Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 279
Yin and Yang, Yang and Yin
Week before last, I shared about the Breathing Box. Hopefully, you have played with this qigong exercise enough to feel if it works for you. I have one more element to add at this time which is, to me, very interesting and informative. That is adding the idea of active and passive, yin and yang. I’ll explain in a moment. But first, something I find interesting.
Say to yourself “yin and yang”, then say “yang and yin”. Notice any difference. Try again. Anything? Whenever I use the two words, I usually say yin and yang, not yang and yin. Just doesn’t feel right. I could make up a whole psychology about this, but just think about it. I quizzed the Tai Chi group about this and, low and behold, there was 100% agreement that “yin and yang” was the natural way to say this. I wonder why. Let me know what you think.
The Breath – Yin (passive) and Yang (active).
When playing with the box, or any shape, and the breath, I noticed it can be active or passive. Makes a difference. Let’s look at active first, for no apparent reason. When playing with the breath actively, when you inhale (expansion), you feel your center is pushing the box outward. You are doing the work. When you exhale (contraction), your center is pulling the box inward. You are controlling the in and out from the center. Start with one surface first, like we did two weeks ago.
Passive is interesting. An outside force is causing you to inhale or exhale. As one surface (or all) moves outward, as if being pulled, it causes the inhale. You are not inhaling. The movement of the belly is causing the breath to enter. The surface is then pushed inward which causes the exhale.
Do you understand the difference. In one you are the mover, and in the other, you observe some other force acting as the mover. This works well when playing the Tai Chi form also. Either I control all aspects of the form or the I am like a puppet being moved. I bet you notice people whose personality fits either one category or the other – passive or active. There is nothing good or bad about either – they are just different.
We tend to be active or passive predominately, but most people can function in either. Which breathing method feels most comfortable to you? Might be a key to figuring yourself out. More information about our inner working is always welcome.
Natural and Reverse Breathing
In the natural breath, the belly expands when inhaling and contracts when exhaling. Called Belly Breathing or Buddhist Breathing. It is natural. When I explained the Box, I used natural breathing. The surface expanded on the inhale and contracted on the exhale.
Daoist or Reverse Breathing uses belly contracting on inhale and expanding on exhale. The inhale is like sucking air into the center, then pushing it out on the exhale. This breath is used when exerting or wanting to focus a lot of energy for martial activity.
The inhale is combined with a vocalization – saying “Heng”. It is said with a sucking in of air. Notice how the belly contracts inward when saying Heng. Try it.
The exhale is often combined with vocalization, like saying “Hah” on the exhale. Notice how the belly expands when saying this. It takes some practice for most people to feel comfortable using this pattern. I don’t recommend it for most Tai Chi players, yet if you have the time and desire, practice can pay off with positive results.
As a note: Master Jou wrote what I consider the Tai Chi Bible. The book is call “The Dao of Tai Chi Chuan.” In it he has a great explanation for natural and reverse breathing. It is easy to find the book used or new. A good reference book.