Deep Breathing Techniques,
Lesson 6 of 6
Now that we have built up to deep, spherical breathing over the last five lessons, it’s now time to apply your skill while in motion (see the first blog in my deep breathing series to study the progression).
Many people who practice Tao movement arts, such qi gong, tai chi or bagua, focus only on what is directly in front of them, up-down or left-right because these directions are in their field of vision. Most people do not turn their consciousness to what is behind them. This is a speciality of Earth Element Qi Gong (Gods Playing in the Clouds in the Energy Arts System) and bagua because each art develops the ability to create spherical movement. Although once you develop spherical awareness, you can apply it any exercise, such as qi gong, tai chi and Taoist yoga.
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How to Create Spherical Motion
There are many methods for developing spherical awareness and spherical operation of your body. That said, you must first fully develop your technique with circularity before attempting spherical movement. So the how-to instructions that follow are meant to help those who have already reached this milestone by studying the techniques offered int he preceding five blogs over some weeks or months. I caution those of you who are still stabilising your fundamental techniques to be patient and fill in any gaps before charging forward.
Spherical Breathing Technique
When you take a full breath in deep, diaphragm breathing, the whole torso (except the chest) naturally expands like a balloon blowing up on the inhale. The diaphragm goes down and swells the bowels and lower organs (front, sides and back), and the lungs expand (down, sideways, back and up), causing a ballooning effect.
When your breathing becomes smooth and strong in the body, the entire spine also becomes engaged, lengthening up and down (as the vertebrae separate a little), while the whole spine retracts out of the back of the body ever-so slightly. This spinal activity really gets the qi circulating and is the first stage of increasing your awareness behind you.
First, you practice sitting, next in standing qi gong, then moving qi gong and, finally, in tai chi and bagua. I highly recommend holding off on transporting this exercise into your tai chi or bagua practice until your technique is like putty in your hands since both arts put uneven pressure on your spine and internal organs. If you are struggling to achieve spherical breathing (i.e. you haven’t released the bulk of the tension in your belly, diaphragm and/or ribcage) and you practice this technique inside tai chi or bagua, you can all too easily strain your body. Conversely, when your system is open and soft, those pressures dissipate and cause a positive, massaging effect.
To achieve deep, spherical breathing, practice each of the following stages for a few days or more before moving on to the next in this order:
- Breathe into the front of diaphragm to expand the belly. The chest remains absolutely still.
- Breathe into the sides of diaphragm to expand the lower ribs and midriff.
- Breathe into the back of diaphragm to expand kidneys.
- Breathe into the lower lungs and combine the first three stages.
- Breathe into the sides and back of lungs to expand sides and back of ribcage.
- Breathe into the top of lungs to expand the upper back.
- Breathe into the whole sphere, combining stages 1 to 6.
- When the sphere starts to open as one piece, focus on engaging and opening up the spine with your breath.
Of course when you arrive at step 8, repeat the cycle again, deepening your ability at every level and multiplying the positive effects of all others.