Terre Pruitt's Blog

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Three Part Breath

Posted by terrepruitt on March 12, 2018

There are eight different limbs to yoga. The poses or asana is just one of them. That is probably the one you are familiar with, the poses. Modern Western yoga is primarily about the poses. When you hear yoga, you more than likely think of an exercise where people bend and stretch. Well, as I mentioned there are eight limbs to yoga, meaning there is a lot more to yoga than just the poses. I often compare yoga and Nia because there is a lot more to Nia than just the dance exercise. A lot of what we do in Nia or the way we approach dancing and exercising can be applied to everyday life – and that is just like yoga. One of the limbs or aspects of yoga is Pranayama. Prana = Life Force Yama = Practice / control / restrain. Pranayama is controlling your breath.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, Nia Technique, SJ City Fit, SJCityFitThere are many types or ways of doing Pranayama. There are also many schools of thought when it comes to it. Some think you shouldn’t do it until you have mastered the asana . . . but then for many of us, that would mean never doing it . . . or doing it very late in life. Some say it must be done in a seated position. Some say not to do it while in Shavasana. Some say each Pranayama has its place.  Some say you can jsut do it whenever.  Some say Pranayama is a silly practice.

For those that think it is silly I would just like to point out that controlling one’s breath is a very common technique for many things. Sometimes we take a deep breath before we are about to say something important or difficult. We might take a deep breath when our thoughts are racing and we want to calm them down. We might take a deep breath when we are excited and need to calm down. We might do a bit of a pant when we are experiencing pain. There are many common breathing techniques that pretty much most of have participated in. So Pranayama should really be too far out there for people to accept. Doesn’t mean everyone has to do it, but I feel it means pretty much everyone could agree that there is merit to it.

The ones that I have previously posted about: Samavrtti (Equal Breath), Ujjayi (Victorious Breath), and Sitali (Cooling Breath), I feel that I can do. The one I am posting about now is not one that I can do. It is very difficult for me. I can get part of it but not all of it. I am talking about Dirgha or 3 Part Breath.

With the Dirgha Pranayama you breathe into your torso in three parts. I was taught that you practice this Pranayama lying down. First you inhale, gently expanding the belly, as you continue to inhale you expand the ribs, allowing them to open up to the sides, then complete the inhale by expanding the upper chest, lifting it. To complete the breath you exhale starting with the upper chest — don’t let the ribs or the belly move — then exhale from the ribs allow the rib cage to shrink, then finish the breath by emptying the belly area allowing it to deflate. Repeat this process with a smooth and relaxed breath. So the breath is not done in three parts, but the breath is brought into three different areas one at a time.

It is an extreme challenge for me to separate each area on the exhale. One technique that can help with the separate or at least give you a visual as to the separate areas is to place something on each area. Yoga sandbags are the perfect tool. Something with a little weight seems to help for me. But a towel or whatever can lay across each area and indicate movement is great.

Pranayama is practiced – just giving a few – to help improve lung function, to steady the mind (when the breath is steady the mind is steady), and to relax the body and mind. So, if you want to achieve any of these, then you might want to try the Dirgha Pranayama.

When you read it, did you try it? How did you do?

4 Responses to “Three Part Breath”

  1. I found it hard to fill my stomach first then the chest. It seems like it has to go through the chest to get to the stomach. I am not sure I did it right, but it is interesting way to control one’s breath. I’ll look for Iyengar’s book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it has to GO through the top (chest, down to ribs) to get to the belly area . . . but the chest and ribs don’t have to inflate. So, the idea is to inhale but let the belly inflate, then the ribs, then the chest. Yeah, it is not easy for most of us. For most of us it is definitely one of those things that has to be practiced. 🙂

      Light on Pranayama has a lot information and instructions on Pranayama. I do not see Dirgha Pranayama as one of them. He does describe the filling up the lungs from the bottom to the top as a “Technique for Inhalation”, but he does not talk about Dirgha that I see.

      Thanks for trying the Pranayama and sharing your experience!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. cheryl said

    Hi Terre, informative post and I tried it. I
    am going to use this with JT when I help him with his homework. I think the breathing will help us slow down and clear our minds!

    BTW-the Cat Show was very interesting. They
    had it at the fairgrounds and people who went
    got to vote for their favorite cat. I voted for this sweet little 4 month old kitten with very dark brown hair that was super soft and big sweet
    eyes. So cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Yup, I think that is one of the main goals of Pranayama. Samavrtti (Equal Breath) and Ujjayi (Victorious Breath) are good for helping one focus. But then, Dirgha is such a challenge for me . . . my mind gets totally clear just trying to do it correctly.

      I would have gotten CUTE-OVERLOAD at the cat show!


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