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Mindfulness: Pranayama Series, Full Yogic Breath

The Full Yogic Breath is a classic pranayama practice that can support the transition into a meditative state as well as increase bodily awareness. This practice breaks down the inhaled and exhaled breath into three sections. Throughout this practice, it is encouraged to focus on the body’s movements as well as the breath. Please reference our Operation Health @ Home post on Breaking Down Meditation for more information on how body rhythms are beneficial to mindfulness and meditation practices.

To begin, find a comfortable position either lying down or seated comfortably. Throughout this practice, if it feels comfortable to do so, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Find a natural breathing rhythm and maintain this steady beat throughout the practice. The practice calls for a focus on the inhaled breath first and then the exhaled breath.

Inhale Focus

Firstly, we will focus on just our inhale and allow your exhaled breath to flow out without focus for now. Use your hands and internal resonation to feel your body’s movements as it inhales. What do you notice? Do your belly and diaphragm inflate? Does your ribcage expand? Can you feel your chest and collar bones rise? Internally note any other movements you can feel as you inhale.

Next, you will try to direct the air during an inhaled breath into three parts of the body. Draw the air into your belly or diaphragm first, inflating the belly fully until you can continue filling up your ribcage, expanding outward. Finally, allow the inhale to expand into your chest and collar bone. Attempt a few times to intentionally place one inhale into your belly first, then ribcage, then chest in a fluid breath until you feel ready to switch focus on to your exhale.

Exhale Focus

Once you are ready to switch focus to your exhale, we will repeat some of the same steps as you took for the inhale. Releasing focus on your inhale, begin to recognize your body’s movements as you exhale. Are there differences in movement from your inhale? Can you feel your chest lower as you breathe out? Do you feel your ribcage contract? Do you notice your belly deflate? Internally note all movement you can feel as you exhale.

Next, just like the inhale focus, you will focus on directing the air during an exhaled breath out of three parts of your body. First, expel the air from your chest, then your ribcage, then deflate your belly. Repeat this intentional three-part release, allowing your inhale to naturally occur without thought.

Flow of Focus

Once you have practiced your three-part exhale for a few rounds, the last part of this exercise is to combine your three-part inhale with your three-part exhale. Directing inhaled air into your belly first, ribcage second and chest third. Then releasing your exhale from your chest first, then ribcage, then deflating the belly. Attempt to flow these six actions together, smoothing out the edges so that your intentional breath becomes like waves flowing into and out of the body.