Photo by karloswayne
This week’s Big Idea is Breathing
Breathing in Taiji is one of the big kahunas. It’s because breathing is a primary way we relax ourselves. Think about what you do when you sigh. It’s a way for us to relax and let go of tension.
Try it now, breathe in… and sigh…
Some part inside of you just lets go doesn’t it? It may not come as a surprise then that breathing affects us physiologically in a million different ways. It isn’t a coincidence that so many internal arts and qigong forms empahsise the importance of correct breathing to help the body heal itself.
If you hold your breath, you’re automatically going to hold tension in the body. It’s an unnatural state for your body to be in, stuck in some sort of limbo between breaths, because the body’s natural state is one of constant breathing, constant change. Try it, hold your breath for as long as you can and you’ll notice that there will come a point when your body starts to tense up. Holding the breath is stressful.
What happens when you’re stressed and thinking about a difficult issue? More often than not, you’ll be holding your breath. If you work in an office, watch someone who’s having a bad day. As they concentrate intently, they’ll inhale and hold their breath whilst they’re thinking or trying to do something, then instinctively exhale and sigh as if to try to relieve the stress. When you’re holding tension mentally, or emotionally, you’ll more than likely start to manifest it physically by holding your breath.
As another example, what happens when you get startled, or surprised? Say someone hides behind that tree and jumps out shouting “BOO!”. You get startled, and you breathe in sharply, and then you hold your breath
If you do any sort of martial art and have done some sparring, you’ll know that when you get hit or put under pressure you start to run out of energy quicker, unless you can stop the panic and clear your head. I’ll bet that it’s because you’ll be holding your breath at and the added pressure from your sparring partner just saps your strength quicker.
To handle the stress of childbirth both mentally and physically, pregnant women are taught to breathe. Soldiers in some forces are taught breathing techniques to handle the stress of combat. Just as our internal state can affect our breathing, so can our breathing affect the rest of our physiology.
If you can focus on your breathing and breathe in a more controlled manner, or better yet, just let your body do the breathing, it’ll start to let go of the tension that’s been collecting in the body. If we focus on calming the breath, the body and mind will follow.
This is why breathing is important in Taijiquan.
It’s not because breathing during Taijiquan practise will make our Taijiquan better, it’s because practising breathing correctly will make every part of our life better.
It’ll do that by making you a lot more relaxed for a start.
Once your body gets used to breathing correctly during Taijiquan practise, it’ll start to remember it when you’re in your everyday life. When you hit some turbulence, you’ll instinctively start to breathe more gently to relieve the pressure. You might even find it’s a conscious thing. When you start looking at a new problem at work, you might even catch yourself doing a “Deep breath… let’s go” sort of thing.
It’s the same idea that you’re re-programming the body to do something it does naturally. Just as we can have bad postural habits, we can have bad breathing habits, and practise of Taijiquan with the right breathing can really help us let go of these habits.
And that, can only be a good thing.