Temple Blog Normal Abdominal Breathing
Breathing is a vital body function requiring the contraction of skeletal muscles. Breathing is a subconscious process but can also be controlled consciously. If we forget to breathe, we are still breathing. When learning and practising internal Martial Arts, one must become aware of their breathing pattern.
The muscles used for the breathing process will determine the type of breathing. If the intercostal muscles are used, the breathing happens in the chest by expanding and contracting. In this type of breathing, the diaphragm muscles are not moving very much. External practice in Kung Fu uses this type of breathing pattern. It helps increase lung capacity; therefore, more oxygen enters the body. On the other hand, internal practices in Kung Fu such as Qigong, Meditation, Taiji and Meihua Quan use normal abdominal breathing. Chest breathing will create too much Fire Qi.
Normal Abdominal Breathing
Normal abdominal breathing, or Dantian breathing, is the breathing that uses the thoracic diaphragm and the abdominal muscles. When breathing in, the diaphragm moves down and pulls the air into the lungs, and when breathing out, the diaphragm moves up, and the air is expelled out of the lungs. Sit or stand comfortably with the palms on the lower abdomen to practice normal abdominal breathing. The palms on the lower abdomen help one feel and understand the movement of the abdominal muscles. It helps to internalise the connection between the body (lower Dantian) and mind. The tongue tip is placed on the roof of the mouth to connect the Conception Vessel and Governing Vessel meridians. The chest is relaxed. Breathe in through the nose. Visualise the airflow from entering the nose, passing through the body’s centerline and moving down towards the abdomen, between the belly button and pubic bone, on a false lower Dantian, the Qihai acupoint or the “Sea of Qi”.
Qihai acupoint (CV6) is located on the Conception Vessel Meridian, 1.5 cun (5 cm) below the belly button. The area expands, and the Qihai acupoint moves forward. Due to the abdominal muscle expansion, the Huiyin acupoint, the most “Yin” point of the torso, moves slightly down. When breathing out, the lower abdomen moves slightly inward (the Qihai acupoint moves back towards the spine), so the Huiyin acupoint (CV1, on the Conception Vessel Meridian) moves slightly up. Work gently with Huiyin acupoint to avoid tensions. The mind should drive the movement until the movement becomes natural. Avoid forcing the movements as the Huiyin acupoint is a very sensitive area. However, more Qi will develop when the coordination is achieved at the Huiyin acupoint location. After some time of practice, the lower Dantian feels warm.
The real dantian
The real Dantian is located inside the abdomen in the enteric nervous system, also called the second brain. The second brain in the gut realises the communication with the brain in the head. By practising normal abdominal breathing more, Qi is felt in the real lower Dantian. Do not hold your breath because the purpose of natural abdominal breathing is to be natural and steady, without tension for the body and mind. The goal of natural abdominal practice is for the Qi to flow freely and for the abdominal muscles to relax. Practising normal abdominal breathing up to three times per day for ten minutes, one can breathe as a baby in about three months. During this time, the middle and upper abdomen muscles coordinate with the lateral and back muscles. The practice will expand and contract the abdomen in all directions. It activates the Ming Men acupoints (GV 4, on the Governor Vessel Meridians), called the “Life Gate”.
The practice of normal abdominal breathing is beneficial for the internal organs due to the diaphragm and abdominal muscles massaging them. It increases blood circulation and Qi in internal organs and efficiently transforms Essence into Qi. In addition, it increases the quantity of Water Qi in the body, which is the key to the efficient Qigong practice as it enables one to calm the mind and steady the spirit. Adequate Water Qi is essential to regulate the Fire Qi and keep balance with benefits for health and longevity. Normal abdominal breathing helps to keep the awareness in the lower Dantian and feel physically and energetically more grounded.