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Monday, August 1, 2011

Qigong Breathing by Michael Tse (1994)

Qi Magazine (Issue 11 - 1994)
By Michael Tse

Everybody knows how to breathe. But how many people really understand the breathing practice within Qigong? This is very important because without the correct breathing techniques we cannot develop our Qi.

Breathe in, Breathe out - inhale, exhale. We all do this every second, none of us can stop, otherwise we will die. During the breathing process the air comes in through the nose, passes down to the lungs and then the oxygen goes on to all the different parts of the body. This maintains the body and particularly the functions of the organs: heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, live and especially the brain. We know breathing is very important. How could we do it better so that we can get more energy - Qi?

The first step we should take is to find the best air we can. Technique is important, but the air is more important. It does not matter if you have the best breathing techniques if the air you are taking in is polluted. You will still become ill - the air will harm you! So find a place with plenty of fresh air, when you are indoors, open the windows. Fresh air is where our energy comes from. Many people like to concentrate on technique, if they miss fresh air, it is as if they have a beautiful car with a good engine but no petrol. 

The Chinese say: "In a purified place people will be in high spirits." Thus those who live or are born in a place with good energy will be healthy and intelligent, they may become great people in the future. On the other hand, a great person must live in a place with good energy. Therefore, Chinese people are very concerned about the environment they live in and even buried in. They all know about Fung Shui (Geomancy) - the energy of the environment. 

Just being in a place with good environmental influences can give you a lot of energy, even if you do not know any Qigong breathing techniques, you will benefit greatly and tend to relax. We are all very sensitive to our surroundings. It can affect our health and our emotions. For example, in a noisy place you cannot concentrate, cannot think - so you will not get any new ideas. In a quiet place you can relax and open your mind. Here you can solve many problems, because it is a good place. 

So, now we have the petrol, we need to learn how to drive... In the beginning you should relax your body. Allow all the joints, muscles and face to relax and the mind to become calm. Now your body's functions will become normal. There is no tension and no distractions. Then slightly concentrate on your Dantien, your center just below your navel, because this is where your energy is stored. 

Different people describe the location of the Dantien in different ways. Some say at the Qihai point (an acupuncture point on the Ren Channel), some say one and a half inches or even three inches below the navel. Actually, the Dantien is an area, not a point. So we do not need to be so strict about its exact location. 'Dan' means 'essence of energy' or 'crystal'. 'Tien' means 'field'. A field is not a point, it is an area. Thus the Dantien is an area. When the Dantien is open it can store a lot of energy. This makes you healthy, strong and lets you live a long life. The more active you are, the more energy you will use and this reduces your life. Take for example a dog. Dogs breathe very quickly, using the mouth more than the nose. they are very active and fast - very yang. Thus they only live for about fiifteen years, twenty at the most. A turtle for example, does not breathe with its nose alone. It uses its internal body, its abdomen. Each breath takes about two minutes. It moves slowly and quietly - very yin. So on average they live for two hundred years! People are the same. If you go running, circuit training, weight training, then these exercises can make you big, but they do not give you energy. Quiet, slow, gentle - these ways can help you store energy. 

When you breathe you should not just use your chest,  your lungs - you should use your abdomen.  They abdomen is deeper than the chest. When you breathe the breathing is deeper, longer, more internal. This way the Qi goes directly to your Dantien and strongly affects the internal organs, particularly the kidneys, lungs and heart. In fact, you breathe with the Dantien.

The Breathing Methods
The first breathing method you should use is 'natural breathing'. Forget everything (including your abdomen and the way it moves as you breathe). Just relax and concentrate on your Dantien. Slowly you will find your breathing getting deeper and deeper. 

Then you can move on to other breathing techniques. One is 'normal breathing'. Unlike natural breathing, normal breathing places more emphasis on the Dantien. As you breathe in your abdomen expands, so your Dantien expands. As you breathe out you contract your abdomen, so your Dantien moves in. this emphasizing stimulates the Dantien, making it warm. 

After practicing 'normal breathing' for a time we can move on to a slightly higher level technique - 'reverse breathing'. This also works with the abdomen, but as you breathe in you pull in your abdomen and as you breathe out you expand your abdomen. This is more difficult than normal breathing it is also stronger - it is like turning up the fire to make the room warm. 

Finally, having practiced for long enough you will find that relaxation is the most important thing. When you breathe you must relax your whole body. Start with natural breathing then move on to normal and reverse breathing. These breathing methods are good for the Dantien. They make it more sensitive and able to collect more Qi. However, because they are stronger you cannot use them all the time. Just use them to stimulate your Dantien, then let go and breathe naturally, otherwise you will become too yang - too hot, like you burn the toast. This will cause the heart to beta quickly and build up the pressure in your  veins. You will not be able to sleep and you will suffer from stress.

The correct way to use either normal or reverse breathing is to count twenty-four breaths (inhale and exhale being counted as one) and then go back to natural breathing. This allows your Qi to come back to the Dantien. You will find all your channels are clear and you feel comfortable and warm. Just let your Qi flow naturally. In fact, if you are relaxed enough, your breathing will spontaneously change to normal and reverse breathing naturally - it is no longer fixed. At that moment you are at one with nature, your body will be so relaxed that you will forget it completely, you will not even notice your breathing. Let everything go and your body will eventually become part of the universe - reach the state of Tao.