According to the Chinese medical society, the lungs and the heart are places where the air jing is converted into ch'i (qi). The food jing is stored in the stomach and the digestive system, which is absorbed and converted into ch'i. This ch'i is stored in the middle dan-tian and follows the conception and governing vessels to be dispersed through the human body. The lungs are responsible for taking ch'i from the air and from the energy ch'i state of the body; they govern skin and hair. There are countless methods to strengthen the ch'i, or vital energy, of which I will mention only the most important to our practice.
Breathing through the Natural Method
In carrying out the natural breathing, it would be of much aid if you know how muscles work while completing a breathing cycle. In the chapter on the anatomy of breath in the book The MSCP Principle (The Mental Screen Conditioning Process Principle), you get a glimpse on which muscles help to carry out this important process of gas exchange (oxygen and carbon dioxide). Emotions and thoughts affect the way we breathe. When sad, our breathing is slower than when breathing more quickly by feeling tense or nervous. Emotion takes an important role in the inhalations or exhalations we take. The sighs after crying by sadness or emotional outburst produce longer inhalations. This is most noticeable when we inhale when sobbing than when we exhale through the sob. Note that lovers or cheerful people inhale and exhale deeper, longer, and release an energy that comes out of the chest by effects of the sigh.
When doing the natural breathing, think first in relaxing the body, feel comfortable, and release any mental concerns. Allow air to flow freely through the nostrils and feel how this fresh air fills your lungs. Feel your breath, do not attempt to control the duration of exhalations or inhalations.
This breathing is carried out by the expansion and contraction of the rib cage. Refer to the section that covers the subject on the anatomy of breathing. The purpose of the chest breathing is to think about the expansion of the chest to achieve greater oxygenation. Do not stretch the chest or contract the muscles of the neck, shoulders, or back since this will cause more muscular and emotional stress and therefore greater oxygen consumption in the process. Keep a calmed mind, relax your body, smile, and enjoy the feeling this breathing can provide while expanding the chest muscles. Exhale and feel how the muscles of the chest relax and the rib cage collapses due to the internal and external intercostal muscles holding the ribs. While exhaling, send your vital energy to the upper and lower limbs since this type of breathing has more load energy. This type of breathing makes to get more oxygen to the terminals of the bronchioles.
It is carried out by the concentration to contract the muscles of the abdominal wall along with the diaphragm while breathing in and out. Lungs can increase its performance and capabilities and thus affect and improve health.
Teachers Recognize Two Types of Abdominal Breathing
1. Natural abdominal breathing—while inhaling, the abdominal wall is extended and retracted while exhaling. This breathing can be seen in babies since they naturally inhale and exhale in this way. Unborn babies are fed through the umbilical cord, which, joined to the mother, provides the livelihood for its development. In the mother cloister, the baby must move the abdomen to be able to pump nutrients and oxygen that nourish his/her body. After birth, the baby starts to feed through the mouth and receives oxygen through the lungs. It is to make use of the abdominal wall to receive food. As the body grows up, it stops doing this type of breathing and, if not informed about its benefits, starts developing bad breathing habits.
2. Reversed abdominal breathing—reverse abdominal breathing must start with a slight movement in the abdomen in coordination with a complete cycle of inhalation-exhalation. Keep the area of the solar plexus to the navel, known as the middle warmer relaxed. After a while of practicing reversed abdominal or opposite breathing, the person intentionally reverses the direction of inhalation and exhalation. When inhaling, one retracts the abdominal wall, without forcing the muscles of the abdomen, and while exhaling, the abdominal wall is extended. This breathing can be seen when we inhale to push a heavy object, such as a car, which we are pushing to move. In doing so, we inhale to take strength by contracting the muscles of the entire body. Then we contain the breath by targeting chi to all the muscles to get prepared to push, at the same time, we extend the abdominal wall exerting pressure on it, to distribute the chi throughout the body, and then we exhale through the mouth to prolong the chi force, directing it to the arms and hands.
A symptom that reverse abdominal breathing shows is stagnating energy in the abdomen which is the manifestation of a faster heartbeat. This can cause pressure and stress on the lower dan-tian, making the vital energy pond, condition mostly present in students who just have begun this type of breathing. Pain in abdomen, chest pain, or diarrhea are the results of stagnated energy in the abdomen. In this case, it is recommended to practice natural abdominal breathing until it feels natural and flowing without causing any discomfort. Observing this the practitioner's actions will be controlled, and willingness will be strengthened at decision making. The MSCP I practice and Taoist meditation will bring the energy flow to a stable flow.
How Breathing Should Be Observed
Both systems of breathing, the natural abdominal breathing and the reverse abdominal breathing, should be made slowly, extended, thin, soft, and even. Slowly means to focus on making these flow naturally, with relaxed shoulders, chest, and stomach and must be slow as inflating a balloon without pausing. Inhale counting to four and exhale counting to four as well. Continue the cycle.
Extended means, with practice, increase the count breathing up to nine or more; the same is applied on the exhaling stage. Thin—thin breaths are identified with an inhalation allowing little air to let go as stretching a "rubber band," both while inhaling and during exhaling. Inhaling as if you were breathing in a "trickle" air, inhale naturally without opening the nostrils to inhale or exhale-without forcing the ala of nose to open-. Let the air out like a string to prolong the exhalation, or inhale a trickle of air to stretch the inhalation. Even means if you set a count for one, two, three, four to inhale, so count the same number and duration while exhaling. Soft means we inhale a trickle of air to avoid making a noise, or we avoid to raise the chest to breath. No obvious motion of the chest or noise from inhaling should be done in the breathing cycle. While exhaling the abdomen expands or collapses to strengthen muscles while inhaling when doing reversed breathing. Observe that when you exhale on the last eighth of the trickle of air, "strengthen" the abdomen to "remove" the hidden air in the abdominal wall but without forcing the last vital reserve. We inhale naturally without hurrying up to receive the first dose of vital air.
Breathing with Complete Inhalations and Exhalations
This is a type of abdominal breathing. In this type of breathing, the input and output of air through the abdominal movement is coordinated. This type of breathing includes the abdominal breathing and the chest breathing. Here, more oxygenation will be stored because of the use of a larger thoracic and abdominal area. This process trains the abdominal and rib cage muscles to stretch and contract to the maximum, as well as to help generate a clear thinking; it makes the practitioner more self-conscious, wiser, and to be on a complete peace of mind. When inhaling and exhaling, a light sound is done. This helps guide the chi to the surface of the skin, condensing it at the center of the body or directing it to the bone marrow.
- Body breathing or breathing through the skin Breathing is considered a technique for leading vital energy to the skin and hair. The skin is the largest organ of the body. This organ performs many functions, such as perspiration to lower the temperature and refreshing when it evaporates sweat on the skin, to receive impulses from the environment, to receive the sensations of warmth or cold, or expel toxins through sweat, among other functions. Body breath is one of the major practices of chi kung. During the practice of the –MSCP I- routine, the personal chi bubble can be felt expanding and contracting it during this type of respiration. The personal chi bubble can expand and be directed to other places or parts of the body. This chi bubble strengthens the body's guardian chi, protecting you from viral or subtle energy external influences.
The Physical Benefits to Carry Out Correct Breathing
While carrying out this type of breathing, the body in its entirety also breathes. To inhale chi through the nose, the pores in the skin are closed, but when exhaling through the pores of the skin these open (felt through the expansion of the energy bubble), promoting the chi circulation. When you circulate chi while exhaling, you'll be able to feel a sense of body expansion, often feeling the hands are surrounded by a light cloud. Sometimes, you may feel that your skin is surrounded by a warm coat similar to the feeling of the heat the sun provides. Together with the large intestine (yang), the lungs (yin) are considered paired organs; which belong to metal in the five phases. Because the lungs are sensitive to emotional change, especially when you feel sad or upset, deep breathing is able to calm your excited chi state. With regular practice, you will notice that the effects these breathing techniques have provided
- an obvious emotional tranquility,
- a reduction of body toxins,
- an expansion of the vital energy,
- a reduction in expansion of the energy flow toxins,
- a reduction of physical tension,
- an increase in the oxygenation of the blood,
- a synchronization of events occurring at your surroundings and a concept of universal unity, and
- a feeling of total body relaxation and a mental clarity.
While doing the act of breathing, all the eleven body systems are involved in the pursuit of homeostasis, which is the condition of balance in the body's internal environment, due to the multiple regulatory processes happening within the body. Breath regulation has still many secrets to be unveiled. As an example, I'll mention the anchoring of the breathing process with healing techniques, which could bring much good to the practitioner and, if shared to the whole world, could help to reduce health unbalances. Breathing together with the brain and heart's complex functions maintains life in our planet. Without the proper participation in any of these organs, normal life would be just impossible.
Breathing is the foundation for the creation of life; breathing is the key element for the Blue Emptiness Qi Grid, in which energy tool can be applied and linked many of other healing techniques. Together with the science of breathing, the Blue Emptiness Qi Grid and the spiral arrow technique may as well restore body organs. The breathing spirit can be felt when trying to transmit it by means of the presence, guidance, and use of qi.
René Qián has been practicing Esoteric Transcendental Meditation and Chi kung (Qigong) since 1973. Founder and coordinator since 1986 of the School of the Spoken Tao. Contact Qián by visiting the web site: www.thespokenqiantao.com. This article is an excerpt from chapter 8 of The MSCP Principle by René Qián.
Originally published in Spring 2022 Qi Journal