View Full Version : Another question on breathing...

01-20-2001, 03:56 AM
I know there have been alot of topics on proper breathing, etc. but I'm not sure if I'm brething right. I know one is to breath deep into the lower abdomen/2.5-3 inches below the navel, but how exactly do you know if your doing it right? Can anyone describe the feeling? My Sifu says that when you place your hands on your lower abdomen, it should expand when inhaling, and contract when exhaling.

When I do this, I slightly feel the "expanding, contracting" in my lower abdomen, but I know it's from my stomach expanding and contracting.

So, I was wondering if anyone can explain/describe the feeling, or tell of any excersises or any other ways to try to get me to breath right. I would ask my sifu, but I won't see him till Friday...so, please help if you can, I'm confused...

01-20-2001, 11:49 AM
You won't get it right just by trying, it is something that you must develop with practice.

Some people recommend various exercises to get the feeling of different abdominal breathing. For example, you can lie on your back and simple relax, draw in a deep breath into your lungs/chest, exhale, draw a deep breath into your abdomen, exhale (these two should be natural and easy to do), then draw a deep breath into your lower abdomen like this: imagine a cylinder leading right down your body into your lower abdomen that the breath goes through. Through this method, imagine the breath even going down to the hui yin point. When you are doing standing methods, this point should be "lifted" slightly (slightly!) to meet the breath. We all know that your breath can't really go down there (and certainly it would be a bad idea to really force it - some people can and do end up swallowing air into their digestive system which is NOT the goal; the goal is to experience the complete movement of your diaphragm to use the whole capacity of your lungs, and to have the incurring movement move your internal organs and increase your awareness of them... when you start doing this properly for a while, you will induce various intestinal gurglings).

A similar posture that no "expert" has ever suggested to me, but which I personally found useful was this: lie on your front/belly/head down, tilt a bit onto your right side, extend your left leg out maybe 90o from the hip, and the knee down maybe 90o from that, similarly extend your left hand and tilt your head so it is on it's right side, shift your right arm so it is comfortable, and relax. I find that this posture really opens up the pelvic bowl so you can get a feeling for deep breathing.

Of course, this are just exercises so you can start getting an idea of deep breathing. They will not adequately mimic what you will get with longterm practice; and of course you will want to be able to incorporate such breathing into your standing postures and general movements.

For the breathing itself, there are several methods, but most of them are suitable only for advanced practitioners. For now you should stick with a simple method which is still very good.

For inhaling, you want to simply relax the lower abdomen. Fully relaxed, your lungs should be very good at filling themselves up. Of course you have to play alot with this to stay relaxed but still have deep breath. For exhaling you want to contract your dantien gently, all around. Like all of the "muscular urgings" in these practices, it's very easy to overdo this contraction. You don't really want to be squeezing what we think of as our abdominal muscles; it is a very gentle contraction - but it is important.

The contraction should be all around, like a beach ball contracting. The forward movement (your belly moving) is very easy to feel. The backward movement (your lower back moving) is more difficult. A downwards movement (like massaging your hui yin) is also important, and of course the companion upwards movement.

I'm very much a beginner, and still cannot do this well. Sometimes I imagine the beach ball there and imagine different "bands" around it which represent the contractions. So on one breath, I will work upon the idea of vertical expansion/contraction. Then on the next, horizontal. Then on the next, try to get the whole feeling. This isn't something that was suggested by an "expert" but only something I play around with myself. Also, sometimes I can feel like there is a very small ball right in the middle of my lower abdomen that is expanding and contracting. Other times I feel like it is a big ball which occupies my entire pelvic bowl. I do not know which is better, or if either is. But I try to relax and pay quiet attention to what is going on. This, I'm sure, is good. You do not want to force the movements too hard, and you do not want to force your attention too hard. Both should be very gentle.

What I think is very good is when you can feel all your joints and also parts of your spine expanding and contracting with each breath. I do not know what causes this, but only that it started occurring spontaneously when I was very relaxed.

These are just my experiences I have shared with you to try and help. I do not think it is a good idea to go into practice looking to feel certain things, whether they are these things I have described, or things you have read elsewhere. If you relax but still try to do everything right, then you're doing everything that is important.

01-20-2001, 06:50 PM
Thanks for the great and informative reply Braden!

I think some of the descriptions that you said remind me of some of the "happenings" that I have felt. For example the small ball in the middle lower abdomen, I particularly feel it expanding contracting often. At first I thought it was my stomach expanding/contracting, but from further observations, I just realized it was just the air going through the passages. So I guess I got it right for now...

Anyways, thanks again!