’ and the cumulative result is relaxation.

The duration of the exhale, may be prolonged by a ratio of 1.5, 2 or even 2.5 time the duration of the inhale. Different people relax from different breathing ratios. It is worthwhile experimenting and finding a personal ratio that relaxes.

Examples of ratios: 2:3, 2:4, 2:5, 3:4 3:5 3:6 3:7 etc.

When engaging in a mild activity, inhaling and exhaling duration is about the same.
When in ‘fight or flight’, muscles are used intensively and instinctively the duration of inhaling gets longer than the duration of the exhaling.
When relaxing deeply, at extreme ‘rest and digest’, the duration of the exhaling gets longer than the duration of the inhaling.

Breathing that stimulates is asymmetric breathing, where the duration of the inhale, is longer than the duration of the exhale.
Breathing that relaxes is asymmetric breathing, where the duration of the exhale, is longer than the duration of the inhale.

The body interprets longer exhaling duration compared to inhaling duration, as a signal that there is no danger around. Asymmetric breathing, can be used to either relax or excite.  It is individual and the best way to go about it, is to experiment.

It is also possible to invert the breathing. By prolonging the inhale stimulation occurs. Taking a slow inhale and an abrupt exhale, has an ‘awaking effect’ for some people. It is useful in situations such as night shifts or when feeling drowsy, while driving.

Breathing affects the emotions and the emotions are affected by the breathing. It is bidirectional.