Full Yogic Breath is a balancing breathing technique that benefits vata, pitta, and kapha. It is sometimes known as three-part breath because it works with three different sections of the torso and naturally engages all three lobes of the lungs. Full Yogic Breath revitalizes the entire body with prana(essential life force) hence the term pranayama. In particular, it benefits the vital organs, which can easily become stagnant, constricted, or fraught with emotional and physical tension when we experience stress. Full Yogic Breath relieves stress, refreshes the mind, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging a calmer, more balanced state of being overall. It also helps to correct unhealthy breathing patterns.
Overview of the Practice:
Full Yogic Breath begins with a deep and fluid inhalation that fills three sections of the torso independently, but continuously. First, we breathe into the lower abdomen. Then, we breathe into the mid-section of the torso, expanding the diaphragm and the ribs as the inhalation continues. And finally, we draw the breath into the upper chest and shoulders as the inhalation comes to a close. This slow and purposeful inhalation is then followed by a long, slow, gentle exhale, expelling the breath from these same three sections of the torso in reverse order, releasing the upper chest, then the diaphragm and ribs, and finally the lower abdomen. One round of Full Yogic Breath includes one complete inhalation and one complete exhalation.
Both the inhalation and the exhalation should feel FLUID and continuous; at no point should either one cause any strain whatsoever. Keep in mind that it may take some time to develop a relaxed relationship with this type of breath work, especially if it is new to you; it is no accident that pranayama is referred to as a practice. What’s important is the intention to develop our capacity for moving the breath intentionally, fluidly, and yet without tension or struggle.
The "How to's of it":
Choose a comfortable seated position. Prop knees and bottom if necessary. Make sure that your pelvic bones are pushing into the floor/pillow, and that your spine is tall and erect. Please do not lie down unless you absolutely have to due to pain.
Close the eyes and settle down for a minute with your natural breath.
When ready, inhale slowly and with purpose, drawing your breath deep into the abdomen, starting from the pelvic floor and slowly allowing the breath to fill upward (toward the belly button) and outward (away from the spine). Remember big belly!
Once the lower abdomen fills, continue with the inhalation by filling the torso (chest area) in a similar manner. Continue to draw the breath upwards, from the navel to the ribs, allowing the breath to gently expand the diaphragm, the ribs, and the mid-back. The spaces between the ribs are expanding. This feels wonderful.
Once the mid-torso feels full, complete the inhalation by drawing the breath into the upper chest—allowing prana to rise up and finally into the shoulders and the base of the neck. Feel the collarbones lift slightly. The entire lung is being used here. Not just a small portion of it like our normal inhale. This is huge!
For many, there is a brief, but natural pause at the top of the inhalation. If this occurs, just allow it to be there for a moment before surrendering to a long, slow exhalation. First, release the breath from the upper chest as the heart, lungs, sternum and shoulders all relax—dropping down and drawing in, toward the spine. Then, expel the breath from the mid-torso, feeling the ribs contract and the navel draw in, closer to the spine. And lastly, release the breath form the lower abdomen, feeling the belly contract and draw inward toward the spine.
Try to make the exhale longer than the inhale. Say inhale fo ra count of 4. Then exhale for a count of 6 or 8. You can work with whatever ratio is comfortable for YOU. This is your practice. Work on making the numbers larger every week or so until you are at your maximum effort that is still calming and comfortable for you.
This completes one round of Full Yogic Breath. If your exhalation is followed by a natural pause, take a moment before beginning the next round. Then, draw a fresh inhalation into the lower abdomen.
After several rounds of Full Yogic Breath (up to fifteen minutes), allow your breathing to return to normal for a minute or two before gently opening your eyes and bringing your practice to a close. Then, before you move on to your next activity, pause briefly to notice how you feel.
Full Yogic Breath can be done through the day, anywhere. In the grocery line, as you first wake in the am. Anytime. one minute is fine, five minutes is great. You do not have to do only when you have a full 15 minutes. Do try to practice everyday.
Enjoy the peace this brings you. Examine how you feel afterwards VS before.
Debbie Krejci E-RYT
become a yoga teacher