Qi (chi) also means “air” or “breathing” in Chinese. Qigong is the process of integrating and adjusting body, breath, and mind. The previous posts in this multi-part introductory series of How to be a Qigong Master were about meditation. This post is about breathing, specifically Qi breathing … focused conscious breathing techniques to harmonize body, mind, spirit with divine energy for healing and vitality.
Qigong is the cultivation of energy skill utilizing many methods and techniques of self care and life nurturing actions. These activities include exhalation and inhalation, guiding and conducting exercises, massaging/stepping on the body, refining and nourishing, cultivating and refining, cultivating virtue, cultivating truth, tranquil sitting, or sitting meditation, meditation, life-nurturing, mind-visualization, observing-imagination, and circulating Qi.
The following excerpt from “Qigong, The Secret of Youth: Da Mo‘s Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Classics” introduces the general concepts of exhalation and inhalation, water and fire, yin and yang in Qigong practice.
“In Qigong, breathing is considered a “strategy” which enables you to lead the Qi effectively. For example, you can use your breath to lead the Qi to your skin or marrow. Breathing slow or fast can make the Qi flow calm or vigorous. When you are excited your body is Yang, and you exhale more than you inhale to lead the Qi to the skin so that the excess will dissipate in the surrounding air. When you are sad your body is Yin, and you inhale more than you exhale to lead the Qi inward to conserve it. You can see that breathing can be the main cause of changing the body’s Yin and Yang. Therefore, breathing has Kan (water) and Li (fire).
Generally speaking, in the normal state of your body, inhaling is considered to be a Water activity because you lead the Qi inward to the bone marrow where it is stored. This reduces the Qi in the muscles and tendons, which calms down the body’s Yang. Exhaling is considered a Fire activity because it brings Qi outward to the muscles, tendons, and skin to energize them, making the body more Yang. When the body is more Yang than its surroundings, the Qi in the body is automatically dissipated outward.
Normally, Yin and Yang should be balanced so that your body will function harmoniously. The trick to maintaining this balance is using breathing strategy. Usually your inhalations and exhalations should be equal. However, when you are excited your body is too Yang, so you may inhale longer and deeper to calm down your mind and lead the Qi inside your body to make it more Yin.
In Qigong practice, it is very important to grasp the trick of correct breathing. It is the exhalation which leads Qi to the five centers (Baihui, two Laogong cavities, and two Yongquan cavities) and the skin to exchange Qi with the surroundings. Inhalation leads Qi deep inside your body to reach the internal organs and marrow.”
- Correct breathing for Qigong practice requires mindfulness and awareness to direct the breath into specific areas of the body for the cultivation and circulation of Qi. Without mindful attention to your breath, you are not consciously breathing, you are automatically breathing but lack control over its effects on your body – not the master, but the slave.
- Keep the tip of your tongue behind teeth, touching the roof of mouth. Breathe through your nose. Slowly and deeply inhale and exhale. Notice your breath. Notice the sensations of the breath circulating in and out of your body, cleansing and rejuvenating your cells.
When thoughts and breath are in peace and steadiness, only then Qi, flourishing and powerful, is born.
~ Miao Xing
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