Qigong breathing is based on Taoist breathing methods that focus on returning the way we breathe to what is in harmony with nature. These methods focus on creating a circular breath that starts from the belly and is relaxed. These methods can be practiced sitting or while doing any of the Energy Arts qigong exercise sets.
Always breathe from your belly and not solely from your chest. This is the way you breathed when you were a baby. Belly breathing is the first step in learning Taoist Longevity Breathing practices and ideally should be incorporated into all Taoist qigong or tai chi practices. Belly breathing drops and lifts the big muscle of the diaphragm, the natural body mechanism that pushes air in and out of your lungs.
Belly breathing helps center your awareness in your body, rather than in your head, so that you feel more physically and energetically grounded. It helps you to relax your neck, shoulders and arms. It improves the circulation of blood and the flow of chi in your internal organs. Belly breathing provides a wonderful massage for your internal organs. Just as massaging your muscles adds to their tone and overall functioning, so will belly breathing benefit your internal organs. In terms of your health, massaging your internal organs is more important than toning your visible muscles. Belly breathing increases the blood circulation in the blood vessels that nourish your internal organs.
Ideally, inhale and exhale only through your nostrils. If medical reasons make this impractical, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Inhale and exhale through your mouth only as a last resort.
- When you inhale, feel your breath come into your nose, down your throat and into your lungs and belly. Let your belly muscles expand to move your belly forward.
- When you exhale, let your belly return to its original position and relax. Do your best to completely relax your chest and not use any strength to puff it out when you breathe. You should have very little or no sense of air going into your chest.
- First, practice by focusing on expanding and relaxing your lower belly. Your lower belly extends from slightly above the top of your pubic hair to your navel. Breathe in such a way that the lower belly does not move from below the top of your pubic hair. Avoid straining or any feeling of pressure in your genitals.
- When you can expand and relax your lower belly comfortably, turn your attention to moving the middle belly when you breathe, which for most people is more difficult. The middle belly extends from your navel to just before your diaphragm. Placing your hands on the lower, middle and upper parts of your belly as you breathe will give you clear feedback as to whether and how much your belly is moving.
- Finally, concentrate on expanding and relaxing your upper belly—your diaphragm and solar plexus—just underneath your lowest ribs. Try to have your diaphragm move downward as you inhale and upward as you exhale. This will help push air into the back and top of your lungs, parts that seldom get exercised. Eventually, you will be able to move all three parts of your belly in unison.
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