How a simple breath balances your body and mind
In my last post, I shared how Dirgha pranayama (also known as the complete yogic breath or the three-part breath) has been a life-changing practice for me. In this post, I want to delve more deeply into the psychological and physiological benefits of Dirgha.
Let's start with the mind.
Yesterday morning, I woke up early and wrote a minute-by-minute schedule for my day. Between getting Kai and myself out the door (no small feat), gathering paperwork from one doctor's office, getting Kai to music class, grabbing lunch and getting Kai to his caretaker, driving an hour to another doctor's office (where they have zero tolerance for tardy moms), getting back in time to get Kai from his caretaker, picking up groceries for dinner and getting home to cook it before a hungry-toddler-meltdown erupted, on top of keeping up with three different work endeavors, I had very little time for internal awareness.
With all of the pieces moving in my life, I need to make it a point to feel what's actually happening inside of me. That's where Dirgha breath comes in.
Dirgha pranayama drastically increases your internal awareness.
At any given time, there is a certain amount of your awareness that is flowing outward to people, activities, and things around you. And there’s a certain amount of energy that is flowing inward to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions moving within you.
When I was taking care of my little guy, driving on busy highways, interacting with teachers, co-workers, receptionists, doctors, grocery store clerks, caretakers, and my husband, most of my awareness was flowing outward. With our busy, multi-tasking lifestyles, we usually have much more energy flowing outward than inward.
One goal of Kripalu Yoga is to shift this dynamic, so that more of your awareness is focused inward. Dirgha breath is a key tool for creating that shift.
When you regularly cultivate awareness inside, here’s what happens:
You deepen your connection with yourself. It is so easy to become disconnected. Your mind is going one way, while your body's going another way, and you're just going through the motions of the day. Taking your attention inside with Dirgha helps shift that, so you feel more connected with yourself and can therefore be much more present to what's within you and in front of you.
You become more aware of your body and your energy, so you can make better choices, such as what to eat, how to move your body, and where to direct your energy. This keeps you healthier, safer, and happier. You can take better care of yourself because you know what your body needs. For example, if you’re sitting in a slightly uncomfortable position that you might otherwise ignore, you become aware of that discomfort, so you can adjust and support your body, rather than ending up with painful, knotted muscles.
You become more whole. Greater internal awareness helps you move closer to your truth. You can see your sensations, thoughts, and feelings more clearly—you can see more of yourself. Seeing these things without judging them leads to a greater sense of wholeness, freedom and peace. I talked about this idea in my previous blog post about being an objective witness to your experience.
Along with increasing internal awareness, Dirgha has profound calming benefits for your body and mind.
You can feel your whole body relax when you do Dirgha. Sometimes it takes only a couple of breaths to feel a drastic release of physical tension and a clearing of the static in your mind.
On a physiological level, Dirgha pranayama shifts your nervous system out of "fight or flight" mode. It does this by stimulating the vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and shifts you into a more restful and relaxed state.
Spending less time in "fight or flight" mode benefits your physical health in numerous ways, including
- Slowing the heart rate and helping lower blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Improving immune function, thus reducing your vulnerability to ailments ranging from the common cold to cancer
- Reducing stress-induced psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression
- Improving digestion and helping to alleviate digestive disorders
- Releasing tension in the muscles of the belly, shoulders, ribs, chest, and back
- Enhancing sexual arousal
- Alleviating asthma.
If you haven't tried my guided Dirgha experience yet, download it now for FREE! Anyone can do it, and it just takes a couple of minutes.
And leave a comment below, answering this: Which of the Dirgha benefits above could you use most?
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences - plus, they often benefit others.
Love and blessings,
P.S. I've just launched my new yoga jewelry website PrasadaJewelry.com! When you sign up on the site, you'll get 30% off your first order. I'm so excited to share this work with you - thank you for taking a look!