Breathing exercise is the foundation of any Taoist-based martial art and healing art. Without knowing how to breathe properly first will only slow down your progress. It is like building a tower without building its foundation first. The higher you build this tower, the more unstable it will become. Eventually, it wills collapse. Breathing exercise is the building blocks of Taoist-Art. All exercises in this manual utilize the art of breathing. When Abdominal Breathing is done properly, it will refresh us by forcing the old and stagnated chi out of the body. Energize us by nourishing our body with fresh oxygen. The expanding and contracting movements from your abdomen massage your internal organs, improving their circulation.
Exercise 1: Observe and relearn your breathing patterns. During our course of life, we have picked up many bad habits through our stylized lifestyle. So first we are going to relearn how to breathe naturally. The best way to do this is to learn it from your own body. First, relax yourself and lay down on your back, just try to make yourself comfortable. Take a couple deep breaths to calm down your mind. Through your nose, breathe in slowly and deeply. As you breathe in, concentrate on your in-breath and be aware that you are breathing in. Then exhale doing the same. Repeat 3 times. Now put your hands palm down, one on top of the other, on your lower abdomen. Just lay your hands there, dont put pressure on it. Now observe your hands as you breathe in and out. Notice how your abdomen expands and contracts. Do not use your muscle, or force your breath. Simply relax and observe. This is Normal Breathing. The stomach contracts, as you breathe out; expands as you breathe in. The best time to do this is when you just wake up from bed or before you go to bed.
Exercise 2: This is the same concept as above, except that this time we want to relearn another breathing method, Reverse Breathing. This exercise require more physical works, because we want to observe what happen to our breathing pattern when extra energy is needed in the body. First thing to do is to warm up your body, especially the big joints (neck, shoulders, waist, hip, knee, and ankle). Then do about fifty jumping jacks (or any exercise you prefer). Running laps is fine also. Exercise until your heart rate goes up. Stop, and put both hands on the lower abdomen. Observe how your breathing pattern is different than Normal Breathing. The stomach contracts when breathing in, expand as you are breathing out. Now try to regulate your breath by breathing through the nose. When out of breath, many people would breathe through their mouth instead, because the mouths opening is larger than the nostrils. Breathing that way is not wrong, but it will dry up the throat very quickly, the breath will become very shallow, and the Microcosmic Channel will be cut off; so in our practice we will breathe through our nose. When you start breathing through your nose, notice how your breath becomes deeper and more rhythmic than you would breathing through your mouth. This is Reverse Breathing.
After you have relearned these two breathing methods, practice them everyday for the first week. Practice Normal Breathing for about five minutes at a time, twice a day. When practicing, try breathing deep, slow, and even breath. That is the goal for this practice. But this will not come suddenly overnight. So please do not force your breath or you will harm your body! Do it gradually, and it will come with time. Let it happen naturally, that is the way of the Tao. Do not rush. Practice carefully, and mindfully. Notice subtle details such as how your thoracic, and pelvic diaphragm lower and rise. In which way the stomach expands and contracts. Follow your breath into your body as you breathe in. Keep your body relaxed.
As in the same way with Normal Breathing, practice Reverse Breathing daily except that, dont practice more than one minutes at a time. Over practicing may strain your abdominal muscle and over heat your system, as the extra energy is not being used or store away immediately. Then gradually increase it to two minutes after two weeks of practice. Depending on how comfortable you are with it, increase to 3 minutes after about a month. Do this after you have practiced the Normal Breathing as a warm up. Try to do it with your chest relaxed. Do not over do this practice, as this is more difficult to perform. Until you have opened the Microcosmic Channel, and learn how to effectively store away exceeds energy; do not practice Reverse Breathing for more than 3 minutes at a time for the first 3 months.
These two breathings are the foundation of basic skill that you will need to continue the Taoist Art, especially the Normal Breathing. We will start each session with Normal breathing to calm down our mind, preparing us for the energy-work ahead of us. We will also use it for Chi Kung, Tree Standing, Iron Shirt, Tendon Exchange, and sitting meditation etc.
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