A three-part breath is a form of breathing that comes to us from yoga. It’s a way of uniting the breath, body, and mind to help us forget the past and future and keep us in the present moment and ground our bodies.
Of all the yoga breathing techniques, the three-part breath is one of the easiest to do, yet it is also the most helpful. Beginners, advanced practitioners, and even those who have never touched a yoga mat can benefit from this technique!
What Is Three-Part Breathing?
Three-part breath is known as Dirgha Pranayama in the ancient Sanskrit language, and it means “control of breath.” It is a diaphragmatic breath that includes a deeper inhale and a more complete exhale using the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest – the three parts of the “three-part breath.” This technique gives the lungs more space to expand, increasing the oxygen supply in the bloodstream and allowing for more nourishment to reach your body’s cells.
Over time, the three-part breath will improve even your unconscious breathing. It strengthens the diaphragm and surrounding abdominal muscles, and consistent practice will develop muscle memory. This will help you to take fuller, more complete breaths always, not just when you’re thinking about it.
How To Do The Three-Part Breath
The three-part breath is easy to learn and requires no special talents. Start the process by closing your eyes, relaxing your body, and breathing through the nose. When your breath is flowing easily and naturally, place both your hands on your stomach just below your belly button. Take note of the natural movements as you breathe in and out.
Next, deepen the breath toward the pit of the belly, expanding right down into the lower abdomen. Your hand should feel the belly inflate like a balloon when you breathe in and soften towards the spine when you breathe out. Continue doing this for five deep breaths.
In the next step, slip your left hand to the outer left edge of the ribcage, keeping your right hand on the belly. Breathe down into the belly as before, and then expand up into the ribs. As you inhale, the belly will expand before the ribs; when you exhale, the ribs will soften before the belly. Continue doing this for five breaths.
Next, slide the left hand up to the centre of the chest just below the collarbones. Once again, take a deep inhale down into the belly and expand into the ribs, but this time send the breath up to the chest. Continue doing this for five breaths. It helps to see your breath in three segments. When inhaling, the breath goes bottom-up from the belly, ribs, chest; when exhaling, it goes from chest to ribs to belly.
The three-part breath can be done by anyone, young or old. The younger the better, because when learned early, this form of breathing can set up good habits that last a lifetime.
Why Do The Three-Part Breath Outside Of Yoga?
The three-part breath is important because inefficient breathing and shallow chest breathing is a major problem in our modern world. The problem is made worse by poor posture and the stresses of contemporary living. Most people have developed an unhealthy pattern breathing from childhood, and these bad patterns mean very little air reaches the lower chest. The blood vessels and cells, in turn, do not receive enough oxygen, and the shallow breathing puts a strain on all the systems of your body.
Shallow breathing from the upper chest also makes the diaphragm weak. This is the muscular divide between the abdominal and thoracic cavities, and it creates enough space for the lungs. By strengthening these areas, the three-part breath improves the function of your cardiovascular system and lungs while creating a feeling of relaxation. It will also help your spirit feel more grounded and present, improving meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practices!