In recent years, my personal practise has gravitated more and more to Taoist Inner Alchemy. One important component is transforming through specific ways of breathing, similar to Pranayama from Yogic perspective. (Taoism and Tantra share a lot of similarities and they complement each other). My practise this morning was basically a whole hour of breathing which feels so enlightening 👼🏻
First stage I did Primordial Breath For Girdle Vessel to boost my Wei Qi (Protective Qi) and shield myself from harmful energy (much needed in this time of the world). To learn this technique, it is best under the guidance of a qualified qigong teacher.
After Uddiyana bandha (flying-up lock) practice, I focused on Thoracic breathing to release the tension in my lungs, the back of my heart and the thoracic spine. We yogis are very much familiar with deep abdominal breathing but from my Chi Nei Tsang work and yoga teaching, I saw that many of us have really immobile ribs which actually affect our ability to take a full breath and unload the heart. You are not alone - I have been like that for decades. Our modern day lifestyle of sitting and hunching over all day in front of a desk, stress, and emotions have all contributed to this safeguarding pattern - it is like the whole body is literally protecting the heart from life difficulties.
So I invite you to spare 5-10 minutes (set a timer) regularly on this simple yet powerful breathing exercise. Lie with your middle-upper back and head supported and slightly elevated by a bolster or multiple cushions (whatever at your disposal). Roughly like what is shown in the picture, but feel free to use a lower support if you feel too much discomfort in your lower back. Legs can be in whatever arrangement you like.
When you breath in, use some effort but without straining, expand your WHOLE rib cage - front, sides, back, top and bottom, literally creating more space internally and between each rib. Then exhale completely, even squeezing your ribs in to remove all the stale air from the lungs. Pay particular attention to areas that feel stuck and give them more intention and effort. With the support under you, it allows you to be more sensitive of the nuances happening at the back of your lungs and thoracic spine.
If you’re comfortable with this, you can add the next stage - to hold your breath in after a full inhale. I like to shake and sway while I hold the breath in as if I’m trying to unblock any adhesion or congestion within. But only add the breath retention if you are completely comfortable with the previous stage, so it might mean adding this at some other time down the road.
To intensify the effectiveness of the breathing to unload my heart, I curled my middle finger to gently stimulate the PC8 Lao Gong Pericardium Point between the second and third metacarpal bones - which helps clear heat from the Pericardium (the protector/sac around the heart) and the Heart and calm the Spirit.
Make sure you do everything with intention but without strain. There might be some discomfort but you should be able to breath through it with control and mindfulness. When we free our breath, we are bringing refreshed energy/qi/prana/lifeforce into our body, mind and spirit and transformation will just naturally happen.
Full conscious breathing like this massages our Heart, Lungs, organs below the diaphragm, and the vagus nerve. All these in turn help us to relax, improve digestion, relieve constipation, remove phlegm from the lungs, calm our Spirit, improve our sleep, improve our breathing, strengthen our immune system, and sooth and release our emotions.
Put this into practise and let me know how it goes or if you have any question!