Breathing is often understated, but it cannot be over-rated. Each breath we take does the obvious: air comes into our lungs and oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood and our bodies gain a renewed lease on life for another minute or so. Stop breathing and you stop living. Air is arguably the single most urgent element in life. And how we breathe is a crucial element in longevity and quality of life.
There is so much more to a breath of fresh air than a chemical exchange. Each breath nurtures our bodies in so many ways. A breath can express emotions, affect verbal communication, exercise the diaphragm, enhance circulation in the vital organs and much more. In fact, varying ones breathing patterns is a common practice in many modalities to enhance energy circulation, healing and strength.
Learning to control and even master ones breath is an import part of activities such as martial arts, sports, meditations and performing arts because breathing patterns are so interwoven with all physiological, psychological, emotional and spiritual practices. We can even regulate our body temperatures with different breathing practices, as some of my students have already learned.
I often remind students to relax and breathe deeply into their lower “tan tien (energy center). To clarify, I simply mean to allow the diaphragm to stretch downward from the bottom of the rib cage and push into the abdomen where the liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach and intestines reside. This action squishes them around a bit, which is in itself a beneficial activities, and it also allows for the lungs to expand downward and outward in all directions under the ribs increasing their volume to a maximum capacity. At the same time, it eliminates the need to use extra muscles in the upper chest or raise the shoulders in order to satisfy the urge for air.
Abdominal breathing, as the practice described above is often called, is necessary for deep relaxation. By training ourselves to breathe in this way on a regular basis, and not lift our shoulders and suck in our guts when we breathe (no matter how much stress we are under), we enhance our baseline of relaxation and decrease chronic stress. This even becomes evident in our sleep. A few minutes of meditation before bed that include slow, deep, abdominal breathing leads to deeper and more relaxed sleep patterns.
So, take a breath and please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding class times or topics discussed in my blog. I will continue to send out weekly reminders of my classes. And this month, we will focus on breathing.
I hope to see you soon on a Monday at 9am at the Gazebo in Pacific Grove Jewell Park, and/or a Friday at 9am at the Gazebo in Carmel Valley Community Park, or any other time that is mutually agreeable by appointment.
Sifu Mark Angel
Mark is a Qi Gong and Tai Chi instructor and gives classes and private lessons in Carmel Valley, CA