Three-Part Breath - Dirga Pranayama

How to Do Dirga Pranayama (Three-Part Breath)
Three-Part Breath Can Be Done Sitting Up or Lying Down. Ron Krisel/Photodisc/Getty Images

Dirga pranayama or three-part breath is one of the most calming, grounding breathing exercises you can do. It really works to help focus your attention on the present moment and get in tune with the sensations of your physical body. For these reasons, it's often taught at the beginning of yoga classes as a way to transition students from their workaday lives into the time they have set aside for yoga.

If you practice at home, it can work the same way. Do this pranayama when you first get on your mat to shake off your day and prepare yourself to practice. 

While this breath is often done while seated in a comfortable, cross-legged position, it is also very nice to do it while lying on the back, particularly at the start of your practice. When you are lying down, you can really feel the breath moving through your body as it makes contact with the floor.

Instructions:

1. Come to lie down on your back with the eyes closed, relaxing your face and your body. You can keep the legs outstretched or bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to your mat if that's more comfortable. If you bend your knees, let them rest upon each other.

2. Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted by the activity in your mind, try not to engage in the thoughts.

Just notice them and then let them go, bringing your attention back to the inhales and the exhales.

3. Then begin to inhale and exhale deeply through the nose.

4. On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon.

5. On each exhale, expel all the air out from the belly through your nose.

Draw your navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is empty of air.

6. Repeat this deep belly breathing for about five breaths. This is part one.

7. On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air as described above. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage causing the ribs to widen apart.

8. On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and then from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

9. Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths. This is part two.

10. On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air as described above. Then sip in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart (which is called the heart center in yoga), expand and rise.

11. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart center sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together.

Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

12. You are practicing three-part breath! Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three parts of the breath happen smoothly without pausing.

13. Continue for about 10 breaths.

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