Three-Part Breath

This three-part breath can help lower your heart rate and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This is another classic breathing technique that takes your flight or fight response and soothes it into a relaxation response.  It’s primarily used in yoga (known as Dirgha Pranayama) but its wave-like sensation and soothing flow make it a soothing breathing technique you can use anytime you need to bring the energy level down.

To do the three-part breath for beginners*

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose into the lowest part of your diaphragm/belly.  Exhale using your abdominals as if squeezing the air out of your belly.
  2. Repeat step one, with the added level of breathing into the belly, then rib cage (if you can’t feel the difference or get confused by this, try visualizing the breath going into the belly then ribcage).  Using your muscles exhale from the ribs, then the diaphragm
  3. Take it a step further by breathing into your belly, ribs then upper chest (it may help to visualize breathing into the top corner of your lungs).  Exhale in reverse order
  4. Repeat, or try the version below

*I recommend laying on your back the first few times you do this, as it really helps you isolate the different parts of your body that you breathe in and out of.

Three-part breath standard:

  1. Laying down, inhale and exhale fully
  2. On the inhale breathe into the diaphragm, ribs, then upper chest.
  3. Exhale from the upper chest, ribs, then diaphragm
  4. Repeat (ideally 3-5 times or more)

* It will feel almost like a soothing wave of breath moving in and out.

Do this as many times as you need to in one session, and as many as needed throughout the day.  You can always access this directly through toolkit>grounding tools>threee-part breath or bookmark or text this page to yourself. 

If you like this tool, check out the other ones in the sensory grounding series: box breathing, 4-2-6, and 5-4-3-2-1

Sara’s story:

I learned this when I was doing my yoga and meditation teacher training in Rishikesh, India.  At first, it felt awkward and forced to think of ‘three different parts of breath’ but once I let myself visualize this wave calming me, and allowed myself to do it ‘imperfectly’ it all came together.  I personally love to use this one when I’m lying in bed and having a hard time getting to sleep.  Even if I don’t doze off, the gentle wave motion feels soothing and comforting.

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