According to the Taoist view, the nutrition provided by air through breathing is even more vital to health and longevity than that provided by food and water through digestion. Breathing influences the body’s bio-electric balance just as diet influences its biochemical balance.
There are basically two functional types of breathing: Cleansing and Energizing
Cleansing Breath – detoxifies the body and stresses exhalation.
Energizing Breath – collects and stores vital energy and focuses more on inhalation.
Though people today take breathing for granted, everyone unconsciously practices both cleansing and energizing breathing spontaneously throughout the day, whenever toxins in the bloodstream reach a critical level or energy is running low. Thus, a “sigh” is a spontaneous cleansing breath, for it involves a quick inhalatory gulp followed by a long, forceful exhalation. By contrast, a yawn is a spontaneous energizing breath – a long, slow, deep inhalation, briefly held and retained in the lungs, followed by a relatively short exhalation.
Qi Gong (pronounced Chee Gung) means both “breathing exercise” and “energy control“, and has been a formal branch of Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. The Chinese word Chi means both “breath” and “energy”, as well as “air”. One of the earliest references to this form of medical therapy appears in an inscription found on 12 jade tablets dating from the mid-sixth century B.C. It reads below –
“In breathing, one should proceed as follows: hold the breath down and let it collect together. When it collects, it will expand. When it expands, it sinks down. When it sinks down, it grows quiet. When it grows quiet, it will solidify. When it solidifies, it begins to grow. As it grows, it is drawn inward and upward and will reach the crown of the head. Above, it presses against the top of the head. Below, it presses downward. Whoever follows this method will live a long life. Whoever goes against it, will die prematurely.”
Just as correct diet enhances the body’s store of nutritional essence, correct breathing enhances the body’s supply of vital energy. Since breath and energy form a bridge between body and mind, breathing may be controlled either mentally or physically, and is the only vital function that straddles the border of voluntary and involuntary control. Left unattended, breathing occurs as spontaneously and naturally as does our heartbeat. When breathing is controlled by the mind, it becomes as deliberate as walking and can be made to regulate all other vital functions, including our pulse, blood pressure, digestion, metabolism, ejaculation, hormone secretion and so forth. Owing its pivotal role between body and mind, breathing comprises the single most important element in Taoist health and longevity regimens.
The act of breathing not only extracts “chi” from the air, it also drives and distributes “chi” through the body’s invisible network of energy channels, called “meridians”. Meridians transport vital energy throughout the body, and when they get blocked, a condition called “energy stagnation” occurs. Energy stagnation results in insufficient blood circulation and oxygen distribution, which in turn contributes to the cause of common ailments such as lethargy, chronic fatigue, irritability, headaches, poor digestion, weak libido, and so forth.
Breathing therapy is orthodox medicine in Chinese tradition. Besides assimilating and circulating vital energy, deep breathing massages internal organs and glands, purges tissues of toxins, purifies the bloodstream, stimulates hormone secretions and greatly enhances resistance and strengthens our immune system responses.
Elevate your health and well-being today, by bringing into practice deep breathing. Even just 4 minutes a day will bring you immense cleansing and energizing benefits.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews