three part breathBy Azahar Aguilar

Dirgha Pranayama, or three-part breath, is a helpful tool to calm the mind and focus on the present moment. Your breath travels first from your lower body near your abdomen, to allow your belly to completely fill. The second area is your sternum, which allows your chest and lungs to expand and open. The final space is in your upper chest, to lift and lengthen the area near your collarbone and shoulders.

By the end of this breath energy practice, you will feel relaxed and focused. Your spine will feel tall, lengthened and expanded. You spread oxygen throughout your body for improved blood circulation and clarity of mind, lift shallow breathers, breaks up those with irregular breath patterns, and improves digestion.

Use this practice while lying down or sitting tall in a comfortable seated position. When lying down you have the option to put your hand over your belly to feel it lift and rise, and one hand over the chest to do the same later in the process.

  1. Close your eyes, and allow your mind to settle only on your breath. Focus on your inhales and exhales for a few moments. If your mind begins to wander, slowly draw it back to your breath. Feel your spine lift and elongate, and draw your attention to the three areas in your body in this pranayama process – the belly, the sternum and the chest.
  1. Place your attention on your belly. On the next breath, take a big inhale through your nose. Push your belly button slowly out, away from your body, and allow your stomach to completely fill. Press it out, and imagine your belly is a balloon filling with air, slowly growing larger.
  1. Exhale through your nose, and allow the belly to collapse as you draw the air out. Imagine your belly button pulls in towards your spine, pressing every last drop of air out of your stomach.
  1. Make sure your belly is completely empty of air. Repeat this process for five full inhales and exhales.
  1. On your next breath, inhale fully as before, but at the top of the inhale, expand your rib cage and take in another inhale. Feel your breath lift your lungs and heart forward, and imagine this inhale as a two part process.
  1. During the exhale; press the air out of your sternum first. Allow your lungs to deflate, slowly allowing your exhale to move down into your belly. Make sure all the air squeezes out of your belly at the end of the exhale.
  1. Repeat this process for five full inhales and exhales.
  1. On your next breath, inhale fully into your belly as in the first breath pattern. At the top of your full breath, take another and allow your chest to fill, all the way up into your collarbones. Feel your chest lift with this extra inhale and open all the way from shoulder to shoulder.
  1. On the exhale, press the air out of the top of your chest and collar bone area first, then move it down into the sternum, finally to exit out of the belly at the end of the breath. Feel the path of the breath as it travels from the top to the bottom, completely and fully.
  1. Repeat this process for five full inhales and exhales.

It is often easy to forget about breath, and take it for granted. Focus and concentration on the breath in this pranayama process can lead to full appreciation and mindfulness.

Enjoy the Dirgha Pranayama; practice all the way through the three-part process.   Use this breath pattern to calm your mind, or even in preparation for meditation.

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