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Deergha Swasam Pranayama



Deergha Swasam Pranayama



For me, deergha swasam is the foundation for all other breathing practices because it brings awareness to all the parts of the body involved in the act of breathing. By breathing this way, we slowly become conscious of the potential that lies behind each inhalation and exhalation.

This may be experienced as frustration to begin with, as we realise that breathing consciously and deeply is quite challenging. However, once we become attentive to our breathing pattern, we can begin to strengthen and expand our entire breathing system.

It is said that most people use 30% of their lung capacity when breathing naturally; the practice of deergha swasam invites us to explore the full capacity of our lungs by first guiding the breath towards the belly – the lower part of the lungs – followed by the ribcage – the middle part – and finally into the upper chest or collarbones – the top part of the lungs.

As we do so, we not only create space in our lungs, but also in our upper body and, ultimately, in our mind as we envision the endless possibilities and power of our own breath.


DEERGHA SWASAM PRANAYAMA - THREE-PART BREATH


Sanskrit root: deergha meaning slow, deep, long, complete

                          swasam refers to the breath


Deergha swasam is also known as full yogic breath and deep breathing.


Benefits:


  • Expands the capacity of the lungs

  • Improves blood flow and oxygenation to the muscles, organs and cells

  • Stimulates the vagus nerve, lowering the production of cortisol – the stress hormone – and blood pressure, therefore reducing anxiety

  • Promotes relaxation and improves general well-being

  • Calms the mind by shifting the awareness to the breath

  • Invites open posture and realigns the spine – when practised seated

  • When I practise deergha swasam pranayama, my entire being feels spacious


Contra-indications, precautions:


Full yogic breath is sometimes practised in a very forceful and dynamic way to energise and stimulate the different systems in the body. To be done very cautiously, or after having consulted the relevant specialist, for people dealing with serious HBP (high blood pressure), heart problems, epileptic attacks, brain/upper body surgery, psychosis or recent trauma and pregnancy.


PRACTISING THREE-PART BREATH


Find a comfortable seat, on the floor, on a chair or lying down. You could also sit up against a wall if this helps with keeping your spine straight for the duration of the practice.

Gently close your eyes, and bring your awareness within. Roll your shoulders back and down to create space in the front body and chest.

First, exhale fully, inhale towards the lower abdomen, expanding your belly outwards. Exhale, gently contracting the abdominal muscles in to empty the lungs fully. Do this a few times, only breathing into the lower part of the lungs.

For the second part, inhale towards the belly, expanding it outward and keep inhaling a little higher to expand the ribcage. As you exhale, first feel the ribs coming back in, then the belly button moves in towards the spine to once again empty the lungs. Repeat a few times, notice the quality of your breathing and how you feel.

For the third part, inhale first guiding the breath down to the belly, then sending the breath up and out into the ribcage and finally higher into the upper chest/collarbones. When you exhale, relax the upper chest first, then the ribcage comes in and finally gently squeeze the abdomen inwards as you complete your exhalation.

Continue to breathe, merging each part into the other to create a wave-like movement with each inhale and exhale and with the muscles of your upper body. Do this for as long as comfortable, always listening to your body and adapting accordingly.

Return your breath to its natural rhythm, give yourself time to sit quietly and to observe any sensations, thoughts or whatever else comes up.


NOTES


At the beginning, it may be challenging for some people to breathe into all three parts; if this is the case, simply concentrate on the first and second part or even the first part only until the lungs – and the muscles – begin to stretch, and you create more space to breathe. Over time, and with practice, your lung capacity will improve greatly and this will become comfortable.

Deergha swasam can also be practised lying down if sitting for too long is not an option. Placing one hand on the belly and one hand on the chest is also helpful to feel and guide the movement of the breath.

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