For many students of yoga, the first breathing exercise learned is the Three Part Breath, known in Sanskrit as Dirga Swasam Pranayama. This relatively simple exercise encourages deeper movement of the chest muscles, acting as a counterpoint to the endless hours Westerners spend sitting, crossing their arms over their chest, and slumping forward at the keyboard (all of which restricts the motions associated with breathing.) You can practice the Three Part Breath from any position, in any place or time; it will help counteract anxiety and panic and further relaxation. Because of this, it’s a great technique to have in your repertoire. Feeling crazy at work? Head to a bathroom stall and take five minutes with Dirga Swasam Pranayama. You’ll be revitalized.
The mechanics of Three Part Breath are simple. Start by mentally dividing your torso into three horizontal bands. The first reaches up to your belly button and engages the diaphragm. The second area includes the intercostals around the ribcage. Finally, the third section involves your upper chest. Got it? Get into a stable position that you can hold for a few minutes, whether it b Sukhasana or perched on the rim of the toilet inside the stall. Then take a regular inhalation and exhalation. Follow that by directing your breath into each of the three bands. On an inhale, you’ll feel the breath in the belly first, followed by the ribcage, and lastly by the chest. On an exhale, you’ll reverse the process, exhaling from the chest first, then the ribcage, and finally by the belly. Repeat these inhalations and exhalations, keeping the rest of your body still. You get bonus points if you also slow down your breathing so that you are not panting but rather taking the time to ensure that each in-breath and out-breath is full and complete.
There is no need to force the breath here. Simply allow your body to fall into the tripartite rhythm, and release the desire to control the motions. By bringing your mind to the task, you are creating an instance of yoga: the joining of the body and the spirit. When you’re ready, take a regular inhale and exhale to release the cycle, and move on with your next indicated task.
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