Making your breath-work a practice in mindfulness not only enhances the mechanics of breathing, it gives you a specific way to tune in and utilize your breath to improve focus and movement quality.
Three-dimensional breathing is perhaps not entirely new to you, as you’ve likely spent a fair bit of time exploring the sideways and backward movement of the breath into the ribcage. However, this practice stems from Dirgha Pranayama, a yoga breath practice known as the complete breath. I’ve broken it into to two parts: three-dimensional breathing (which we will cover in this post), and wave breathing which will be the topic of the last post in this series.
Using three-dimensional breath awareness in your practice:
When to use this: Right before meditation or as a warm-up to any workout or activity (I have a friend who uses it while cycling and calls it a miracle!). I like to do it sitting upright or standing.
Why do this: The three-dimensional breath is a clear, easy way to find balance in the front, sides and back of the body particularly in the areas around the lower ribs, low back and under the armpits. Improving movement in these spots allows us to better facilitate healthy alignment and function of the entire shoulder girdle, thoracic spine and neck, as well as more efficiently use the serratus anterior, diaphragm, psoas and quadratus lumborum…among many other things!
How to begin: Sit or stand comfortably with your eyes closed. Take a moment to locate your breath in the body, notice the quality of the breath and begin to soften your outer edges so that you can sense the body internally and externally.
- Begin by breathing into the front of the body, expanding and exploring all the nooks and crannies. Try to feel the breath from your pubic bone to your throat. Repeat this 4-5 times.
- Second, breath into the sides of the body, opening the body into space as far as you can right to left. Feel the breath from the top of your hipbones all the way up the sides of your throat. Repeat 4-5 times.
- Third, breath into the back body. Expand the breath across the low back all the way to the back of the head. Repeat this 4-5 times. Each time you exhale let the breath out easily, no effort.
- Finally, put it all together and breath simultaneously into the front, sides and back of the body feeling as if you were increasing your circumference equally in all directions. Repeat with every breath.
Practical use: I use this technique to teach my students how to easily cultivate and bring attention back to a balanced breath without getting too caught up in tons of instructions. Simply remind yourself to breath in all directions anytime you feel strain in one part of the body, in particular the spine. It almost always helps you realign and balance the work.
To hear an audio recording of Chantill’s meditations, click here.