Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 317
Embryonic Breathing
There is a practice in Tai Chi Chuan called Reverse Breathing. This comes through the Daoists, as opposed to the Natural Breathing of the Buddhists. I learned this technique from Master Jou and, at the time, found it somewhat difficult until I could come up with images to get my body to do the right thing. Let me share one image with you that might help you to experience this powerful, meditative technique.
A sperm fertilizes an egg. As it starts to grow and multiply, it attaches to the uterus, and a cord, called the umbilical cord, forms as a way for the mother to feed the growing cells. This attaches to what will later be the belly button of the infant. The embryo takes in nutrition from the mother, and gets rid of it’s waste by sending it through the cord to the mother, who disposes of it through her lymph system. So here is the exercise.
Sitting or standing quietly, imagine you have an umbilical cord attached to your belly button. The other end is attached to your mother, the universe. As you inhale through the nose, energy is drawn in from the universe, through the cord to the belly. The inhale is like a sucking in – the belly contracts or pulls inward. As you exhale through the nose, send the waste products back out to the universe. The belly expands. That’s it.
Take your time and really feel what you are imagining. Pull in energy through the umbilical cord as you inhale, and send out waste through the cord when you exhale. Simple, yet most people breathe naturally, which is the opposite – belly expands when inhaling and contracts when exhaling.
Yogi Bajan who set up an organization called the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy) back in the 60’s, used this reverse breathing very vigorously and called it “The Breath of Fire”. It blew a lot of us early hippies away at the time. With this technique, one has to be a bit careful as it really gets the energy fired up, with the result of the energy being sent up to the head top. The Yogis call this energy Kundalini. Same stuff as what we call Qi.
It usually takes a while to feel comfortable with “reverse breathing”, but don’t give up. Practice at odd times like driving in a car, or taking some other means of transportation. Waiting in line at the grocery store. Of course, it is most effective when practiced in a lovely, natural space. Start this practice slow and easy and don’t overdo.
Special Notice: Class in the Time of Covid
On June 2, I am starting the new class in Chetzemoka Park, focusing on the Yang 54 Form. The way I like to teach the form is to partner up in order to understand the applications and energies involved in each and every part of each and every move. Since Covid got started in the US over a year ago, we have been meeting in the Park, four days a weeks. A few wore, and still wear, masks, but we always keep a safe distance from others, enjoying the fresh air. I believe most everyone has been vaccinated. Nobody in our group has contacted the disease. And we want to keep it that way. So………
I encourage students to get vaccinated, but respect the rights of all to make the decision for themselves. So I came up with an idea. When learning the moves and using a partner to understand the energies deeper, in order to participate, one needs to have been fully vaccinated. For those who choose not to, they can still do the class, but will not be able to participate with a partner. They can follow along, from a distance, as we have been doing all along. Students can learn and practice, just not using a partner. Let’s all stay healthy and happy.