Three-Part Breath - Dirga Pranayama Explained
People say, if you can breathe, you can do Yoga. There is an element of truth in that saying. Pranayama (breath control or breath exercise) is part of the eight limbs of Yoga (read more about this in the blog: the real purpose of Yoga). Practicing Pranayama is believed to help purity and regulate the vital energy force prana (or ‘chi’ in Chinese) within us.
Breathing seems to be the most common activity we do, to the point that we are not aware that we are breathing most of the time. However, breathing is not only vital for our survival - as long as we breathe, we live, it also contains the access and essence to our well-being.
Breath is connected with our mind, body and spirit. When we feel stressed or scared, our breath naturally becomes shallow and short-paced. This makes it less effective for our body to take in enough oxygen, release them into the bloodstream and to transport the oxygen throughout our body. This inefficiency could result in us being involved in anaerobic activities, which ends up adding more strains to the body, especially heart and lungs. And the reverse is also true. By inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly, we could activate our parasympathetic system, which helps us calm down and relax.
In this blog, I would like to introduce one of my favourite breathing exercises: three-part breath (or full yogic breath). It is often the first Pranayama taught to yoga practitioners.
Oxygenates blood and nourishes the entire body
Calms mind and body
Reduces stress and tension
Helps keep the lungs healthy
Helps become more focused and clear-minded
Prepare for deeper meditations
The three-part refers to the abdomen, diaphragm and chest.
Rest into an upright comfortable seated position. Place one palm on top of the belly, the other on top of the chest. Mindfully take in a deep breath, feel the expansion of the belly, lower ribs and upper chest. Then reverse the flow at the exhale, feel the contraction of the upper chest, lower ribs and belly.
By bringing the awareness to the rise and fall of the body, you bring your awareness to the present moment.
The priority of the seated position for Pranayama or meditations is comfort and space.
If the hips are lower than the knees after being seated, it is recommended to sit on a yoga block or a cushion, to elevate the hips. This allows the upper body to be erected more effortlessly and it also provides space in front of the belly for the breathing exercise.
A note of caution:
It is recommended to practice Pranayama with an empty stomach, or 2-3 hours after a meal. Do not start a breathing practice if you experience shortness of breath, asthma or have a heart condition.
Let us know how you get on in the comments.
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