360 Breathing Explained: Expanding Into The Fullness Of Your Breath & Being

reviewed by Liz Burns 500H RYT

In yoga, how you breathe is super important. There are tons of different breathing techniques, but one that you’ll want to use a lot during your practice is 360 breathing. 

It doesn’t take much effort, saves your energy, and helps you relax into your practice by reducing stress and anxiety. Plus, it’s fantastic for your overall health and well-being

Embracing the 360 breath will boost your yoga practice and let you enjoy all the amazing benefits of conscious breathing throughout your yoga journey.

In this article we’ll give you an overview of 360 breathing and how to practice it:

  • What Is 360 Breathing?
  • How To Do 360 Breathing
  • Incorporating 360 Breathing Into Your Yoga Routine
  • Benefits Of 360 Breathing
woman smiling and breathing

What Is 360 Breathing?

The 360 degree breathing technique is a profound method of breathing that entails harnessing your breath to foster expansion in both your rib cage and abdomen. 

It incorporates diaphragmatic breathing and goes just a couple of tweaks further: instead of using your chest, you focus on using your diaphragm to breathe.

In this practice, the diaphragm takes center stage as it contracts downward, generating intra-abdominal pressure and facilitating expansion through the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor.

The technique itself calls for a profound level of mindfulness, enabling individuals to channel their focus inward, unlocking a gateway to improved well-being. 

By embracing this deep breathing approach, practitioners aspire to attain a heightened sense of bodily awareness, fostering a connection between mind, breath, and body.

360-degree breathing is no fleeting trend but an ancient practice revived and refined for modern living. 

man practicing 360 breathing

Its increasing popularity is underscored by its potential benefits, ranging from stress reduction and enhanced relaxation to better respiratory efficiency. 

Holistic health enthusiasts and yoga practitioners alike are keen to explore the multifaceted dimensions of this profound technique, integrating it into their daily routines to experience its transformative effects firsthand.

360 breathing is composed of three parts: diaphragmatic breathing, rib cage expansion, and back body expansion. 

#1: Diaphragmatic Breathing

At the core of our breathing lies the diaphragm, a substantial muscle positioned at the base of the lungs. 

With every inhalation, this vital muscle undergoes a contracting and flattening process, causing the chest cavity to expand. As this unfolds, a vacuum effect is generated, drawing air into the lungs. 

During exhalation, the diaphragm eases back to its original form, guiding the expulsion of air from our lungs, completing the breathing. 

Diaphragmatic breathing, also referred to as belly breathing, focuses on engaging the diaphragm, the primary respiratory muscle situated at the base of your rib cage. 

diaphragm highlighted on a body

To experience it, follow these steps: 

  1. Position your hands: Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. 
  2. Inhale gently: As you take a breath in, ensure your shoulders remain relaxed and envision your diaphragm moving downwards toward your pelvis. 
  3. Notice the sensation: You will notice your chest rising and your belly expanding as the diaphragm contracts, drawing air into your lungs. 
  4. Exhale smoothly: When you exhale, you’ll feel your chest and belly naturally relaxing back toward your spine. This form of breathing promotes deeper and more efficient respiration, helping you to relax and reduce stress.

In 360 breathing, the diaphragm, as mentioned, takes center stage. It contracts downward, generating intra-abdominal pressure, which, in turn, triggers expansion throughout the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. 

This part of intra-abdominal pressure offers several benefits, including the prevention of hernias, prolapse, diastasis recti, and back pain. 

When the diaphragm expands correctly in a 360-degree pattern, it contributes to the relaxation of the psoas, lumbar muscles, and paraspinal muscles while simultaneously activating the core and pelvic floor muscles. 

#2: Rib Cage Expansion

During inhalation, focus on achieving a 360-degree expansion of your rib cage.

Imagine it opening up like an umbrella, expanding not only from side to side but also from front to back. 

skeleton with a rib cage

To experience this, try the following: 

  1. Position your hands: Place your hands on your lower rib cage, with your thumbs wrapping around your back for better awareness. 
  2. Inhale deeply: Take a deep breath in and pay attention to the sensation of the breath expanding your hands both front-to-back and pushing them apart from side-to-side. 

This practice ensures a more complete and balanced expansion of your rib cage, allowing for optimal breathing and better lung capacity. 

Imagine your rib cage opening up in all directions like a gentle, full bloom, allowing your breath to flow freely and deeply.

#3: Back Body Expansion

Back body expansion involves directing the breath into the back of the body, promoting increased mobility in the rib cage’s posterior region and the pelvic floor at the back. 

To experience this, concentrate on the sensation of the breath flowing through your back while inhaling: 

  1. Utilize a reference point: For better perception, choose a reference point. If you’re lying on the ground, observe how your back expands against the floor as you breathe in.
  2. Alternatively, when sitting upright, gently loop a resistance band around your lower ribs and notice the band expanding against your back as you inhale.
man practicing 360 breathing

By practicing back body expansion, you encourage greater awareness of your breath’s movement and enhance the flexibility and function of the back muscles and pelvic floor. 

This can contribute to improved posture, breathing mechanics, and overall body alignment.

Breathing Into The Belly

Belly breathing is a specialized breathing technique that emphasizes expanding the breath into the belly, causing the abdominal wall to rise during inhalation. 

When performed correctly, belly breathing aligns with diaphragmatic breathing, as the upward movement of the stomach is a result of the diaphragm contracting downward while inhaling. 

However, there is a key distinction between belly breathing and 360-degree breathing. 

While belly breathing concentrates solely on expanding the breath into the belly region, 360-degree breathing involves a more extensive expansion, encompassing a wider area of the body with points #2 and #3. 

360 breathing targets not only the belly but also encourages breath expansion in all directions, involving the sides and the back of the rib cage, facilitating increased breath capacity and overall relaxation.

woman breathing over a ball

How To Do 360 Breathing

Here are some instructions on how to perform 360 breathing, that you can use in yoga, meditation, or any other setting of your choosing.

  1. Maintain an upright posture with your ribs aligned directly over your pelvis, your neck elongated, and your shoulders in a relaxed position.
  2. Place your hands around your lower ribs with your fingers in front and your thumbs positioned at the back.
  3. Inhale through your nose: Breathe in deeply, directing the air into your rib cage, allowing it to expand in all directions (front, sides, and back). Feel the breath against your hands. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed and down throughout the process. 
  4. Exhale steadily: Close your lips slightly and exhale completely, extending your exhale for as long as possible until your lungs are entirely empty. As you exhale, sense your stomach drawing towards your spine.
  5. Repeat with a slow pace: Continue this pattern for several breaths, ensuring that your exhale lasts for a longer period of time than your inhale.

When you inhale, it’s crucial to prioritize proper expansion in your rib cage while avoiding tension in your neck and shoulders. 

Instead of solely pushing your belly outward, which can create excessive pressure in your core, focus on achieving expansion of your sides and back. Allow your rib cage to expand naturally, including your sides and back. 

man deep breathing in reclined butterfly pose

This will naturally lead to your belly expanding in sync with the movement of your rib cage. 

By emphasizing rib cage expansion, you promote efficient and more relaxed breathing, which benefits your overall well-being.

Benefits Of 360 Breathing

360 breathing has a host of benefits in relation to your physical and mental wellbeing. Even more so when engaged in tandem with a regular yoga or meditation practice. 

Here are some of the benefits:

#1: Promotes core strength

360-degree breathing activates the diaphragm and various core muscles like the transverse abdominis, obliques, pelvic floor, and erector spinae. 

With its focus on deep inhalation and breath expansion throughout the belly, sides, and back, this technique enhances core strength, stability, and posture.

#2: Improve lung capacity

360-degree breathing improves lung capacity by engaging the diaphragm and promoting full rib cage expansion during inhalation, allowing the lungs to take in more air. 

It also encourages complete exhalation, ensuring efficient removal of waste products and facilitating deeper inhalations.

#3: Improves pelvic floor function

360-degree breathing strengthens the pelvic floor muscles by coordinating with the diaphragm and promoting better pelvic floor function. 

The expansion of breath into the belly, back, and sides of the rib cage creates intra-abdominal pressure, supporting the pelvic organs and enhancing pelvic floor control. 

Consistent practice can reduce the risk of pelvic floor issues such as general dysfunction and incontinence.

#4: Stimulates the vagus nerve (calms and releases tension)

Deep breathing can influence our stress hormones by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. 

By engaging the diaphragm, deep breathing impacts the vagus nerve, which serves as the controller of the parasympathetic system – a system responsible for promoting relaxation and calmness

Thus, deep breathing helps trigger the rest and relaxation response, counteracting the effects of stress hormones.

Further Information

If you’ve enjoyed reading about 360 breathing, why not check out our other articles:

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Born and raised in London, Luke is a passionate writer with a focus on travel, yoga, philosophy, and meditation. As a certified yoga teacher having studied under a swami in Rishikesh, Luke now lives in India pretty much just practising yoga, meditating and writing articles! Luke's life arc has gone from somewhat turbulent to peaceful, and he considers yoga and meditation direct methods to sustain introspective insight to manifest peace and happiness, despite life's challenges. Luke's passion for meditation has led him to complete multiple meditation retreats, where he spent almost 40 days in silence in the last two years. He practices various meditation techniques such as Vipassana, Anapana, and Metta Bhavana, each adding to his knowledge and experience of the true self. Most recently he meditated in Jaipur, India, and before that lived for a short spell in a monastery with forest monks in Northern Thailand. To Luke, yoga is more than just a physical exercise; it's a way of life that helps him cultivate a stronger mind-body connection. As a young man with arthritis, Luke understands the importance of observing and controlling his body, and yoga has been a vital tool in his journey to better health and well-being. The practice of yoga has not only helped him manage his symptoms but has also given him a new perspective on life. Luke's love for yoga and meditation is not limited to a single tradition or practice. He's fascinated by the spiritual teachings of all types of religious philosophy, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity for their essence and wisdom. His passion for spirituality is what drives him to continue learning and growing, and share his knowledge with other people. Luke in his spare time is an avid chess player, cyclist and record collector. He also has experience with addiction, and so sponsors multiple people from different walks of life in their recovery programmes.

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