Posture and Breathing

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A quick review of the basic postural and mechanical requirements of meditation is in order at this point, before we proceed to the actual meditation exercises.

Here's a pleasant surprise for you: You already know the proper physical techniques. We have learned and practiced them throughout our T'ai Chi and Qigong exercises. Just to summarize, here they are again:

^ Whether sitting or standing in meditation, your head should be lifted slightly upward, as if being pulled up by a string.

^ The tip of your tongue should be lightly touching the upper palate, just behind the upper incisors.

^ Shoulders and arms should be relaxed. If you are standing, the hands should fall comfortably to your sides. If sitting, there are a few options for hand placement. You can adopt a Western method and just let the hands rest on your thighs or knees, palms down. If you go with Eastern methods, the palms are usually held facing up in your lap, the fingertips almost but not quite touching. A variation of this pose is to lay the back of one hand in the palm of the other, the tips of the thumbs touching lightly. This is said to ensure a continuous energy pathway, and is perhaps one of the most commonly seen positions when meditation is practiced.

Breathing techniques are also similar to the T'ai Chi and Qigong exercises. Especially in a seated meditation, diaphragmatic breathing is the preferred method. Remember to expand the lower abdomen, and then the chest, as you inhale; contract first the lower abdomen, and then the chest, as you exhale. The idea is to utilize the diaphragm located below the lungs to ensure a deep, relaxed breath. The breath will be playing yet another role in our meditations here—we will be observing the breathing cycle as a means of relaxing and focusing.

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