Dirga Pranayama - Yogic Three Part Breathing

Dirga pranayama is a 3 part yogic breath technique that will help you relax and quieten the monkey mind. I and many other people have used it to help us be more efficient and enjoy life to it’s fullest. I will share Dirga Pranayama benefits, how to do it properly and how to get the most out of your practice.

What is Dirga Pranayama?

Dirga pranayama is yogic breathing that involves breathing deeply and slowly through the nose and filling up the lungs and abdomen with air.

The name dirga pranayama means “complete breath” in Sanskrit. It involves three stages, therefore it is also called three part breath.

The stages of the three part breath are…

  1. Belly breathing: Breathe into the lower belly, expanding it like a balloon.

  2. Rib cage breathing: Breathe into the rib cage, widening it from the sides

  3. Chest breathing: Breathe into the upper chest, lifting it slightly.

To exhale just reverse it, release the air from the upper chest, then the rib cage, then the lower belly.

That’s basically it.

Dirga Pranayama Benefits

Dirga Pranayama Benefits

Breath is the stuff of life. So when you start practising the three part breath on a regular basis you will feel changes that make your life better.

The ancients believed that by doing this breathing technique a yogi achieves long life. This makes sense when you realise stress is one of the biggest causes of disease and being in a grounded and relaxed state reduces stress.

Here are some dirga pranayama benefits you can experience…

Calms Your Nervous System

Your nervous system will be calmer. Dirga pranayama activities the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion. You will feel less stressed and anxious.

Improves Blood Circulation

By relaxing your blood vessels and improving your blood circulation you may experience lower blood pressure. This can help you prevent or manage hypertension, sexual hormonal issues and cardiovascular diseases. Obviously see a doctor if you have serious blood pressure issues.

Also see Vajra Mudra to improve blood circulation.

Increases Lung Capacity

Your lung capacity will improve because the breathing strengthens your diaphragm and intercostal muscles.

Improves Digestion

By massaging your internal organs and stimulating peristalsis (wave like motions of your intestines) your digestion will improve. This can help you prevent or relieve problems like constipation, bloating and indigestion.

Gives You More Energy

Your energy levels will improve because dirga breathing harmonizes the flow of prana (life force) in your body. Use it with prana mudra to boost it’s benefits.

How to Practice Dirga Pranayama The Three Part Breath

Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest to feel the movement of your breath.

Ok, we are going to go through each stage thoroughly, so you can really feel and connect with each of the three parts of the breathing…

  • Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. You can use some kind of support, like a cushion or your yoga mat.

  • Place one hand on your lower belly and the other on your chest, so you feel the movement of your breath.

  • Close your eyes and relax your body. You can do this by using your attention to scan your body from head to toe, gently breathing into any tight areas.

  • Breathe normally for a few moments, notice the natural rhythm of your breath.

  • First Stage. Begin to breathe more deeply and slowly through your nose. Fill up your lungs and then your belly with air. As you inhale, feel your lower belly rise under your hand. As you exhale, feel it fall.

  • Continue breathing like this for five rounds, focusing on the first stage of dirga pranayama.

  • Now we are going to add the second stage of dirga pranayama. As you inhale, after filling up your lower belly, expand your rib cage. Feel the sides of rib cage expand. As you exhale, contract your rib cage and empty your lower belly.

  • Continue breathing like this for a five rounds, focusing on the first and second stages.

  • Finally, add the third stage of dirga pranayama. As you inhale, after filling up your lower belly and rib cage, breathe into your chest. As you exhale, lower your upper chest, contract your rib cage and empty your lower belly.

  • Continue breathing like this for a few rounds, focusing on all three stages.

Before You Start Dirga Pranayama

Dirga pranayama is often used at the beginning of a yoga session because it gets you in the present moment and into your body. We are so much in our heads these days, over thinking everything that many of us find it hard to relax.

Remember this when you start the breathing practice. If you find it hard or become restless, don’t worry you are not alone. Just focus on the stages of breathing and you will eventually relax. You might even experience bliss.

During a particularly stressful time in my life, I started doing breathing exercises and the contrast from being in my head to in the moment was euphoric. It didn’t last because my relaxed state became normal. but wow did it feel good.

Keep in mind this is not a fast breathing technique, but a gentle deep breathing exercise. So breathe deeply and at a comfortable pace. Inhale and exhale completely.

That’s it. You can practice as long as you like.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Dirga Pranayama Practice

Like any breathing practice, there are certain principles you can follow to get the most out of it. We all believe we are the exception to the rule, but we are not.

Follow these principles to avoid possible negative affects…

  • Although you can do it anytime, when you practice in the morning or evening, you are less likely to be disturbed.

  • It’s best to practice dirga pranayama on an empty stomach, so if you have eaten, wait at least two hours after the meal to avoid any discomfort or nausea.

  • Practice in a quiet and comfortable place, where you can focus on your breath without any distractions. This may sound obvious, but with our busy lives we can over look the obvious.

  • When you practice dirga pranayama pay attention to each stage of inhalation and exhalation. When you are mindful through the process you will avoid forcing or straining your breath. Although you must breath deeply, don’t fill your self with air to a point of discomfort. You should always feel in control and relaxed.

  • Practice at least once a day. Regular practice is the key to getting the full dirga pranayama benefits.

Although it is a simple exercise, if you are unsure if you are doing it right, remember, it is a breathing technique taught in most types of yoga and is probably part of your yoga practice if you already have one. So ask your instructor or join a class.


The three part breath of Dirga pranayama is a simple but effective breathing technique that can help you calm your nervous system and reduce your stress and anxiety. Allowing you to focus on the things that matter to you.

Don’t forget, in the beginning when you practice three part breath break the breath into three techniques, to get a feel for it. The first breathing technique is a deep belly breath, then focus on breathing into the rib cage and finally the chest.

Start now, all you need is a quite comfortable place to begins to experience dirga pranayama benefits.