Breathing 101: Complete Yoga Breath
The foundational breath of yoga is the complete yoga breath, called Dirga* in Sanskrit (pronounced DEER-gah).
Mastering it means you have developed an awareness and freedom of your breathing which will enable other breath practices and also your singing. The increase in oxygen you bring in when you breathe deeply helps decrease stress and anxiety levels, something everyone can use!
Begin by practicing on your back, then try in a sitting position and finally try it standing up.
1. Lie on your back in constructive rest, with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
2. Place your hands on your belly. Breathe in and feel the belly rise on inhale and fall on exhale. Do this for a few cycles.
3. Move your hands to your ribcage. Inhale and feel the belly expand and then feel the breath cause the ribcage to expand on inhale and retreat on exhale. Do this for a few cycles.
4. The final part is to feel the breath move into the area under the collarbones. Breathe in, feel the belly and ribs fill and then a slight rise of the collarbones as breath enters the upper lung tissue. This final step is subtle and small.
This breath is about finding freedom in the muscles involved with inhalation in exhalation such that your diaphragm can descend enough to allow for a deep inhalation and your ribs expand to accommodate your filling lungs. If you feel light headed while doing this, back off from the practice and lie with your legs up the wall or on a chair for a few minutes while breathing normally.
*If you have asthma and are experiencing symptoms, avoid engaging in practices such as this until your symptoms have abated. Then, begin with gentle breathing to avoid aggravating your condition.