The Power of Deep Breathing



“Hi, my name is Irving Yee and this is The Art Of Tai Chi – THE place for you to learn Tai Chi in one movement with ease and excitement.  Learn it, practice it and live Tai Chi in every aspect of your life.  I’m happy that you are here.  It’s time to live and age well by cultivating your INNER CHI!”

Today, I am going to give you the inside scoop on breathing deeply.  It’s important because you breathe in air and air is considered to be one of the primary sources of energy.  Your energy is depleted through daily living…

Why do you want to breathe deeply?

The activities you perform each day restrict the amount of air you breathe. 

Just think about that for a moment. 

You perform hundreds of tasks each day, not giving any time or attention to you, your body, or your breathing.

Breathing IS the mechanism along with motion that gives you your life.

Breathing is often ignored all the time.  You just move.  Do this, do that, not allowing your body to properly breathe.

Your busy days interfere with your ability to move the internal organs. 

Moving relates to your breathing.  The organs are stuck on top of one another when you don’t give yourself time to breathe.  Their mobility has a very short range as a result of all your busy-ness.

The organs also have to be able to move accordingly to transport nutrients and waste.  They need their space.  If they don’t have their space, things can go wrong in a matter of time.

Blood must circulate around and through them without any blockages.  If you do not breathe deeply, movement is restricted and blockages occur.  Blockages prevent sufficient amount of blood flow to your organs.

You want to breathe deeply to create a separation.  Separate yourself from your office desk.  Separate yourself at a moment in time and give your body a break.

Break away from the rigid positions you place yourself and your organs in.  Give them some time to move and float with the help from deep breathing.

Tai Chi is about breathing deeply and moving at the same time.  Since we do Tai Chi slowly, it follows that we must breathe slowly.

But, we often make the mistake that we must move first.  Then breathe later.  In fact, in Tai Chi class I was taught to ignore my breathing, and move first.  It made sense at the time, because I was concentrating on learning the form.  I was just starting out, trying to move differently.

After all these years of learning and practice, I have found that you must learn how to breathe deeply first.  Follow your breathing first.  Breathe deeply second.  Then move according to your breathing.

Backlight profile of a woman breathing deep fresh air in the morning sunrise isolated in white above

What is deep breathing?

Your breath is the pulse of life. 

Breathing is fundamental to everything.  Tai Chi, its movements, postures and meditation is an extension of the deep breathing practice.

Deep breathing is about how far you can take your life.

The practice involves feeling the movement of your diaphragms, organs, muscles and your membranes.  It is essential to feel everything as you are breathing.

It is not just about your lungs.  The lungs are seen as the primary way for breathing, instead of your entire body.  The lungs are not used to their full potential as a result of this short-sighted thinking.

When you breathe, your thoughts tend to bring you to your upper chest and the front portions of your lungs.  The oxygen cannot reach further down to your lobes and to the backs of your lungs.  The movement of your lungs is therefore restricted.

Your mind is where your energy goes.

When you think about your breathing, your mind goes to your chest.  And that’s where the energy stops.  You can’t go any farther.

Your oxygen intake is not maximized.

It’s not just about the chest.  It’s about the front, bottom, back, top and everywhere else.

Deep breathing is about a full body experience.  Your skin breathes.  Your organs breathe, not just your lungs.

They all start to move and float.

How do you specifically breathe deeply?

The only way to substantially deepen your breathing is to exhale completely.

The way to fill your lungs is to cause them to be empty.

To empty the lungs, you start by seeing where it is emptying into – the Dan Tien, your energy center.  Start by slowly exhaling into your Dan Tien.  The air goes down from the chest to this catch basin.  See where the air is going? Down to the Dan Tien.

Empty out your chest actively.  Think of it as emptying the oxygen into your bloodstream at the Dan Tien level.  Receive energy and vitality from the air element.  Don’t think of it as emptying the air back into the room where you exhale.

Now your lungs are not empty just yet.  Continue slowly your exhalation all the way down to your pelvic diaphragm.  Think of your pelvic diaphragm as another catch basin.

We need only to exhale completely.  This means that you need to activate the diaphragms, deep muscles, and membranes to empty out your lungs.

When you exhale, feel the pelvic floor come up to meet you.  Feel the back move inwards, not just your front.  It may feel like you are shrinking.  There is a fear in you that you are disappearing.

I’d rather you look at it as an experience where that are no limits.  No boundaries.

As the diaphragms are moving toward the center, the core of your body, feel your organs moved by the WAVE caused by the breath.  The organs are bobbing up and down in the ocean that is you.

They move and float.

Your tissues start to move away from your bones.  You bones too start to float.  Space is created between your tissues and bones.  Space is created when you breathe.

Then you feel out of breath and need to inhale again.

Come to the end of your exhale.  Do not strain.  Relax and let the air come to you without effort.  In this way, feel yourself fill up to your shape.  The breath moves through you.  It does not stop at your chest. 

Think of it as an awakening process.  Inhale.

Like exhalation, inhalation is not passive.  Rather it is very active when you receive air from your surroundings into your body.  Feel the air through your nostrils, into your mouth and passing through your vocal diaphragm.

During inhalation, the dome-shaped thoracic diaphragm flattens out.  This increases the size of the thorax.  And decreases the thoracic cavity.  The change in pressure draws air into the lungs…

Hey, alright.  Ok.  Enough of the science and the big words, let’s breathe!

What if you took breaks to breathe deeply throughout your day?

So let’s start by doing some deep breathing exercises.  It doesn’t matter if you are sitting and reading the transcript, or standing and listening to the audio recording.

First, listen to your natural breathing.  As you inhale, feel your body expanding.  As you exhale, feel your body contracting.  Make sure your mouth is closed.  Your jaw is relaxed.

Exhale.  Inhale.   Feel your body empty and fill-up from the pelvic floor to the base of your skull.

Observe your breathing through the lungs.  Feel the air coming in and out of them in the top, front, bottom and back.

Now slowly bring your attention to the Dan Tien, the center of your body.  Breathe through your center, ignoring your chest, your lungs for a moment.

This is where we begin to deepen our breathing.

This is an important concept.  Natural breathing involves the lungs and is passive in action.  It is just automatic.

Deep breathing in the context of Tai Chi involves the Dan Tien.  This is an active form of breathing, one that is more dynamic and lively.  Put your awareness in your Dan Tien by putting both hands just underneath your belly button.  Complete the circuit with your forefingers and thumbs touching around it.

Now exhale.  Empty your body out.  From the Dan Tien, activate the pelvic diaphragm up to meet it.  Do not tense up.  Do not strain.  Just let your body empty out in time.

Inhale.  Slowly feel the body fill up with air on its own.  Do not strain to suck air in through your nostrils.  Keep your awareness in the Dan Tien.  Slowly relax the diaphragms, relax any muscular tension you may have to receive the breath more fully.

Repeat several times.  Emptying the body, let the breath come to you without effort.

Then let’s start to time ourselves, and count the seconds for each exhale/inhale.

Let’s do 1-2-3.

Exhale 1-2-3.

Empty, relax, and let the breath slowly come to you.  Feel your lungs empty smoothly and gently from the base all the way to top.

Inhale 1-2-3.

Slowly, gently, release all your diaphragms.  Feel the energy coming to you as you let go of everything to receive the oxygen coming in.

Repeat 5x.

Let’s do 1-2-3-4.

Exhale 1-2-3-4.

Feel yourself in rhythm.  Empty out from all directions as the diaphragms come in to embrace the core center of your body.

Inhale 1-2-3-4.

Release the embrace, filling out in all directions.  Allow the exhalation to be more active and the inhalation to be more passive.

Repeat 5x.

Finally, let’s do 1-2-3-4-5.  Now, if you feel you’ve reached your limit.  Then stop here.  If you feel comfortable, let’s continue on.

Exhale 1-2-3-4-5.

Now feel the wave go through your body as the organs, bones, tissues and muscles start to loosen up as you empty out.  Don’t be afraid of feeling the separation away from rigidity as the wave continues to wash through your body.

Inhale 1-2-3-4-5.

Feel the fluidity filling the emptiness as all of your tensions melt into this pool of water in your body.  The more you relax, let go, the deeper the pool gets.  And the wave becomes stronger.

Repeat 5x.

I feel more alive as my breathing becomes deeper.  I can start to feel the structure of my body move with each breath.  I feel more relaxed and present at the same time. 

My mind is quiet.

If you don’t feel as I do, don’t worry.  Continue this practice.  The important thing is to give yourself time.  Listen to your body.  Observe it.  Stay with what you feel, then go from there. 

Deep breathing is about becoming more aware.  Be more aware of your stress levels, the tension that is holding you back, and the muscular effort in your body as you see it breathe. 

Remember, no effort required.  All that is required is to give yourself some time to breathe.

Your body will change later.

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