If you call my cell phone and I don’t answer, you’ll get a message saying, “You’ve called just in time for the deep breath of the day. Take a deep breath in, exhale.” Did you just do it? How do you feel? Most people who haven’t heard it before say, “thanks, that was just what I needed.” I have even had people call and say, “don’t pick up next time, I just want to hear your voice mail.” We don’t realize that often our breathing is shallow and short. There is no depth to our breath. This is especially true if we are busy, frustrated, or stressed out.
Taking a few deep, slow, conscious breaths changes a number of things in our body almost immediately. First, it breaks whatever our thought cycle is at the moment. This might relieve negative or obsessive thinking. Deep breathing breaks the stress cycle. It also allows the body to relax.
The yogis had it right. One of the most basic Pranayama (or breathwork) practices, the one most usually taught first and used the most often, at least in my traditions of yoga, Kripalu and Pranakriya, is Dirgha Pranayama (pronounced Deer.ga) or full yogic breathing.
This breath, and I’ll say body/mind enhancement practice does the following:
- calms the mind
- enhances concentration
- stretches the lungs
- tones the breathing muscles
There are lots of breath practices, but this one takes the cake for ease and effectiveness.
Practice Dirgha Breath Now with this short tutorial on Youtube, or follow the more detailed description below.
Dirgha Breath Practice
- You can practice this breath seated, lying down on the floor and even standing.
- Find your position and lengthen your spine. Relax your shoulders and close your eyes if that feels comfortable. Begin to focus on your breath, watching it come in and out.
- Bring your hands to your lower belly and gradually invite the breath into the lower belly behind your navel. Feel your hands move away and return. As you exhale, draw your navel toward your spine squeezing out the air. Do this for 5-6 breaths.
- Continue to breathe into your lower belly, but slide your hands to your side ribs. Breathe into your lower belly and then invite the breath into your ribs. Feel the ribs move forward and out to the sides. As you exhale feel the ribs knit back together. Do this for 5-6 breaths.
- Now place your fingertips gently just below your collarbones. As you inhale, draw your breath deep into the lower belly, through the ribs and up towards your collarbones, even out to the shoulders. As you exhale, release from top to bottom squeezing empty. Repeat 5-6 breaths.
- Try sitting and practicing Dirgha Pranayama for 5-10 minutes a day. Or, if you don’t have that much time, try 1-3 minutes. Notice what happens not matter how long you practice.