Esoteric Martial Arts

Qi Gong - Regulation of the Breathing

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The regulation of the breath is the most fundamental aspect of Qi Gong and it is important to understand this art before commencing the exercises themselves.

All Qi Gong practices require the regulation of the breath, and it is necesary that you are able to perform the correct method of breathing in order to gain benefit from the exercises themselves. Simply regulating the breeath on its own is a potent form of Qi Gong practice as well as a great introduction to stationary meditation.
The most common form of breathing in Qi Gong, which is used in perhaps 90% of Qi Gong exercises is called abdominal breathing. It has this name because of the movement of the lower abdomen during the breath cycle. When you are learning this it is useful to hold one of your hands over your abdomen, just below the navel, so that you can feel the movement. As you inhale the lower abdomen should expand first, and you should concentrate on drawing air right down to the bottom of your lungs. Imagine that you are drawing air right down to the bottom of your abdomen; although the diaphragm does not come down this far it is a useful visualisation to aid you in getting the correct movement. As you draw more air in the expansion rises up your torso like a wave, to encompass the chest. Remember that you are drawing air into the centre of your body, so there should be some expansion noticable in the lower back as well as the abdomen, although this is les pronounced. The breath should be as deep and full as possible without straining; youshould stay as relaxed as possible throughout. As you inhale the abdomen contracts first, followed by the chest, as you gently push the air out of your lungs from the bottom upwards.
A common addition to this abdominal breathing is to also practice a subtle control of the sphincter muslce of the anus. To do this the sphincter is relaxed and pushed slightly outwards during the inhilation, and drawn slightly inwards for the exhilation. The movement should be very slight.
This kind of breathing deepens relaxations and increases chi flow. Practiced on its own it can reduce stress and improve general health, but it is also the first step in learning to regulate and control the flow of chi within the body. For martial arts applications reverse abdominal breathing is sometimes used (see: Wu Huo - Martial Fire Chi Kung).
When you are experienced at abdominal breathing you can continue on to practice Embryo Breathing, in which chi is drawn into the Dan Tien - a reservoir of stored chi in the lower abdomen - acheiving an effec akin to recharging the bodies natural battery. This is then the foundation for the Grand Circulation, in which you learn to draw chi from the Dan Tien and direct it t specific areas of the body. These techniques are a huge subject in themselves, and are more than I can deal with here; but I can reccommend the following book on the subject:
Qi Gong Meditation: Embryonic Breathing
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