Dirgha Pranayama

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Dirgha Pranayama Mean?

Dirgha pranayama is a yogic breathing exercise that involves filling the lungs as much as possible using the entire respiratory system. The term comes from the Sanskrit, dirgha, meaning “long”; prana, meaning “life force”; and yama, meaning “restraint,” or ayama, meaning “extend” or “draw out.” It is the most basic of yogic breathing exercises and the one upon which other breathing practices are built.

To practice dirgha pranayama, sit in a comfortable pose or position with a straight spine and an abdomen that is not compressed. The breath fills up from the pelvis to the shoulders on the inhale and empties in reverse order on the exhale.

Dirgha pranayama may also be referred to as the complete breath, the yogic breath or three-part breathing in English.


Yogapedia Explains Dirgha Pranayama

Dirgha pranayama begins with relaxation of the abdomen, which expands in all directions on an inhale. After the pelvis and abdomen fill, the chest expands passively as the breath fills it, then the collar bones lift and expand as the breath fills that area. When the lungs have filled, the yogi takes in a little more air through the nose, then exhales from the top of the lungs to the abdomen in reverse order of the inhale, finally contracting the abdominal muscles to remove all air.

Practicing dirgha pranayama in yoga is believed to balance the prana energy. In turn, this balancing of prana promotes physical, spiritual and mental health, including:

  • Increases focus and concentration
  • Relaxes the nervous system
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Relieves insomnia
  • Builds stamina
  • Improves the immune system
  • Eases respiratory problems

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