If you are interested in adding breathwork to your health and wellness toolkit, then this article, which looks at exploring the three-part breath, could be for you.
Breathwork: Exploring the Three-Part Breath
Ahh, the three-part breath. This breathing technique is one that is often practiced during a yoga class. In fact, I can remember many yoga classes in a community tech center where my teacher, Tom, would facilitate this breathing exercise.
Three-part breathing is kind of like it sounds. There are three parts of the body that get filled with air, three areas of the body that we focus on during this breathing technique.
While the three-part breath is one that is highly practiced during yoga classes, it’s also one of the more challenging breathing exercises to grasp. To be honest, I still have a difficult time practicing this technique.
So, take your time. Go slow. And, be gentle with yourself if you don’t pick it up right away.
How to Practice the Three-Part Breath Technique
The three-part breath is practiced while breathing through the nose, if that’s accessible to you. For this breathing pattern, it may be helpful to lie down on your back. However, staying seated is fine too.
I’ve found it helpful to place one hand on my belly and the other in the middle of my chest. So, if I am lying on my back, one hand rests just above my navel and I put the other hand in the center of my chest.
Inhale through the nose all the way to the belly. Fill the belly with air, expanding the belly away from the spine. So, first, fill the belly, then the ribs, and finally the upper part of the chest. Exhale slowly through the nose, releasing air from the chest, ribs, and lastly belly.
This breathing exercise can feel like a wave, once you get the hang of it. We inhale into the belly, ribs, and chest. Then, we exhale from the chest, ribs, and belly. During the first few rounds, you may find you’re all in your head trying to make sure you breathe into the three areas of the body. As time goes on, and with more and more practice, see if you can let your head out of the technique and allow the body to just wave back and forth through the breathing.
Use the Three-Part Breath During Yoga
The three-part breath can be a lovely way to start or end a yoga practice.
When I am looking to change up my yoga flow a bit, I start my practice lying down on my back. I begin with three-part breathing to ground and center myself. Then, after a few rounds of breathwork, I ease into the asanas.
At the end of my practice, before I rest a bit in corpse pose, I revisit the three-part breath. I finish lying flat on my back on my yoga mat. I revisit the breathing technique and then relax right into savasana.
Benefits of Three-Part Breathing
One of the major benefits of this breathing pattern is that we’re breathing fully and deeply into the body. During the busyness of the day, we often breathe shallowly in our bodies. The air typically only enters and exits the chest. Rarely, through the hustle of a stressful workday, do we breathe deeply all the way to our bellies.
Breathing fully into the belly increases the oxygen supply to the body, taking stress off of the lungs and heart. When we breathe more deeply, we also may decrease stress or anxiety.
The three-part breath can decrease the heart rate and lower blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This type of breathing can be quite relaxing. When we slow our breath, the body and mind follow.
Contraindications of the Three-Part Breath
We are not offering medical advice or information in this post. Please consult your doctor or medical professional before accessing any breathing exercises.
This breathing exercise is considered safe for everyone. However, those with medical conditions or trouble breathing should consult their doctor before practicing.
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About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC, RYT (200) is a board-certified holistic nurse, registered yoga instructor, and reiki master.
Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a certified coach, nature lover, and avid meditator.
Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bulls. She enjoys gardening, jigsaw puzzles, farming, music, and hiking.