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Deep Three-part Yogic Breathing

In an earlier post, we talked about the deep sectional breathing sequence. In the sectional breathing, we try to engage three different areas  – top, middle and bottom – of the lungs in a deep breathing pattern. In the deep, full yogic breathing we combine the three sectional breaths into one single breath involving  deep inhalation and exhalation. For each inhalation and exhalation, we use deep and soft Ujjayi breaths. We also employ the movement of the arms synchronized with the flow of breath. This helps deepen our awareness of the breathing cycle and how the breathing is impacting different parts of the lungs.

Duration of each inhalation and exhalation depends upon individual capacity. This capacity will improve over time with constant practice. Over a period of time, try to develop a ration of 1:2 between the durations of inhalation and exhalation.

Step-by-step

  • Sit in any comfortable cross-legged posture, keeping the spine upright, eyes closed, and arms and shoulders relaxed.
  • Start with an inhalation bringing the awareness to the abdomen. Stretch the arms straight and bring the hands at knee level, slightly in front of the knees. Consciously make a gentle effort to push the diaphragm down so the belly can fill up like a balloon.
  • Continue deep inhalation and shift the awareness to the chest area. Expand the chest and the ribcage, filling the middle part of the lungs with air. At the same time move the arms upwards, synchronizing with the breath and bring the hands at the level of the chest.
  • Continue the inhalation and bring the awareness to the clavicle area lifting the collar bones upward. Along with the breath, move the hands upward and bring them in line with the shoulders.
  • At the end of inhalation, take a momentary pause and begin the exhalation cycle proceeding in the reverse direction.
  • Bring the awareness to the clavicle area and soften the collar bones.
  • Shift the awareness to the chest area and soften the ribcage. At the same time, lower the arms in line with the chest.
  • Continue to exhale and bring the awareness to the abdomen area. Allow the navel to be drawn in toward the spine as you approach the end of exhalation. Synchronize the movement of the arm with the downward moving breath. At the end of exhalation, bring the hands back in line with the knees.
  • That completes one breathing cycle. At the end of the exhalation, take a momentary pause and begin the next breathing cycle.
  • Continue for about 4-6 breathing cycles. At the end of the last cycle, keep the eyes closed and relax for a few breaths.

Benefits

  • In this deep, three-part breathing, we engage the entire capacity of the lungs in the breathing cycle. It is estimated that we may be able to bring in as much as seven times more oxygen into the system than in normal, shallow breathing.
  • More oxygen implies that more oxygenated blood is available for circulation to all the cells of the body.
  • At the cells, due to the gas exchange, we are able to get rid of more carbon dioxide from the system.
  • Thus, deep breathing brings in more prana (life force), energy and vitality with each inhalation while providing deeper cleansing and purification with each exhalation.
  • Deep breathing calms the nerves down and reduces stress levels. We have all heard the term, "take a deep breath!" when one is agitated or angry.
  • In recent studies (see this research report, for example), deep breathing has been used to reduce blood pressure levels.
  • Conscious deep breathing brings us back into the present moment.

Contraindications

None! If you can breathe, you can practice deep, three-part breathing and derive all the benefits mentioned above.

7 comments to Deep Three-part Yogic Breathing

  • Respected Shri Subhashji,

    The above Deep Three-part Yogic Breathing is quite descriptive. May I request you to kindly put it in picture step-by-step. As I am very keen and wish to do this pranayam as per your guidelines.

    Regards,

    Ramani NK

    • Dear Ramani,
      You may want to follow this article on sectional breathing. In this post I have shown the various movement with pictures. The article on deep three-part breathing combines the elements of sectional breathing and should be easy to follow once you are familiar with sectional breathing. Hope this helps.

  • Respected Shri Subhashji

    Can this Deep Three-part Yogic Breathing be practiced in any time of the day i.e. empty stomach after 3 – 4 hours of heavy meals.

    Please advice. I some do this this even in the office whenever I get time. Is it correct ?

    Regards,

    Ramani

  • Indeed, Ramani, it is OK to do the pranayama practices any time the stomach is relatively empty. A gap of 3-4 hours after meals, as you suggested, is a good guideline.
    subhash

  • jennie

    Dear Subhash,
    I learned Deep Three-Part Breathing at the Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana in 2003/4 in their Yoga Teacher Training and in the 6-month Yoga Therapy Programme… we learned there that the full yogic breath should be inhale (abdomen>thoracic>clavicular) as you teach, but that the exhale should be practiced in the same order as the inhalation. The explanation of this is based on the movement created when vocalizing the “AUM” (A-kara; U-kara; Ma-kara). I have been teaching this technique to my students. I do see that there are other teachers who do it in the reverse way. My question is, what is the reasoning for exhaling from the top of the lungs to the bottom – wouldn’t the contraction of the lungs from the bottom to the top be more efficient to press out the air rather than pressing out from the top? I want to understand and teach responsibly, so I would very much appreciate your explanation (this website is a wonderful public service and thank you very much for it). Namaste, Jennie

    • Hello Jennie,
      First of all I would like to thank you for visiting the blog. I am so glad that you found the information useful.
      I really cannot comment on the breathing pattern that you learned at the VYAS institute. This is obviously the opposite of what I have learned and practiced all these years. You may need to go back to your teachers to learn about the rationale behind it. I would love to learn the reason myself. The way I was explained this practice is to view it like filling a bottle with water. The filling starts out from the bottom of the bottle. When you want to empty the bottle, it starts from the top. For me it is very natural to pull the belly in at the end of exhalation. This is the same technique that has been described in the books from the Bihar School of Yoga. Let me know what you find out.

  • Respected Subhashji

    It is simply supurb. I have no words to express.

    Ramani