In the Taoist Arts there are three basic breathing techniques, Yin breath, Yang breath and Yin / Yang breath, each having their uses within the Taoist practices.
The truth is that the reason that we learn to breath is so we don’t have to. It’s not the breath that we are after, its what is under the breath that we are locating and that takes time and practice.
To keep things simple the breathing takes three basic stages of development.
- Inhalation and exhalation takes place, movement in the body takes place, expansion and contraction.
- There is no noticeable inhalation and exhalation taking place, yet there is movement in the body taking place, expansion and contraction.
- There is no inhalation and exhalation taking place and no expansion and contraction, yet energy, blood etc. move as if it were taking place.
For most people this only happens with meditation but can and does happen with the Tao Yin, Kai Men and the Tai Chi Form. Time and practice is the principle thing here.
Is harmonising breathing and movements of Tai Chi necessary?
The answer: yes, breathing and movement need to synchronise otherwise you’re just waving your arms and legs around or, as the late Mel Smith would say, you’re directing invisible traffic in the park. I know a lot of teachers who don’t believe that breathing with the Tai Chi form is important. But in the beginning it is the breath that gives it substance, it’s the breath that moves the Chi energy (not to mention the creation of Chi within the body), it’s the breath that helps the external energy to flow up and down through the body. It moves the fluid through the body, helps in keeping the muscles relaxed while playing the form, it is what connects to all things throughout, inside and outside the body.
What’s the best way to breathe with the Tai Chi form?
My usual answer would be in and out! It really depends on the form and what outcome you’re after. The best breath would be a Yin and Yang breath, meaning that the inhalation and the exhalation are the same length. The breath should be soft, as the softer the breath the more the Chi moves. Breathing in and out through the nose would also be recommended as the benefits to the health and of the body’s physical power are increased, although some find it too much, so breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is an easier option and is a good option to start with. The length of the breath is down to the ability of the Tai Chi player.
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