The human body's natural state is one of health. If you have the ability able to give your body what it requires to remains healthy…it remains healthy. At the most basic level, your body requires water, food, and oxygen. These three provide the energy the body needs to be alive. This energy is called chi in Chinese healing traditions. Chi is the prime moving force both within the human body and in the universe as a whole. Chi is in the essence of the water and food we consume. It is also the power that makes it possible for us to breathe. Chi is not simply "energy," it is what gives energy the power to be energy. Chi is the power behind movement and thought. It is everywhere. It is in the oxygen we breathe and the blood that flows through us.
The ancient Chinese believed chi flowed through the body along sacred channels called "meridians," just as blood flows through arteries and veins. Traditional Chinese medicine considers blockage of chi, or even the incorrect movement of chi through the body, as the cause of both mental and physical disease. People with strong chi have a healthy and youthful appearance, a strong immune system, and are full of energy, while people with weak chi appear frail and haggard, tire quickly, and fall ill often.
When we breathe we take in oxygen but we also take in chi energy. The more energy within the body, the better it feels. The smoother the energy flows around inside the body, the less difficulty the body encounters. If we can learn to breathe the way the body was designed to breathe then we are able to provide the body with all the chi it needs to be healthy. The better we are breathing, the better we feel. Deep breathing brings chi and oxygen into the body, increasing blood flow, and thus chi flow, within the body.
Breathing energy is a Zen Yoga technique, but it is not new. In Chinese it is known as Qigong (chi kung). In India it is called Pranayama. And while the techniques may differ, the process is the same…it is the practice of breathing with the whole body, of circulating energy within and trading old energy for new.
To breathe energy the breathing is done through the nose. The mouth is closed and the tongue is at the top palate. There are many other methods of breathing. However, with energy breathing we are concerned with retaining the energy and circulating it through the body. Breathing in through the nose takes the energy directly down to the dan tien (just below the navel). The energy flows down, around and up the spine to the crown of the head. By keeping the tongue connected to the roof of the mouth when you exhale the energy is circulated back down to the dan tien as the carbon dioxide is released. If you open your mouth to breathe out the connection is broken and the energy dissipates back to the universe. The next inhalation brings more energy in and you can gradually build up your reserves.
Energy breathing brings awareness to your breathing. When you are aware of your breathing your body processed the energy much more effectively. Most of the time our physical behavior is unconscious, we walk around all day, everyday rarely noticing how our body feels unless there is some obvious pain. Seldom do we consciously think of the body as feeling good. Feeling good shouldn't be just an absence of pain. It should be an invigorated, energetic state where you are comfortable and happy in your body.
Energy breathing is a way to reach that feeling. With practice, your breathing skills with become much better and you will be able to extend that feeling.
Want to learn more?
*new book - Zen Yoga: A Path to Enlightenment through Breathing, Movement and Meditation is now available - www.artofzenyoga.com