Breathing and the Form

Postby rvc_ve » Tue Apr 06, 2004 5:54 pm

wushuer,

thats cool! I do it all the time! (get stuff backwards I mean!)
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Apr 06, 2004 7:55 pm

Hi Audi,

The most important thing to know about breathing in both the form and applications is to breathe. Sometimes people have an urge to hold their breath when exerting themselves, and, even though this can be tolerated in a certain percentage of the population, I believe this is incorrect.

When I was young I was taught not to hold my breath when exerting myself. From what I've read this is bad because it puts pressure on the heart. Generally, it is better to exhale when exerting effort.

A deep inhale using the diaphragm fills the lungs with air from the bottom up, like filling a glass with water. Some call this "long breathing." The lower portion of the lungs fill with air, air is then brought to the upper chest. Muscles other than the diaphragm, like the intercostals, are used in correct diaphragmatic breathing; indeed some intercostals are interlaced with the diaphragm.

Breathing through the nose is also important because breathing through the mouth can adversely effect the CO2 balance in the blood and cause ongoing mild hyperventilation.

For me there are three ways of breathing during movement in T'ai Chi Ch'uan:
1. Leave the breathing alone
2. Match the breathing to movement
3. Match the movement to breathing

You wrote, > I have a similar question about the Beginning Posture (Qi Shi). If one compares this with similar Qi Gong postures, it would seem that an inhale would be most appropriate; however, if one perceives this movement to be an attack, would not an exhale again be more appropriate? How does one decide? <

When I was taught the long form I was told not try to match them up, that after a while the breathing would match the movements on its own. I was shown the resultant match up: generally, exhale with an outward or upward movement, inhale on an inward or downward movement. In the first move 'The Arising' I was taught to take a deep breathe and begin. The hand go upward and outward with the exhale.

In some schools this is reversed. In a movement like 'Cloud Hands' when one hand rises the other falls, while one goes in the other goes out, so the breathing is more a matter of timing than direction.

Matching the movement to breathing is simply a drill, but it can be difficult because you have to pay attention to your breathing without changing it. This has to do with the open/close aspect of Tai Chi. If you leave your breathing alone and move with it, you may be able to feel the ebb and flow of the energy. Allow the movements to be smooth and even, and move as though you are in deep water moving back and forth with the tide.

> If multiple breathing patterns and principles are acceptable, why bother choosing any particular one?

Because of the consideration of effectiveness and what suits your body.

> If one has a fixed pattern for the barehand form, is this same pattern applicable to performing the form at other speeds? If not, why should the principles change? <

If the oxygen intake requirement changes your breathing must change.

> What do you do when you are forced to form at another?s pace? Should you match their breathing pace even if this is not completely comfortable? <

In such a situation, unless matching breathing is part of the drill, leave your breathing alone.

> What about weapons forms and push hands?

You need to breath during them too. Image

I hope this helps.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Audi » Wed Apr 07, 2004 1:50 am

Greetings all,

Thank you everyone for the thoughtful responses.

César, thanks for the link to Yang Zhenji’s commentary. I think I had read this before, but had forgotten it. His words neatly sum up what I had understood of the general theory.

RVC, I think I understand what you described in theory, but my understanding breaks down when I apply it to actual practice. You mention breathing in when closing/accumulating and breathing out when opening/emiting. At the moment, I am not sure I have a reliable understanding of “opening” and closing and what I think I know does not automatically correlate with “accumulating” and “emiting.” For instance, I understand Lifting Hands to end with a “closing” motion that “emits” energy. I would assume that you exhale here.

RVC and Psalchemist, another practical difficulty I have is what I tried to express in some of my examples. It seems to me that all postures have Yin and Yang and opening and closing in them; however, many of these cycles are quite short. Is there time to inhale and exhale during each of the components of Grasp Sparrows Tail without getting a feeling of hyperventilation? How do you treat Roll Back specifically? I think I used to match an inhale during Roll Back with and exhale during Press, but stopped being comfortable with the logic of this as I tried to follow the Yangs teachings.

David, you stated:

<<When I was taught the long form I was told not try to match them up, that after a while the breathing would match the movements on its own. I was shown the resultant match up: generally, exhale with an outward or upward movement, inhale on an inward or downward movement. In the first move 'The Arising' I was taught to take a deep breathe and begin. The hand go upward and outward with the exhale.>>

My understanding is that the Yangs give downward movements of the body (the trunk?) as examples of natural places to breathe out and upward movements as natural places to breathe in. A specific example I recall is breathing out when bending forward in Needle at Sea Bottom and breathing in when pulling the hand back and up (before and after the posture?). Is your breathing the opposite of this?

You mentioned your breathing pattern at the beginning of the “Arising” (“Qi Shi”). This does indeed seem to be the opposite of what I did. Can you describe the pattern through the end of Ward Off Left? I cannot figure out where you could fit in the cycles if you lower the arms with an inhale.

David, you also said: <<If the oxygen intake requirement changes your breathing must change.>> This is an eminently reasonable statement; however, it would seem to argue that natural breathing conquers all. What do you find do be the “effectiveness” of uncontrolled breathing versus the "effectiveness" of matching breathing to the movements?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Michael » Wed Apr 07, 2004 5:38 pm

Wushuer,

I would agree.
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Postby rvc_ve » Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:49 pm

Audi,

It also helps to understand and visualize the martial aplications of the form when practicing. overtime, it will help you figure out the breathing pattern.
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Postby WU » Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:41 pm

Greetings all!

'He1' sounds 'Her' with a flat tone. The tip of tongue should curve up and touch the hard palette softly.

Regarding Tai Chi's breathing (Hu1 & Xi1), one should let the body breathing on its own course. Only time one would focus on 'Hen'/'Ha' while doing 'Fajin'.

Have a good day!

WU
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Postby Audi » Wed Apr 07, 2004 11:56 pm

Hi Wushuer and RVC,

I think I may have been unclear in my motivation for starting this thread. I used to practice with a complete breathing pattern for every move of the form and had justifications for how I performed each breath. After studying the Yangs’ methods for some time, I decided that my breathing practice was inconsistent with what I was now trying to do and so abandoned the practice.

Recently, there has recently been much talk on the board about breathing, and my curiosity became aroused about what others do and particularly why they do it. Even though I do not feel a need to figure out another breathing pattern, I reason that the justifications for what others do may yet be helpful to other areas of my practice, or at least in understanding the underpinnings of the practice of others.

My questions about “what” are really about “why.” My current beliefs echo what can be found under the link to Yang Zhenji’s commentary (http://www.chinataijiquan.com/en/en/yang/body.htm) that Cesar referred to. Wushuer, to me, these seem quite consistent with what you posted on 4/7, except for your references to “reverse breathing.”

By the way, does anyone know of any specific references of anyone in the Yang family to “reverse breathing”/“Daoist breathing”?

Wushuer, I mentioned the “closing” movements of Lifting Hands, because this was explicitly mentioned at a seminar; however, the context was to explain the relationship to the “opening” movements in the transition from Single Whip, rather than to define a general theory of “opening” and “closing.” I mentioned this particular posture to explain my confusion at how “opening” and “closing” could be used as an easy criterion for determining whether to breathe in or out.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Apr 08, 2004 6:22 pm

Greetings WU,

Thank you for the detailled description of "HE1". Image

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby rvc_ve » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:17 pm

wushuer,

you wrote,

"I know of no reference to "reverse" breathing in the Yang transmission. I know of it only from the Wu family training I have experienced. Since they learned thier art from Yang Lu Chan and Yang Ban Hou, I feel the theory must have come from the Yangs though they may have abandoned it."


I practice yang style from the Yang ban hou kineage and we use reverse breathing a lot. Its actually preferred over regualr breathing for martial purposes. Now that you say this, I can really see the relation!!!


Wushuer said,
"The simple fact that you have to give over part of your mind to "do I breath in or out now", "am I opening or closing here?", will take your mind off what you are doing right now and focuses it someplace it shouldn't be."

Thats true. Thats why if we want to use this method, we would have to procede from individual practice of single movements first before attempting to do the whole from with this mindset. After single practice with breathing patterns for a while, doing the form will be easy and we will no longer have to ask "do I breathe here/do I open or close there".

Just my opinion of course.


[This message has been edited by rvc_ve (edited 04-08-2004).]
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Postby Michael » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:58 pm

Wushuer,

I "normally" use reverse breathing, and did so long before beginning taiji due to meditation training.

I also had it mentioned to me from my Kuang Ping days.

My Yang teacher also teaches reverse breathing. I do not know where he picked it up, maybe from William Chen.

It is an excellent point made about single movement training. So there is someone besides me who does this.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-08-2004).]
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Postby DavidJ » Fri Apr 09, 2004 7:12 pm

Hi Michael, rvc_ve,

How do you define reverse breathing?

Thanks,

David J
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Postby Audi » Sun Apr 11, 2004 2:05 am

Hi Wushuer,

Could you explain more about the mechanics of what you were taught about the "heng" and "ha" sounds? How exactly were you taught to breathe in while saying the "heng" sound? Can you explain how one can breathe in while making any kind of normal vowel sound? Doesn't saying a normal syllable require one to breathe out?

My exposure to these things has been through Qi Gong exercises coming through Jou Tsung Hwa, who taught Taijiquan in New Jersey. I was never actually taught to breathe in on any kind of sound, but rather to precede the inhale by expelling the remaining air with a "heng." This allowed one to alternate "heng" with "ha," but did not actually require one to say anything during the inhale.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Apr 11, 2004 2:54 am

Greetings Audi,

Interesting thread being woven here.

Thanks for the reply.

You wrote:
<<RVC and Psalchemist, another practical difficulty I have is what I tried to express in some of my examples. It seems to me that all postures have Yin and Yang and opening and closing in them; however, many of these cycles are quite short. Is there time to inhale and exhale during each of the components of Grasp Sparrows Tail without getting a feeling of hyperventilation? How do you treat Roll Back specifically? I think I used to match an inhale during Roll Back with and exhale during Press, but stopped being comfortable with the logic of this as I tried to follow the Yangs teachings.>>Audi

So many questions to be asked and answered...as you point out.

All beyond my scope in Taijiquan practice...I will sit back and glean. Image

Thanks for the interesting thoughts.

Best,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Wushuer » Sun Apr 11, 2004 5:54 pm

I have never been trained on Hen and Ha sounds in either transmission. I know only what I have read in books, I do not practice this way.
I have tried to use them the way I read about them in the books, but it didn't seem to either add or take anything away from my practice, so I didn't do it for long.
It may be a very good tool for mind focus and I just don't know how to do it properly. I dunno.
I practice abdominal breathing in both directional patterns, that's all I've ever needed. Whether reverse abdominal breathing is practiced in YCF stle forms, I dunno.
I practice with standard dantien, relax on inhale, push on exhale, while in class, because that's how I've been told. When I practice at home, I reverse this pattern when I practice with a martial intent, because I always have.
I find that either way works pretty much equally well for me overall, though there are certain postures that feel more "connected" to the available energy if I do it one way over the other.
You really need to figure these things out for yourself. Even the most qualified instructor in the world can't tell you what's happening inside of you and what works better for you. There is a lot of internal learning that you simply must do on your own.
I honestly feel that what way to breath in each posture to make it yours is one of those things. If I force a student to breath one way due to "tradition" when his breathing the other would work infinitely better for him, than I have done him a terrible disservice.
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 12, 2004 12:08 am

David,

As taught in Doaist traditions of which I am aware and in the martial arts, "reverse" breathing goes as such--

In "Buddhist breathing" when one inhales the abdomen expands. When one exhales the abdomen returns to "normal. In Daoist of Reverse breathing when one inhales the chest expands, when one exhales the chest falls. One should never force this. Both are accomplished by use of the diaphram. This is also used in a number of martial arts.

"Reverse brathing" is also known as "prebirth breathing".
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