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Dirgha pranayama or “three-part breathing” is usually one of the first breathing exercises new yogis learn. It is a great stress reliever, helping the mind to become calm, quiet and focused. This deep breathing exercise also flushes your internal organs with oxygen, which is often lacking during day-to-day shallow breathing. For this reason, Dirgha breathing refreshes the heart, lungs, digestive and nervous system.

Practicing Dirgha Pranayama or “Three Part Breathing”

Prepare for Dirgha breathing by sitting comfortably, either cross-legged on the floor or in a chair. You can also lie down.

Close your eyes and simply observe your current breathing state without trying to change anything yet—just observe. Is your breathing shallow or deep? Short or long? If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to just observing how you inhale and exhale.

After taking stock of your current breathing, inhale deeply through your nose, allowing the air you inhale to fill your belly. Imagine you are filling your belly with air just like a balloon.

Then gradually exhale this air out of the balloon of your belly, pushing your navel back toward your spine as you exhale until you have pushed out all the air. Inhale and exhale in and out of your belly about five times.

On the next inhale, fill your belly first and then your rib cage. Let your rib cage expand along with your belly, filling it with even more air. On the exhale, gradually expel all of this air from the rib cage first, and then the belly. Repeat the process again five times.

For the third part of Dirgha breath, inhale through your nose and fill your belly first, then your rib cage and then your upper chest so that you are filled with oxygen from your belly to your heart. Your chest should be open with air. On the exhale, release the air from your upper chest, letting it flow out, followed by the air from your rib cage, and finally emptying the belly, pulling the navel in toward your spine to fully expel the air.

Continue Dirgha breath until it becomes natural and smooth, about 10 times. This is a perfect way to begin your yoga practice, or calm down after a stressful day. Your yoga instructor can help you deepen this breathing practice.