(Qigong breathing – 4)
Breathing in Harmony with Nature
Practitioners of Qigong and Nei Gong are using daoist breathing methods which strive to return a human to the breathing which is in harmony with Nature. First you have to relearn the breathing which you were using as a small child. This is so called normal abdominal breathing where you breathe predominantly with your thoracic diaphragm. This way of breathing is a foundation that you have to learn before you can start to study other breathing methods.
The first step in learning of breathing in Qigong is to become aware of your current pattern of breathing. The next step is to learn normal abdominal breathing and make it your natural breathing in everyday life.
How air enters the lungs
First you have to understand that the process of breathing is made possible because of expansion and contraction of certain muscles. Depending on that which muscles are predominantly involved in the process of breathing we distinguish chest breathing and abdominal breathing or combination of both.
Chest Breathing in Qigong
In a chest breathing your chest is expanding and contracting with a help of intercostal muscles… and a movement of diaphragm is minimal. This kind of breathing is used for example in external martial arts. By practicing chest breathing you increase a lungs capacity and body get more oxygen.
The aim of internal martial arts and qigong is not to increase lungs capacity because this would also mean that your body would get too much of Fire Qi. In Qigong you practice chest breathing only occasionally with the intent to revitalize the cells in parts of lungs which are not used often. When you practice try to keep relaxed your chest muscles and your mind.
Normal abdominal breathing in Qigong
For the practice of Qigong and Nei Gong is crucial a normal abdominal breathing, sometimes called also a Dantian breathing. In this breathing you use predominantly a diaphragm and abdominal muscles. When you inhale your diaphragm is moving down and pulling the air into lungs, when you exhale a diaphragm is moving upward and the air is going out of the lungs.
When you practice a normal abdominal breathing you stand or sit comfortably. Your palms are on your lower part of abdomen. This light contact helps you to feel the movement of your abdominal muscles and also to maintan a connection between your mind and the Lower Dantian. Keep the tip of your tongue on the palate of your mouth. In this way you connect Ren Mai and Du Mai extraordinary meridians.
In a normal abdominal breathing your chest remains relaxed and it doesn’t expand and contract. When you breathe deeply through your nose imagine and feel the air going down through your throat and the central line of your body in the lower part of abdomen (the area between the navel and pubic bone) which is expanding.
When you inhale lightly push/expand your abdominal muscles outwards and slightly push Huiyin point (Co-1, perineum) downward. When you exhale gently pull your lower part of abdomen inward and pull up slightly your Huiyin.
Breathe through your nose. It is very important not to hold your breathe. Keep in mind the Seventy percent rule. Your goal is for your breathing to become smooth and natural.
You learn abdominal breathing gradually without using any force which could create only unnecessary tensions of body and mind. You practice this breathing until your mind is capable to efficiently control abdominal muscles. Only then this area can remain relaxed and allows the Qi to circulate freely.
Practicing a normal abdominal breathing in phases
You can learn and practice normal abdominal breathing in phases. Practice each phase until you are able to do it effortlessly and you don’t have to think about it.
If you practice normal abdominal breathing two to three times per day for ten minutes you will be able in 1-3 months to breathe again as when you were child.
A coordination of abdominal muscles
First you start to learn to coordinate movement of abdominal muscles with breathing. The abdomen expands when you inhale and contract when you exhale. The diaphragm is moving down in inhalation and moving up when you exhale. In this phase of learning try to make breathing as smooth as possible and make inhale and exhale about of the same length. Your mind will eventually become calm and relaxed. In time the new way of breathing will happen unconsciously.
At the beginning it is easier to focus only to the movement of your lower part of abdomen. Keep your awareness on a “false” Lower Dantian, a Qihai point (Sea of Qi, Co-6) which is located 1,5 cun below the navel. When you inhale this point is moving forward and when you exhale it is moving backward in the direction of the spine. When you’ve been practicing this for some time you will probably feel how this area is warming up.
If in your qigong practice you continue to cultivate your breathing you will learn also the coordination of muscles in the middle and upper part of abdomen, of lateral abdominal muscles and of the muscles in the lumbar area of the back where a Ming Men is located. Ming Men (Gv-4 , Gate of Life) is a very important point in qigong and is located between vertebrae L2/L3. In this way you will be able to expand and contract your abdomen in all four directions.
Movement of Huiyin
In the next phase you give a part of your attention to perineum (the area between genitals and anus). In this area is located the acupuncture point Huiyin (Co-1, Sea Bottom). In this point meet two extraordinary meridians, Ren Mai and Du Mai. When you exhale, pull up gently Huiyin and when you inhale relax it or gently press it downward. It is very important that you work gently with Huiyin and that you do not create tensions. Use your mind until these movements become natural. It can take some time and the process can’t be accelerated by force. This is a very sensitive area and some people have difficulties to connect with it and feel it. When you succeed you will start to feel more qi in this area.
Real Lower Dantian
In this phase be more aware of your real Lower Dantian which is located inside your abdomen (the area of intestines, enteric nervous system). By practicing normal abdominal breathing you will feel more qi in your real Lower Dantian and when inhale you will feel energy expanding from your Dantian.
Benefits of normal abdominal breathing
The practice of normal abdominal breathing is very beneficial. Movements of diaphragm and abdominal muscles massage your internal organs and this kind of massage is much more important than the massage of superficial muscles. The internal massage increases the circulation of blood and qi in internal organs and in their surroundings and in this way supports their health.
A normal abdominal breathing helps you to keep your awareness in the lower Dantian and you feel physically and energetically more grounded.
According to the qigong theory normal abdominal breathing increases efficiency of transformation of Essence into Qi. It increases the quantity of Water Qi in the body which is the key for the efficient qigong practice as enables you to calm your mind and make your spirit steady. Adequate Water Qi is necessary to regulate the Fire Qi and keep balance which is crucial for your health and longevity.
Normal Abdominal Breathing and Relaxation
This breathing is very relaxing for your body and mind. You will feel much more calm. You can practice it also in a lying position, for example before you fall asleep.
May the Qi be with You!
Foto: Pixabay, Thieme atlas of Anatomy, PetarSmiljana Qigong
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