Yogic breathing (or 3 part breathing) combines abdominal breathing, thoracic breathing (chest) and clavicular (lower throat) breathing. In class I call it the ‘3 part breath’ – it can also be call the ‘Complete’ breath – but of all the names I like ‘3 part’ because it reminds me of the 3 stages.
This breathing exercise is used to maximise inhalation and exhalation. Its purpose is to gain control of the breath, correct poor breathing habits and increase oxygen intake. It is a worthwhile practice to do every day as the body takes a long time to make corrections and needs continuous effort. With most of us leading a sedentary (seated) lifestyle plus the pressure of gravity upon us the 3 part breath helps us to avoid a slouching posture.
You can practice at any time and it’s especially useful in situations of high stress or anger for calming the nerves. However, while its inclusion in a daily yoga programme will correct and deepen natural breathing patterns, yogic breathing itself should not be performed continuously.
Yogic (3 Part) Breathing
Sit in a comfortable seated posture with the spine upright or lay in semi supine.
Relax the whole body, begin to watch your natural breath.
Inhale slowly and deeply, allowing the abdomen to expand fully.
Try to breathe so slowly that little or no sound of the breath can be heard.
Feel the air reaching into the bottom of the lungs.
At the end of the abdominal expansion, start to expand the chest outward and upward.
When the ribs are fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs and around the base of the neck. The shoulders and collar bone should also move up slightly. Some tension will be felt in the neck muscles – but no strain.
The rest of the body should be relaxed.
Feel the air filling up the upper lobes of the lungs.
This completes the inhalation.
The whole process should be one continuous movement, each phase of breathing merging into the next without any obvious transition point. There should be no jerks or unnecessary strain. The breathing should be like the swell of the sea.
Now begin to exhale.
First relax the lower neck and upper chest, then allow the chest to contract downward and then inward.
Next, allow the diaphragm to push upward and toward the chest.
Without straining, try to empty the lungs as much as possible by drawing or pulling the abdominal wall as near as possible to the spine.
The entire movement should be harmonious and flowing. Hold the breath for a few seconds at the end of exhalation. The breath should flow naturally in and out of the nose and not be at all forced.
This completes one round of yogic breathing.
Begin with 5 – 10 rounds and slowly work up to 10 minutes a day.