Dirgha Pranayama – The Three Part Breath

Other names: The Three Part Breath, The Full Yogic Breath, The Complete Breath.

We can go without food for weeks, and we can go without water for days, but without oxygen, we are dead within minutes.

When we breath normally, most of us use a very small portion of our lungs, which is why we tire easily, tend to feel physically and mentally weak and it is why we are so prone to dis-eases.
Dirgha Pranayama revitalizes the entire body with Prana (Life Force) so it is a great breathing exercise to begin and end the day with.

Don’t use this Pranayama right before bedtime because can be difficult to fall asleep when the  body is full of energy.

The technique
• Sit in your preferred asana such as Padmasana (the Full Lotus posture), Vajrasana (the Diamond Pose) or lie down in Savasana (the Corpse Pose). Alternatively you can sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and your head bent slightly forward with the chin tucked in.
• Close your eyes and take a moment to observe your breath. The very act of observation may cause you begin breathing consciously.

•  [Part 1] Place your hands on your lower abdomen and inhale slowly. Feel the abdomen inflate like a balloon. As you perform this inhalation, the lower section of the lungs is being filled with air.
• As you exhale, draw your belly button in towards the spine, gently squeezing the air out.

• [Part 2] Place your hands on your ribs and inhale. Expand the belly again, but this time continue inhaling until you feel the rib cage expand. This fills the first and second sections of the lungs.
•Exhale slowly from the ribs.

• [Part 3] Place your hands on your upper chest. Inhale as in part 2, but keep on inhaling until your chest expands all the way up to your collar bone. This fills the upper section of the lungs.
• Exhale slowly from the chest.

Practice these three parts separately until you are confident that you are doing them correctly, then put them all together as one continuous, Complete Breath. Hold any mudra you desire. The Jnana and Adhi Mudras are perfect for use with this Pranayam.

• This Pranayama brings your awareness to the present moment.
• It increases the capacity of the lungs.
• The entire respiratory system is strengthened.
• Oxygen flow to the muscles is increased.
• Toxins are removed from the blood.
• It is very relaxing and grounding.

• Practice Dirgha Pranayama subtly throughout the day so that eventually you will begin to  breath passively in a proper manner.

• The instructions I give above include the most popular technique for the exhalation procedure. However, another version – which I prefer is to exhale from the belly first, then the ribs, then finally the chest. It feels more natural to me and I feel as though I’m really squeezing all the air out.


Active Versus Passive Mudras

I have been using mudras as a form of healing for many years, and during that time I have noticed that placing the pad of my thumb against the fingernail(s) rather than the tip of the finger(s) feels much more intense, so I became curious.

After researching I have found out that whenever the thumb pad is placed against the fingernail(s) in any mudra, it is the active version of the gesture – it activates the energies of that particular mudra with more intensity than the passive version. The passive version of mudras is for the actual usage of the energy during calm meditation and other less active situations such sitting on public transport.

The Active Gyan Mudra

The active Gyan/Jnana Mudra should be used during powerful breathing practices such as the Agni Sara Pranayama (the Breath of Fire). In my experience, the active version of the Gyan Mudra is even more powerful when the fingernail of the index finger is pressed into the first thumb joint, rather than just placing the thumb pad against the index fingernail.

Gyan/Jnana Mudra (active version)
Active Gyan/Jnana Mudra

The Active Pran Mudra

When using the Pran Mudra with both hands, placing the thumb pad against the ring and little fingernails activates the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The hemispheres function equally and in perfect harmony with each other. My experience again has shown me that gently pressing the fingernails of the ring and little finger into the first thumbnail joint makes the active Pran Mudra even more powerful.

Active Pran Mudra
Active Pran Mudra

Experiment with these variations. I would love to know about your mudra experiences.