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Tai Chi Ch'uan Breathing Techniques

By Sifu Gary Renzak

From the Spring 2003 Newsletter

Every waking moment of our lives, we take in oxygen to nourish the cells which encompass our entire body. Without oxygen we will die in a matter of minutes. There is no other source in nature that we depend on more than the air we breathe, and yet most people pay no attention to their breath, most likely because it's an involuntary function. We do it without having to think about it.

gary renza In Tai Chi, we believe that the breath is a direct connection with Chi and the serious Tai Chi student makes the "art of breathing" a conscious goal and will spend the rest of their life perfecting skills like; "regulating the mind," regulating the body and regulating the breath".

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The Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu once said "true men breath from their heels while others breathe from their gullets," which means that a true man breathes with his whole body, a high level of achievement in breath and chi training. Once the breath is felt through the whole body and the student is able to move their energy by way of the mind, one has achieved what is known as the "Grand Circulation".

To reach this skill level one must learn to breathe through and be aware of select points on the body. These points are some of the 365 acupuncture points. We will concern ourselves with two of these points.

handfoot
Key note: From the Lower Tan Tien there are two flows of Chi upward to the palms and two downward to the bottoms of the feet. These exercises are a key ingredient for advancement in the internal and martial arts for power and strong chi flow. Bear in mind, the student should be able to store the chi in the Tan Tien before trying these exercises.

There are four gates or cavities on the limbs which are well known in Chinese medicine and Chi Kung as areas that regulate the body's Chi state. Two of these points are Laogong (P-8) located at the center of the palms the other two are Yongquan (K-1) located at the front center of the soles on the bottom of the feet (refer to diagram).

In the Chinese martial arts and internal healing arts, learning how to lead the Chi from these points is essential in order to acquire the necessary skills to build strong root and generate enormous power from the hands and feet. Yongquan breathing: Yongquan means "bubbling well" referring to the area on the soles of the feet that absorb the earth's energy as if it were "bubbling" up from below.

After you have stored an abundance of Chi in the Lower Tan Tien, when you inhale, lead the breath from the Yongquan point to the Lower Tan Tien, and when you exhale, lead the breath from the Lower Tan Tien to the Yongquan cavities. Practice for several minutes until you generate a grounding sensation at the bottoms of the feet. With enough practice you will feel the chi circulating through your legs.

This exercise builds strong root, allows the chi to flow smoothly through the legs and can lead the way to developing strong power. This is a Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) exercise.

Four Gates breathing: This exercise uses both Yongquan and Laogong points, allowing awareness of chi flow between the legs and hands. When you inhale, use your mind to lead the breath from the Yongquan and Laogong cavities to the Lower Tan Tien. When you exhale, lead the breath from the Lower Tan Tien to the Yongquan and Laogong cavities. When you practice, place the hands in front of the body palms down at the Lower Tan Tien level with the middle fingers extended slightly upward so the Chi can flow smoothly to and from the Laogong points.

Besides the obvious benefits to the legs and torso, this exercise helps train the "Ching" needed for what the Tai Chi classics call the skill to "root the energy in the feet, transfer it through the legs, direct it by the waist and lead it through the hands". This too is a Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation exercise).

Wellness Center, Sifu Gary Renza
Mondays 8:30 am, Wednesdays-7:00 pm
Sifu Carol Martoccia, ACCS, Brewster
845-278-6449

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