Tai Chi Ch'uan Breathing Techniques
By Sifu Gary Renzak
From the Spring 2003 Newsletter
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.
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".
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
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.
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
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