Dirga Pranayama

The 3 part breath or complete breath is nourishing, calming and relaxing.

Dirga Pranayama is called the three part breath because you are actively breathing into three parts of your abdomen. The first position is the low belly (on top of or just below the belly button), the second position is the low chest (lower half of the rib cage), and the third position is the low throat (just above the top of the sternum). The breath is continuous, inhaled and exhaled through the nose. The inhalation starts in the first position, the low belly; then moves to the second position, the low chest; then to the third position, the low throat. The exhalation starts in the low throat, moves to the low chest, and finishes in the low belly.Rest your hands on the individual positions to feel the breath rising and falling through each position. When you start practicing, you may want to individually isolate the movement in each position, using the hands. When you have a good feel for the breath moving in and out of each position, practice without the hands. Eventually relax the effort of the Pranayama and breathe into the three positions gently, feeling a wave of breath move up and down the torso. Dirga Pranayama is a powerful breathing exercise which helps practitioners to bring their breathing to perfection. It helps people to breathe in a way that the air reaches the abdomen and oxygen-rich blood circulate throughout the whole body.


Deep breathing will help oxygenate your blood, nourishing your entire body. When you are under stress, your breath may be quick and shallow. Intentional breathing as in this practice will help calm you. Greater oxygen flow to the brain will help you become more focused and alert. This technique is taught to relieve stress and even to address panic attacks.2 You can use it throughout the day whenever you are feeling tension.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will need an area where you can lay out your mat. While this breath is often done while seated in a comfortable, cross-legged position, it is also very nice to do it while lying on the back, particularly at the start 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.

  1. Come to lie down on your back with the eyes closed, relaxing your face and your body. You can keep the legs outstretched or bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to your mat if that's more comfortable. If you bend your knees, let them rest against each other.

  2. Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted by the activity in your mind, try not to engage in the thoughts. Just notice them and then let them go, bringing your attention back to the inhales and the exhales.

  3. Begin to inhale and exhale deeply through the nose.

  4. On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon.

  5. On each exhale, expel all the air out from the belly through your nose. Draw your navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is empty of air.

  6. Repeat this deep belly breathing for about five breaths. This is part one.

  7. On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air. 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.

  8. On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and then from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

  9. Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths. This is part two.

  10. On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air. Then sip 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 (which is called the heart center in yoga), expand and rise.

  11. 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.

  12. Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three parts of the breath happen smoothly without pausing.

  13. Continue for about 10 breaths.

Video Demonstration & How to Practice It