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Breathing of Health Qigong

Breathing State of Health Qigong —— Weaving Girl Revolves

The breathing of nine kinds of Health Qigong includes natural breathing, thoracic abdominal breathing, abdominal breathing, etc, which are only required to be fine, even, gentle and long.

In Illustration of Inner Classic, “Weaving Girl Revolves” implies lungs of human body, “several spring willows” indicate the liver. The Chinese traditional culture mentions “left liver and right lung”. Liver contains primordial nature, while lung contains primordial sentiment. Since lung contains primordial emotion and dominates breathing, the meaning of this illustration is to let exercisers find their initial emotion in a state of fine breathing.

The weaving girl in the illustration mainly has the following meanings:

First, the weaving girl represents the breathing movement of lung. The spun yarn reaches the brain, representing fine, slow, even, deep and heavy breathing. This red spun yarn goes all the way up to the head (known as “mud ball nine palaces” in ancient times) instead of stopping at the throat, which tells us that when exercising Health Qigong, the qi is guided up and down from the head (namely mud ball palace) with “fire of ideation” in all breathings to truly adjust the qi to be more even, slower, finer, deeper and longer, and to better sit quietly and meditate.

Second, the woman in the illustration represents lungs, meaning that lung is the mother of kidney. In the system of five elements, gold represents lung, water represents kidney. The five elements inter-promote each other. Gold promotes water. When the kidney qi is exuberant, the inhaled qi can quickly fall though the lungs instead of staying in the kidney, so it is said that “lung is the master of qi, kidney is the root of qi”.

Third, ancients said that the human body contains “five origins”. Heart contains primordial spirit, liver contains primordial nature, lung contains primordial emotion, spleen contains primordial qi, and kidney contains primordial essence. So the weaving girl implies lung, representing primordial emotion. This “primordial emotion” is the most primitive temperament of infants, while the emotion in “seven emotions and six sensory pleasures” is not the “primordial emotion” in the lung. The spun yard is the initial trace of love of man. So the state in which we exercise Health Qigong is the above-mentioned children’s state (primitive and essential temperament).

Fourth, the weaving girl represents girl constellation, implying that the order of exercising Lesser Circulation is to guide the qi downward from the middle Dantian with fire of ideation, namely the direction of qi circulating the meridians is to circulate from the heart through perineum to the below (lower Dantian) . The specific method will be reviewed later.

Breathing Method of Health Qigong ——Iron Cattle Plows

“Iron Cattle Plows” is a kind of special abdominal breathing method.

There are two common breathing methods: thoracic breathing and abdominal breathing. The thoracic breathing mainly depends on the movement of rib and sternum. The front, rear, left and right diameters of thorax increase when inhaling. As the air directly enters into lung when breathing, the thoracic cavity expands, but the abdomen remains flat. This is also the breathing method we generally use.

The abdominal breathing relies on diaphragm movement. The upper and lower diameters of thorax increase when inhaling. The horizontal diaphragm can fall in abdominal breathing, the abdominal pressure increases, and air directly enters into the abdomen. At this moment, putting the hand on the navel can feel that the hand slightly jumps up and down.

The abdominal breathing can be divided into favorable breathing and reverse breathing. The favorable breathing is to gently expand abdominal muscle when inhaling, and breathe as deeply as possible on the premise of comfort; relax the muscle when exhaling. The reverse breathing is just opposite, gently contracting the abdominal muscle when inhaling, and relaxing it when exhaling. The nuance between reverse breathing and favorable breathing is: the breathing only involves the lower abdominal muscle, namely the regiones pubica near below the navel. Gently contract this part of muscle when inhaling and relax it when exhaling. This is why people who can sing are healthy, while those who can’t are unhealthy. The breathing in this way can become slow, only occupying about a half of the lung capacity. So ancients often said: “inhale deeply, exhale slowly, the postnatal qi guides the congenital essence”, “breathe to navel, live as long as the heaven”.

Then, what is the breathing method of “Iron Cattle Plows”?

The modern people living in the city may have not seen the scene of cattle (or buffalo) plowing land, so it is hard to understand the real meaning of “Iron Cattle Plows”. In fact, the “Iron Cattle Plows” in the illustration implies the correct breathing method in exercise of Health Qigong.

See this Illustration of Inner Classic as a figure facing left and sitting cross-legged, then the position of illustration of “Iron Cattle Plows” is just the lower abdomen of the body. This tells us that abdominal breathing should be adopted when exercising Health Qigong, and the expansion and contraction of the lower abdomen is used as the driving force.

We know that cattle or buffalo plows unhurriedly with even force and walks slowly. It is not fast, but consistent in speed and force. This is the best way to plow. If the coulter is inconsistent in depth and speed, the land will certainly be plowed badly. It is the wrong way to plow. Such force and speed in plowing is the state needed in abdominal breathing when exercising Health Qigong. Calling “cattle” or “buffalo” as “iron cattle” is to emphasize that the force of abdominal breathing needs to be moderate and constant, stressing that abdominal breathing should keep appropriate and persistent force. This is just as “empty heart, solid abdomen” in Lao Zi. “Empty heart” is to relax the chest when exercising to create more moving space for heart and lung; “solid heart” means that the abdomen should keep even force with a sense of solidness in the inhaling and exhaling of abdominal breathing, but such force is not conscious or deliberate, but kept naturally.

We know that Daoyin is also called “guiding, leading and running qi”. It mainly guides qi and blood to normally circulate and run in meridians and collaterals, viscera and bowels on the basis of theory of qi and blood in meridians and collaterals, viscera and bowels, and through the regular tender and relaxed movement of the body and regulation of mind to prevent and cure physical and mental illnesses. Daoyin Shu can be divided into Daoyin of body actions and Daoyin of static mind. The former is to seek the static in movement, the later is the opposite. Both of them combine movement and tranquility, form and spirit, and complement each other with their own advantages.

The popularized nine kinds of Health Qigong belong to Daoyin of body actions, also known as “active course”, which can also be divided into moving Daoyin and fixed Daoyin. The moving Daoyin includes Yi Jin Jing, Wu Qin Xi, Da Wu, Taichi health cultivation cane.The fixed Daoyin includes Liu Zi Jue, Ba Duan Jin, Shi Er Duan Jin, Mawangdui Daoyin Shu, twelve methods of Daoyin Health Cultivation Exercise.

The moving Daoyin exercise is based on natural breathing method, but ready position and closing position, including some actions in the exercise, mainly use reverse abdominal breathing method.

The fixed Daoyin exercise depends on reverse abdominal breathing method, supported by natural breathing method.

(Ou Liangshu)

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