Dirga Pranayama is one of the first techniques of yogic breathing. is often referred to as complete breath. Dirga has several meanings – “slow,” “deep,” “long,” and “complete
The “three parts” are the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow.
When practiced correctly, Dirga Pranayama will invigorate and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. Be careful never to force the breath or to breathe too deeply. It’s important for your lungs to feel comfortably full, but not strained. Let your breath be easy and smooth. If your breath becomes strained or you start to feel dizzy or anxious, stop the exercise and let your normal breathing pattern return.
Benefits of Dirga Pranayama
Dirga is calming and soothing during times of stress and anxiety. Once you are very comfortable with this practice, you can slowly begin to modify it. To further invigorate the mind, body, and spirit, begin to make your inhalations and exhalations the same length. For example, inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five. Once you are very comfortable with that variation and have no dizziness or shortness of breath, you can gradually increase the length of your exhalations until they are twice as long as your inhalations. For example, inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of ten.
Practicing Dirga Pranayama teaches you to breathe fully and completely. Ineffective breathing is a common problem in today’s modern world, compounded by poor posture and long periods of sitting or driving. When you breathe shallowly (called “chest breathing”), the air only enters your upper chest and very little enters your lower chest. This causes a lack of oxygen to your blood vessels, which can create strain on your heart and lungs.
Learning to breathe deeply will increase your oxygen supply, you can inhale and exhale up to seven times as much air (and oxygen and prana) during a three-part breath than in a shallow, chest-based breath. This technique is particularly beneficial in everyday life because it requires no special sound or position to achieve a grounded and relaxed state of awareness. It can bring peace, balance, and overall wellness to your life.
As with all breathing exercises, always approach the practice with caution, especially if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or emphysema. Never attempt any pranayama for the first time without the guidance of a qualified and knowledgeable teacher. Stop the exercise if you become faint or dizzy. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Begin the practice by settling into any comfortable position that does not compress the abdomen and allows for a straight back, seated or lying down.
Place your left hand on your low abdomen, a few inches below your belly button, and place your right hand on your ribs. Focus your awareness on your breath as it moves in and out of your body through your nose.
On your inhalations, feel the natural lift of your belly, followed by the expansion of your ribs.
On your exhalations, feel the slight compression of your ribs, followed by the drop of your belly. Exhale completely, pressing very gently on your abdomen to help expel air.
Next, bring your left hand to your chest, placing it in the center, just below your collarbone.
As you inhale, breathe all the way into this area and allow your chest to rise slightly. Then, exhale completely.
As you continue to breathe, keep your awareness on this three-part movement. As you inhale, your belly lifts, your ribs expand, and your chest rises. As you exhale, your chest drops, your ribs contract, and your belly softens and lowers.
Continue at your own pace, gradually letting the three parts of the breath flow smoothly without pausing.
Release your arms and focus your mind on your breath, continuing the three-part breath with full and complete inhalations and exhalations.
Continue for up to five minutes, or for as long as you feel comfortable.