Proper breathing is the foundation of both physical & mental training, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Here, we will take a closer look at the Eight types of Breath based Qi Circulating Meditation Methods that I use for both Mental & Martial cultivation.
(Note: Each of the listings below are just brief, introductory descriptions. I’ll add links to the posts explaining the basics of each of these Qi Circulations when they get posted. You can also pick up a copy of A Brief Introduction to Meditation for more information on all of the Methods listed here, plus some additional Exercises for each.)
The most basic method is, of course, Normal Breathing. The previous page, Uncle’s Prescriptions for Daily Practice, has the details on the practice. For the sake of convenience, you can go directly to the Essential Points on Meditation to read an outline of the concepts all of the more Advanced Methods listed below have in common.
Normal Abdominal Breathing
The first of two Methods that make up the primary training for that wondrous & mysterious secret of Self Cultivation: the Dantian/丹田. Abdominal Breathing, in general, consists of using the 意/Yi – Intent to concentrate the Qi in a single point within the body. While relatively passive, there isn’t a noticeable difference in the body when compared to Normal Breathing. A simple to understand practice, it has effects well beyond that initial simplicity. The main feature of Normal Abdominal Breathing is its ability to induce relaxation in the body, Mind, & Qi. This relaxation is the quickest way for a person to experience the feeling of Qi within their body for the first time.
Reverse Abdominal Breathing
The second of the two Methods that form the core of training for the Dantian. Reverse Abdominal Breathing is equally simple, but has profoundly different effects on both the body & the Qi. Instead of inducing relaxation, Reverse Abdominal Breathing increases the quantity of Qi in circulation & energizes the musculature for use. While more active than Normal Abdominal Breathing, it isn’t still a relatively passive practice. The Qi sensations will be stronger, which results in a short-term boost of general energy & the quantity of Qi circulating in the body. Compared to both Normal Breathing & Normal Abdominal Breathing, Reverse Abdominal Breathing is much more intense an experience.
Skin & Bone Marrow Breathing
The first Qi Circulation exercise that includes a more complex use of the Intent to assist in leading the Qi to specific locations in the body. Unlike the Abdominal Breathing Methods, Skin & Bone Marrow Breathing leads Qi to two different areas of the body in alternation: the surface (Skin) & the central line (Bone Marrow). This Method requires the practitioner to coordinate the cycle of breathing with the two locations to which the Qi is being led. Inhale/Exhale, Surface/Center are the four “coordinates” used to plot out the practice. What this means is the practitioner must first choose which if the two Abdominal Breathing Methods to use, then choose which location the Qi will move to during which phase of the breathing cycle. Obviously, this is much more complex than simply concentrating the Qi in a single point. The effect is a rhythmic expansion & contraction of the Qi as a whole, making a practitioner very aware of the body & its overall condition.
Hand & Foot Breathing
Now that familiarity has been gained with leading the Qi to multiple places by coordinating the breathing with use of Intent, the next logical step is to lead the Qi to multiple places simultaneously. The points used for this are the centers of the palms (勞宮/Laogong cavity) & soles (涌泉/Yongquan cavity). Just as before, this Method requires a greater use of Intent than the previous Method. In addition to the various Qi sensations already experienced, a pleasant warmth, indicative of increased blood circulation, is felt with Hand & Foot Breathing. The tactile sensitivity of the limbs is greatly improved by the increased distal circulation of both blood & Qi, fatigue, tension, & stress are all reduced, & a new qualitative transformation takes place. Previously, the Methods developed the awareness of Qi sensations within the body, & increased the quantity of Qi present. Now the quality of the Qi present in the body is refined by improving the condition of the Qi circulatory system. Stagnation & blockages are cleared away in much the same way that flowing water will clear obstructions: increased quantity leads to increased quality.