Respiration is also called regulation of breathing, breathing method, or venting and taking in (tu na). It is an important link in qigong exercise. The ancients attached great importance to breathing exercises. A great many terms about breathing exercises can be found in books written in ancient times, such as fuqi (inhaling qi), shiqi (eating qi),jinqi (entering qi),yanqi (swallowing qi),xingqi (circulating qi) and caiqi (taking in qi); as for breathing methods, there are terms such as shangxi (upper breathing), xiaxi (lower breathing), manxi (full breathing), chongxi (blurted breathing), chixi (lasted breathing), changxi (long breathing) and shenxi (deep breathing). The following breathing methods as required for training of qi are usually used.
(1) Natural Respiration
Natural respiration is the ordinary breathing under normal physiological condition.Because of the difference in physiology between male and female and in the breathing habits of individuals,natural respiration can be further divided into natural thoracic respiration, natural abdominal respiration and the combination of the two. Any of the above should be dominated by certain consciousness, performed naturally, and taken as the usual way of breathing in qigong exercise.
(2) Orthodromic Abdominal Respiration It refers to trained natural orthodromic abdominal breathing formed gradually through practice of natural respiration under guidance of will. To train orthodromic abdominal respiration, one employs a little consciousness to relax the abdominal muscles during inhaling to make the abdomen bulged naturally, and during exhaling , uses some consciousness to get the abdominal muscles contracted. The contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles are intensified gradually and naturally through a certain period of practice. Forced exertion must be avoided. The orthodromic abdominal respiration tends to appear when one concentrates his mind on the navel.
(3) Antidromic Abdominal Respiration
Antidromic abdominal respiration is the main breathing method used in training qi, guiding qi and in emitting outgoing-qi.To get it, one uses will to guide the abdominal inuscles to contract and make the abdomen sunken during inhaling and » during exhaling , relaxes the abdominal muscles gradually to get the abdomen bulged. Training in this way for a certain period of time will make antidromic abdominal respiration a natural one in qigong exercise.
When antidromic abdominal respiration becomes more or less natural, it can be done in cooperation with contraction of the anus, which means to contract the anus and pudendum slightly during inhaling and relax them during exhahng.
(4\Latent and Embryo Breath
Latent breath may occur when respiration of the practitioner is in an extremely gentle state which is built up through long-term qigong exercise. Embryo breath is a kind of abdominal respiration much more gentle than the latent breath, with which there is almost no movement of the abdominal muscles and the practitioner can only feel respiratory rhythm at the navel. The method is considered somewhat mysterious and miraculous in ancient literatures. They may be achieved when the training of qi has reached the peak period. One should not try to get it by importunity.
(5) Other Breathing Methods
Apart from the above-mentioned main breathing methods, others that can be trained may include long inhaling and short exhaling, short exhaling and long inhaling, nasal exhaling and inhaling, nasal inhaling and oral exhahng and respiratory pause after exhahng or inhaling. The selection of the breathing methods is based on the methods of qigong exercise and the stage in practice.
(6) Essentials of Respiration Training
1) It is preferable to train mainly posturization first when one starts practising dynamic or static qigong. Training of respiration should begin when one is skilled and natural in posturization. Otherwise adverse effects such as respiratory distress, emotional upset, chest stuffiness and headache may occur.
2) The final goal of respiration training is to achieve deep, long, even and fine respiration. This is the result gained from long term practice; forced lengthened breathing or oppressed breathing should be guarded against.
3) The ancients laid much stress on the manner of breathing in their practice of regulation of respiration, stating four phases (xiang) of respiration: wind phase (feng xiang), gasp phase (chuan xiang), air phase (qi xiang) and rest phase (xi xiang). With the wind phase, one can hear the rough sound of his own breath; with the gasp phase, though he may hear no spund of his breath, he may feel stagnated and obstructed ventilation of air; with air phase, he may neither hear the rough sound of breath nor feel the stagnated and obstructed ventilation of air yet his breath is not even; and with the rest phase, which is a state of extreme quietness, he may achieve deep, long and even respiration. It was believed in ancient times that "concentrating on the wind phase may derange the mentality, on the gasp phase may cause knotted mentality, on the air phase may strain the mentality, and only on the rest phase can the mentality be set peaceful".
4) Before starting respiration training,it is desirable to open the mouth to exhale, imagining that the obstructed parts of all the vessels are ^redged and the turbid qi is expelled from the body along with exhaling; then to close the mouth to take in the fresh. The above inhaling and exhaling should be carried out three times and then natural breathing should be takeii, which should be further adjusted by will to be one desired for training.
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