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Published by: api-3700413 on Oct 14, 2008
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Breatha n dC h i

Both Western and Eastern medical practitioners consider good breathing habits to be exceedingly important components of health, relaxation, longevity and spirituality. Although most people are aware of when they eat or sleep poorly, relatively few pay attention to or notice how

th e y

Unfortunately, many people breathe poorly-they take shallow breaths without fully engaging their lungs. As people age, they experience shortness of breath, which is a precursor toill health, weakness and depression.

Ofall self-help exercises, learning to breathe properlyi s one of the most effective ways
to improve your overall health and at the very least, mitigate the decline of aging. That is
why Taoist energy practices start with breathing.

This chapter will teach you the basics of the Longevity Breathing program, the foundation for Taoist chi gung and other energy and meditation practices. The techniques are easy to learn, although practicei srequired.

B re a th in g /L o n g e v ity
What's the Difference?
Taoist breathingi s fundamental to all Taoist longevity practices. Although these practices
are thousands of years old,Ihave developed my own method for teaching them, namely

the Longevity Breathing program. As a Taoist lineage holder,I must ensure that Taoist practices are taught accurately and represent the tradition. Longevity Breathing makes these practices accessible and easy to learn, particularly for Westerners. These methods may be quite different from those that other teachers use to teach Taoist breathing.

Breathing with Your Belly

Longevity Breathing begins with breathing from the belly. Iti s patterned after the way babies breathe. Everything insidea baby's body moves in rhythm with the breaths. As the baby's lungsf i l l with air, all the internal organs, tissues and blood vessels expand. Babies have incredibly strong breathing mechanisms. They can cry or scream for hours and move around constantly to a degree that would exhaust most adults.

Think of your belly as a cylinder and your breath as a means to expand that cylinder equally in all directions fromi t s centerline. In the direct center of your body, about two to three inches below your navel, there is an important energy point that the Chinese call the lower

ta n tie n
(called the
h a ra
in Japanese]. Your belly goes from your lower
ta n tie n

up to your solar plexus (the first soft spot you hit when you tap down from the middle of your breastbone) at your diaphragm muscle and back to where the diaphragm meets your spine (see p.8 4 ) . Your belly area includes your liver, spleen, stomach and kidneys;i t does not include your chest or ribs.

Although having a flat, contracted belly may make you lookf i t and attractive, it does not make your body relaxed and can lead to health problems as you get older. Keeping your belly tight and compact is usually only accomplished and mantained through habitual tension, which can shorten the ligaments that are attached to your internal organs, as well as compress the internal organs and cut off blood flow to them. Tension held in your belly for a long time can lead to ulcers, hernias, digestive problems, etc. Many people experience negative emotions and anxiety directly in their bellies.

The goal of Taoist breathingi s to relax your belly so thati t can expand and contract with your breathing. This fully engages your diaphragm, brings air to all parts of your lungs, improves blood circulation to your internal organs and relaxes your nervous system.

Breath and Chi
What Longevity Breathing Accomplishes
'T h e
basic nature of Taoist breathing is to get everything inside your body moving in
s y n c h
tothe rhythm of your breathing. It makes the inside of your body
fu lly
alive, joyful and
healthy. It cultivates your ability to relax at any time and concentrate on what you are doing
fo r
long periods without becoming distracted. Longevity Breathing accomplishes these
goals by:
Facilitating the abundance of oxygen and the balance of oxygen and carbon
dioxide in your body.
Ensuring that carbon dioxide is
fu lly
Retraining your nervous system to relax.
Improving the functioning of your internal organs.
Increasing the levels of chi in your body.
Increases Oxygen Levels

The oxygen in your blood powers your metabolism, circulation and your ability to heal. Decreasing levels of oxygen makes you prone to illness, morbid emotions and weak physical and mental performance.

Most Western doctors recommend aerobic exercise as the best way to increase the
volume of oxygen in your body.

Longevity Breathing methods will do the same. When chi gung is practiced along with Longevity Breathing, the flow of oxygen will become smooth and balanced throughout your body.

GetsRid of Carbon Dioxide
Longevity breathing gets rid of carbon dioxide and increases the usable oxygen that
you inhale.

Eveni f you can inhale sufficiently to pull enough oxygen in to your system, you might not exhale deeply or long enough to get rid of all the carbon dioxide required. Normally a quarter or so reserve at the bottom of the lungs is always filled with carbon dioxide. This leaves only three quarters of the lungs free to be filled with oxygen, or remained unused. As the exhale relative to the inhale becomes even weaker, it diminishes the ability of the body to procure oxygen from the air.

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