Nine-fold Purification Breathing by Dr. Sherab Tenzin

Nine-fold Purification Breathing by Dr. Sherab Tenzin

For centuries, yogis, shamans and sages from different cultures have known the meaning of diaphragmatic or belly breathing. It became the basis for many meditation and relaxation techniques.

With the advancement of Western medicine, understanding of the anatomy and work of the nervous system, deep breathing became a central part in the treatment of autonomous nervous system (ANS) related conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It also plays an important role in lung rehabilitation practices for those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), post-COVID or other diseases that affected lung function.


What is the Vagus nerve?

ANS (formerly known as the vegetative nervous system) is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates a wide range of bodily functions, such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, urination, and sexual arousal.

It has three branches:

  • the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”),
  • the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) and
  • the enteric nervous system. 


The sympathetic is responsible for immediate survival and, if stimulated for an extended period, is responsible for long-term stress, anxiety and related disorders. The parasympathetic, on the other hand, reduces our stress levels, supports digestion and sexual functions.

Vagus nerve (X) is the longest nerve of the ANS in the human body that produces parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive system. The Latin word “vagus” means “wandering”, which precisely describes how the nerve wanders across the body and connects different organs. So even though the majority of ANS functions are involuntary, deep breathing exercises will help you control some of them. By stimulation this nerve through diaphragmatic breathing, we can lower the heart rate, regulate blood pressure, and instantly relax.


Special attention should also be paid to the tone of the vagus nerve that represents its overall activity. Having a higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after being stressed. Like we train our muscle, doing daily breathing exercises helps to “tone up” the vagus nerve.

“By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve, you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you.” – Dr. Arielle Schwartz, Clinical Psychologist.


Preparing your mind before breathing exercise  

It can be done anytime, anywhere, and it takes a few minutes.

Step 1

  • Our mind is too active when we stand and too relaxed when we lay down. It’s better to sit on the chair western style or legs crossed eastern yogi style, so you feel comfortable and aware.
  • Keep your spine straight in order to put pressure off organs and nerves.

Step 2

  • Keep your eyes open but relaxed, best focused on space one meter and a little lower from you.
  • When the eyes are closed, our mind is free from the perception of external objects. It immediately starts to fantasize by visualizing random things from the past and future.
  • Our task is to keep attention in the present moment without having any thoughts.
  • There is no need to control or fight them.

Step 3

  • Let go of what you know. Our body and mind recover faster during sleep only because we are not there to interrupt. Therefore forget what you know about breathing and simply observe.
  • Don’t interfere or manipulate your breathing, realize that it is happening in Your body without you actively doing it.
  • Let it flow naturally.
  • It could be intensive or relaxed. Let it be as it is.
  • The trick is, when we are witnessing the breathing in the present moment, our attention is not travelling in thoughts, and we become free from the tension caused by it.
  • By realizing that, we now see stress as an illusion, which appeared in our mind simply because we created a thought about it.
  • None of that is actually real.


Any effort we use to get rid of our problem will only make it stronger. By doing any kind of exercises, we affirm that the problem in our mind now becomes real. So there is nothing you can do except letting go of the effort. The problem is only a thought in mind, like a cloud in the sky. You don’t need to get rid of anything because there is nothing to get rid of. This is an advanced understanding of breathing. Follow these simple tips above to stay free from anything that may disturb you.


    Tibetan variant of diaphragmatic breathing known as “Nine-fold Purification Breathing”

    It consists of 3 cycles, each having 3 breaths. The sequence is repeated 3 times to complete the total of 9 breaths.

    1st cycle, 1st breath

    • After finishing the preparation steps, exhale completely and gently close your left nostril with your left index finger.
    • Slowly and deeply, breath in through the open nostril. You should feel air moving into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. Make sure your stomach is moving while your chest remains relatively still.
    • At the navel level, hold your breath for as long as comfortable. It can be one second, ten, sixty or more. Hold as long as your body is relaxed and muscle does not tense up.
    • While holding the air, bring your index finger to the right nostril and close it. Exhale through now opened left nostril slowly and deeply.

    1st cycle, 2nd breath

    • After fully exhaling, close your left nostril again and inhale through the right one.
    • This time, even deeper but slowly.
    • Hold your breath at the navel, close the right nostril and exhale with the same force as you inhaled.

    1st cycle, 3rd breath

    • Close the left nostril for the 3rd time.
    • Deeply and quickly inhale.
    • Hold your breath at the navel, close the right nostril and exhale with the same force as you inhale again.


    2nd cycle

    • Next, reverse hands and repeat the process of 3 breaths.
    • This time you will close your right nostril with your right index finger.
    • Inhale with left nostril and hold your breath.
    • Then close the left one and exhale with the right.


    3rd cycle

    • With the last cycle, you do three same breaths but with both nostrils open.


    Tips to get started and keep going

    • Every day, do your exercises in the same place, somewhere tranquil and quiet.
    • Keep your mind clear and relaxed.
    • Don’t worry if in the beginning you may not do it right.
    • Try to do them daily at the same time to reinforce the habit.
    • Enjoy the fruits of timeless wisdom!


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