How To Do Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) In Yoga: Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes

The three-part breath is a simple breathing technique that can help you improve your long-term health (Image via Pexels/Ivan Samkov)
The three-part breath is a simple breathing technique that can help you improve your long-term health (Image via Pexels/Ivan Samkov)

The Dirga Pranayama (DEER-gah prah-nah-YAH-mah) is a three-part breathing method that is frequently taught to beginner yoga practitioners.

The three-part breath is a simple breathing technique that can help you improve your long-term health. It's frequently done at the start of a yoga session to focus attention on your body rather than the unnecessary interruptions you might bring to the mat.

Clear your mind, and prepare for your practice by focusing closely on how your breath works. Deep rhythmic respiration activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers stress and hormones in your body that induce frustration.

The three-part nature of the breath helps optimal lung function by expanding and retracting your abdomen, rib cage and upper chest.

How to do the three-part breath (Dirga pranayama) correctly?

The abdomen, diaphragm and chest are the 'three sections'. You first fill your lungs with air, as if you were inhaling into your abdomen, rib cage and upper torso during the Dirga pranayama. After that, you exhale to reverse the flow.


Here is a step-by-step guide to help you do the dirga pranayama correctly:

  • Relax your head and face, and soothe your mind and shoulders by closing your eyes.
  • Allow air to flow from your nose naturally.
  • Place the palms on your abdominal button, a few fingertips below it.
  • Begin inhaling deeply towards the pit of your stomach, stretching all the way down to the lower abdomen.
  • With each inhalation, feel the belly expand like a balloon and flatten towards the backbone with each exhalation.
  • Repeat for five deep breaths.
  • Move the left hand to the outer left side of the ribs while keeping the right hand on the tummy.
  • Send your breath downwards into the belly button and up into the ribcage.
  • The abdomen should expand before the ribs as you inhale.
  • Move your left hand up to the middle of the chest, underneath the collarbones, while keeping your right hand on the tummy.
  • Take a deep inhalation down into the belly button; expand into the ribs, and send the air all the way up to the lungs.
  • Consider dividing your breath into three parts during inhalation and exhalation. Inhalation: stomach, ribs and chest. Exhalation: Chest, ribs and belly button.
  • Continue for five grounding breaths.
  • Take as much time as you want with the three-part breath.
  • Breathe from the bottom to the top, and release from the top to the bottom, using your palms as a guide.

Benefits of doing Dirga pranayama regularly

It's no surprise that the essence of any yoga practice is breath. The past and future get dissolved when the breath, body and mind are brought together, securely attaching us to the present.

Learning to breathe deeply will help you get more oxygen, which will help you feel less stressed and anxious. Focusing on your body throughout the three-part breath also gives awareness to the present situation and helps quieten your thoughts.

According to studies, a three-part breath can help inhale and expel up to seven times as much air (and oxygen and prana) compared to a shallow, chest-based breath. Other yogic techniques, such as meditation and purifying kriyas, are built on this foundation of deep breathing.

The three-part breath is commonly used to help relax and prepare for practice and meditation at the start of a yoga session. This method is helpful in everyday life too, as it helps achieve a grounded and calm state of consciousness without the use of any special sound or position.

Common mistakes to avoid while doing Dirga pranayam

Avoid these mistakes to get the most out of this exercise.

Do not push your lungs to their maximum capacity. Your lungs must feel comfortably full, not as if they're about to explode.

Your breath should be smooth as it enters and exits your body.

Most people should be able to utilise this technique safely; however it may be challenging if you have asthma or other respiratory problems. Return to your usual breathing pattern if you feel dizzy.

Variations of Dirga pranayama

You can begin to adjust to this exercise once you've become comfortable with it. Begin making your inhalations and exhalations to the same length to further energise your mind, body and emotions. Take a five-count inhalation and five-count exhalation, for example.

You can also try to slowly extend the length of your exhalations till they are twice as long as your inhalation after you are comfortable with this variation and have no dizziness or shortness of breath. Take a five-count inhalation and a ten-count exhalation, for example.

Key Takeaway

On several levels, such as physical, psychological, sentimental and spiritual, practicing the Dirga Pranayama can lead to peace, stability and optimal health. It's something you can do multiple times throughout the day – even two or three breaths can help.

Keep it simple and calm, and you'll feel the advantages of practicing pranayama in many aspects of life.

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Edited by Bhargav