In part one of this series we covered the importance of the breath in providing prana or vital energy to the physical and subtle layers of the body. Flowing through nadi’s or energy channels throughout the body and through energy centers known as chakra’s the quality of the breath sets the tone for the state of the mind and body. We learned that a when we have a regular pranayama practice we can enhance the quality and quantity of our breath, clear blocked energy channels and feel more balanced, calm, and focused.
In this series we cover three pranayama practices (Sama Vritti, Dirga Swasam, and Ujjayi) that can help balance, calm and focus the body and mind. In this installment we cover Dirga Swasam or complete breath for calming the body and mind.
Three Part Breathing for Calming
Three part breathing (called ‘Dirga Swasam’ in yoga. ‘Dirga’ has several meanings, including, slow, deep, long, and complete. ‘Swasam’ refers to the breath). Therefore, this practice is sometimes also referred to as “Complete Breath”. This breathing exercise increases breath awareness, lung capacity, and oxygen intake and is often done while seated in a comfortable, cross-legged position, but it is also nice to do while lying on the back, particularly at the beginning of your practice. When you are lying down, you can really feel the breath moving through your body as it makes contact with the floor. Practice this breathing technique at night before bed or anytime there is a need to calm the body and mind.
- Come to lie down on the back with the eyes closed, relaxing the face and the body.
- Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted gently and without judgment bring your attention back to the inhales and the exhales.
- Then begin to inhale deeply through the nose. On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon. On each exhale, release all the air out from the belly through your nose. Draw the navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is empty of air. Repeat this deep belly breathing for about five breaths.
- On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air as described above. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage causing the ribs to widen apart. On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and them from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine. Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths.
- On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air as described above. Then draw in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart to expand and to rise. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart center to sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together. Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine. Continue for about 10 breaths.
In the next installment of Breathing Practices that Bring Balance, Calm and Focus to the Body and Mind, Part 3 we will cover the Ujyyi or Victory breath for achieving focus.