As understood in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi is the energy or life force of our body. It is the energy of our meridians, of the food we eat and the universe. Our breathing function plays a big role in regard to Qi in many ways and I’ll explain why.
Within our bodies there are two main types of Qi. The first of which is called “Congenital Qi”. This is the Qi that we are all born with, is inherited from our parents at our conception and has been called the “innate vital substance”- stored within our kidneys. It has limitations in it’s amount and quality, varying between all of us. There is understanding that once we deplete this Qi source - we no longer have our vital substance and can no longer sustain our life force. This is where the second source of Qi comes in.
It is important for this congenital Qi to be nourished by “acquired essence”. This is the energy/Qi that is derived from the food we eat and the air we breathe, which is why it is so important (as you can understand) to live a healthy lifestyle. The quality of the source this acquired Qi will be greater in eating quality and nutritious foods, regular exercise and breathing appropriately. The better quality this acquired Qi has- the less we will need to use our congenital Qi!
Here is a brief explanation of the process: The kidneys send some of our congenital / vital Qi up from the kidneys in an upwards direction where it combines with essence from the food we digest. It combines further with the fresh air that we breathe into our lungs. The end product is now the Qi or energy of our body.
Now that we have an understanding of where we get out Qi and energy from, would you agree that it would be a far greater option to better our efforts in acquiring better quality Qi from our food than use our vital Qi? It’s even easier to make an effort in how we breathe!! This will mean we can use less of our congenital Qi and keep our vitality up and hopefully last a long long time.
BREATHING........ picture for a moment what a baby looks like when it breaths. The belly rises, the ribs expand and then the chest fills if necessary. Now take a moment to observe your own breath. Don’t alter it, just observe. Where are you breathing from? For the most of us we will be taking very small and quick breath, barely filling up our lungs. Not filling our belly at all. Over time we have lost touch of how we should be breathing. Daily stresses of life and perhaps loosing touch of a connection with our body and importance of health attributes to this. Can you imagine how this type of breathing may be preventing us from taking in a quality amount of breath? Now recall that process indicated above. What sort of amount and quality of breath is accompanying your food intake to be able to mix with our congenital Qi to allow enough Qi to sustain our body and all of its daily functions that keep us alive?
We all have room for improvement.
A exercise that can be added into you life (if not already doing so) is one of simplicity. It can be done as much or as little as you wish , however I recommend taking 5 minutes if you can manage on a daily basis at a time that suits you.
A SIMPLE BREATHING EXERCISE:
Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Try to have minimal distractions or interruptions if you can, but any effort that you can manage will be great.
Place you hand on your abdomen over your belly so that your fingertips or each hand are slightly interlaced with each other or touching.
Taking a deep breath inwards, first filling up your lungs, then imagine your diaphragm pulling down into you belly expanding your lungs even more, now proceed to fill up your belly right down the very depths of your abdomen. Hold for 3 seconds.
Releasing now very slowly and mindfully first from your belly, emptying it out completely, move onto releasing the diaphragm and then the lungs.
This process may seem quite tricky at first, - not surprising in how long it may have been since we have breathed properly like this for some of us. But rest assured, with practice, it does become much easier and without effort.
Keep going- be sure to remain mindful of the steps. Try to build the length you hold the breath for to 5 seconds. Once you have completed, return to normal breathing. Observe, has your breath become more comfortable now in longer, deeper duration? With practice this can have an effect on the quality of our day to day breathing. Allow more acquired Qi from your breath to combine with your Congenital Qi, Not to mention- how energised do you feel following a few moments of conscious breathing?? Feel the Qi re-vitalizing your body.
*Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi-Gong are all practices and exercises where by breathing has been incorporated- some with movement, as a means of bringing breath into practice and into our body in a conscious manner.*
SIMPLE AND WITH SO MANY BENEFITS: have a go!!
Happy Breathing :)