Breathing in Form – Non Blue Face Edition

A question I get asked a lot in class is how to breathe whilst you’re doing your Taiji form. It’s difficult to answer it because how you go about learning breathing in your Taijiquan form isn’t intuitive. You can’t just give a student a pattern to breathe to as it’s a sure way to see someone go blue in the face as they try to do the form with the “correct” breathing.

You can always spot someone who’s trying to breathe to a pattern, because they’re usually the ones holding their breath. A posture that takes a bit longer than normal to complete means they’ll have to exhale for a lot longer, but because they’re not so good at it yet, they exhale almost completely by the time they’re 2/3 of the way through the posture and then hold their breath for the rest. This makes them hold tension and is a little self-defeating. They’re putting a lot of effort into relaxing themselves off, only to have their breathing pattern tense them up again.

Practising form for long periods breathing like this isn’t good because the body will, eventually pick up on that habit of holding the breath and start doing it, which means more tension.

Not good. It just ain’t Taiji as there’s no continuous change in the breath.

The other reason why you can’t just take a breathing pattern and shove it into the Taiji form is because your body varies quite a bit from day to day, and one day it might find it easy to breathe in the pattern you’ve been given, and the next it might struggle. This is something you don’t have conscious control over, because your body is different from day to day. That’s just the way it is.

One of the ways to get around this is to teach the body to coordinate breathing with movement. This way, whatever your internal state, your body will just start to regulate and synchronise whatever breathing pattern is most appropriate and most relaxing with your movement. It is, however somewhat unintuitive as it doesn’t use your conscious mind. Just try it out and see how it works, even if you don’t believe me.

Practise breathing with very natural movements, such as walking and eventually your body will get the idea, so that when you do start doing Taiji form, your body will automatically breathe to the movement, you won’t have to try to “fit” your breathing to the form.

So, the next time you’re walking along to get somewhere, breathe in for four steps, and out for four steps. As you walk along, gradually increase the length of the breath to ten steps in and ten steps out. Try not to hold your breath in or out at any point. If you’re trying to take ten steps and you run out of breath by eight, then that’s your limit for that moment in time. Don’t try to force it, we don’t want anyone going blue in the face. You need to practise long and short breaths, as there are long and short movements in the form. Go as high as you can without tensing up or holding your breath and do this often, try it out when you next walk to the shops or when you’re in the gym.

If you do this often enough, your body will get the idea of co-ordinating movement with breathing and it will automatically start do regulate your breathing during your form practise.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply