When you are healthy, you have no problem with breathing through your nose. The air you breathe in will go to your lungs and the lungs will transform this as pure Qi which will nourish the body. When we breathe through the nose, the body and internal organs will be more relaxed and the breath and also the Qi will sink naturally to the Dantian.
Qi is the essence of the air we breathe. When Qi sinks to the Dant-ian, it means we are breathing from the abdomen, because the Dantian is here. This might sound odd or difficult; but as long as you relax your upper body, breathe through your nose and keep your mouth closed, you will automatically breathe with the Dantian, and the Qi will store there. In this instance, we are referring to the Lower Dantian. We actually have three Dantians in the body: the Lower Dantian (located just below the navel), the Middle Dantian (located at the Middle Chest), and the Upper Dantian (located at the forehead). Each Dantian has a particular function, the Lower Dantian storing the Qi gathered from our Qigong practise.
So as you practise Qigong, relax your chest and upper body and breathe naturally. If the upper body is not relaxed, the shoulders will be tense and the Qi will not sink to the Dantian. When we are under stress, the shoulders will become tense and tight, you find it difficult to breathe through your nose and Qi will not sink to the Dantian. The Dantian is like a safe where you store all your valuables. The most valuable thing your body can have is plenty of good Qi. It is the battery that keeps you healthy and helps you to live longer.
If you want to store more treasure, you have to open the safe to allow the treasure to go in. To open the safe, you need to relax the upper body - the chest, neck and all your muscles. If there is any stiffness, then the safe will close and you will not be able to get enough Qi to your Dant-ian. With a healthy person, the upper body is relaxed and the lower body is strong. Your arms do not need to be too strong, they just need a certain level of strength and that is enough.
Some people might find it difficult to breathe through the nose all the time. Even children today find it hard to do, particularly when they are running or doing physical training. This is because their lungs are weak. Asthma and hay fever, in fact, are very much on the increase. However, training more and breathing through the nose can really help these problems, while using medicines or inhalers all the time will only make the lungs weaker and the problem worse.
When I used to travel down to London every week, I found that during the summer months I suffered terribly from hay fever. My eyes would water, my nose would run and I would sneeze a lot. Still, I just kept going and would force myself to breathe through the nose as much as possible. When I found it difficult, I would just do more meditation. Now, six years later, I do not have any problems with hay fever, even in other countries where pollen is very bad.
So even if you find it too difficult to breathe through the nose and are tempted to go back to breathing through the mouth, try not to get into this habit. Remember that breathing through the mouth will make you lose Qi and will make you tired and can even affect your emotions, making you depressed and anxious.
Of course, when you are very ill there is often no way you can breathe through your nose all the time. So you can use the second method instead, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This way, you can still store some Qi in your Dantian, although it is not ideal. This is because you will not be releasing enough of the old, negative Qi from your body. If you are very, very weak, and you can hardly breathe through your nose, then you have no choice but to breathe through your mouth. But you should remember you will store even less Qi and release even less negative Qi from the body.
In emergencies, too, breathing through the mouth is often necessary. If someone is injured very seriously and they have to go into hospital where they have a breathing tube put down their throat, then they cannot breathe through their nose. All they can do is try and relax the body and let the Qi flow inside the body better. Then they might be able to take a certain amount of energy in through the skin, and this will help. The right kind of food can also help give energy. However, if a person is highly traumatised, they will not even have enough energy to eat.
If you have been through a serious illness or shock, another way to help the body recover is to do some simple exercises to recharge your Qi. Even if you just do some stretching and meditation initially, it will help to make you stronger.
Therefore, the proper way to breathe and gather more Qi is to breathe in and out of the nose as much as possible, whether you are still or moving. The second way is to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, but only because you are too weak to do otherwise. The last way is to breathe both in and out through the mouth. In this way you will actually lose energy from the body, so if at all possible, you should try to avoid this.
You might have heard mentioned that when keeping the mouth closed, the tip of the tongue should touch the upper palette at the back of the top teeth. Actually, when you close your mouth, your tongue will automatically be in this position as there is no other place it can go (unless you are very unusual).
Some people may talk about using visualisation to direct the breathing, such as imagining the Qi coming up the Du Mai (back channel) as you breathe in and going down the Ren Mai (front channel) when you breathe out. This is a different style of Qigong and can be done with proper tuition. Some people even like to concentrate on the Dantian, the
Yongquan point (the acupuncture point on the sole of the foot) and so on. These are different methods for people with certain needs. In general, you do not need to do these. The best thing is to follow a qualified Qigong teacher who is healthy.
Some Qigong movements may require certain ways of breathing, such as breathing in as you move up and breathing out when you move down. However, if the movements are in a very long sequence, say in a form like Wild Goose Qigong, the best thing to do is breathe naturally through the nose. Again, different styles of Qigong require different things, and for Healthy Living Gong, the descriptions of the movements will tell you if you need to do any special type of breathing.
If you are unsure how you should breathe, the best thing to do is breathe naturally. There is no harm in this as it is natural and your body will tell you what is best. Ultimately, this way will allow your body to become part of the universe. All will settle into its own rhythm and position without any restrictions.
Qigong is a method that allows your body to go back to nature and become part of it. If you can become one with nature, between heaven and earth, then you will have achieved a high level of Qigong.
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