Taoist Longevity Breathing™ is the foundation of all Taoist chi development and longevity practices, including qigong, tai chi, bagua, Taoist yoga and Taoist meditation.
Learning to breath properly is one of the most important portals to healing, relaxation, rejuvenating sleep, graceful aging and spirituality.
Taoist Longevity Breathing goes beyond increasing oxygen capacity. Longevity Breathing will help you rejuvenate and supercharge not only your lungs, but also all your internal organs. It improves circulation, increases performance and reduces stress. It also helps you cope with negative emotions, such as fear and anger.
How can you improve your breathing? Taoist Longevity Breathing, is a progressive system for better breathing:
As you are activating these different areas of your body, you will simultaneouly lengthening your breath. With each new activated body part, it becomes easier to extend your breath.
Contrary to what most people believe, it is not your lungs that activate air intake.
The diaphragm is responsible for moving air in and out of your lungs. So Taoist Longevity Breathing initially focuses on your diaphragm since it's the starting point of breathing. However, for most people their diaphragm is not only frozen, but they also cannot feel it! Do you know where your diaphragm is located? How does it function?
The diaphragm is a bell-shaped sheet of muscle that separates your lungs from your entire abdomen. It wraps around the lower parts of your ribcage and attaches to your spine. Your diaphragm moves when you breathe. The bell shape ﬂattens and your chest cavity and lungs expand and draw in air.
When your diaphragm relaxes and resumes its bell shape, your chest gets smaller, causing air to be pushed out of your lungs. If your diaphragm does not move very much as you breathe, you cannot take in or expel much air in a single breath.
Your diaphragm inﬂuences a complex variety of interconnected anatomical parts--upward to your head, neck and shoulders and downward towards the bottom of your pelvis--to move in coordination with it.
Spongy, springy ligaments connect your diaphragm to your internal organs and cause them to move in coordination with your breathing. For example, if your diaphragm moves well, it also makes your liver move well. If the movements of your diaphragm are poor, it can cause the ligaments that connect to your liver to lose function. A poorly functioning liver will compromise all the other internal organs.
Your body has several internal fluid-pumping mechanisms, which are directly connected to the movement of your diaphragm. Strong fluid movement is especially important for your internal organs, joints and spine. Poor movement of your diaphragm compromises the smooth flow of these fluids.
Taoist Longevity Breathing exercises will help your diaphragm to move more strongly and train habits of long, robust and deep breathing.
Soft, springy ligaments connect your diaphragm to your internal organs and help them function and move the way nature intended. For example, if muscles are flaccid where ligaments connect to the liver, both the ligaments and the liver itself will move progressively less or even get stuck and barely move at all. This can, in a cascading effect, compromise the movements of your other organs.
Since many of the fluid-pumping mechanisms of your body are connected to the movement of your diaphragm, poor or unbalanced movement of your diaphragm compromises these flows. Strong, rhythmic up and down motions of the diaphragm benefit and regularize these pumping actions.
Breathing with your belly strengthens your diaphragm. However, the breathing technique must be learned systematically and gradually, and should only be done with an instructor skilled in monitoring these progressive stages. The connections between your diaphragm and heart, if excessively forced, could get overstretched or dislodged.
Within Taoist Longevity Breathing, there are specific exercises for making sure that your entire diaphragm muscle moves as a whole while exhaling and inhaling. No part of the muscle movement should be significantly stronger or weaker than another.
Another set of exercises within Taoist Longevity Breathing will teach you to lengthen and stretch your diaphragm as you inhale and exhale. Still other exercises will teach you to feel your diaphragm clearly and evenly during breathing to gradually increase and release pressure while evenly inhaling-exhaling.
As you start to exercise your diaphragm more, you can then move onto more advanced Taoist Longevity Breathing techniques to activate all the parts of your body. These breathing techniques essentially reprogram your nervous system to breathe with your whole body 24 hours a day. Eventually, Taoist Longevity Breathing will help you activate your entire body, including:
As you activate different parts of your body with Taoist Longevity Breathing, you will simultaneously lengthen your breath. Increasing the length of your breath with Taoist Longevity Breathing will ensure that you move your belly and relax all the parts of your body. If you are tense or taking shallow gulps of air, then it is impossible to have a long breath.
Taoist Longevity Breathing never holds the breath for any reason. The aim is to continuously and evenly breathe at a very slow pace. There are three distinct stages you will go through as you learn Taoist Longevity Breathing:
Over millennia, Taoists observed that a thirty-second breath was the minimum an average person should be able to do if he or she wanted to breathe well under normal circumstances. Yet given today's low standards where having a weak, shallow breath is considered normal, being able to easily do a thirty-second breath may sound difficult to achieve.
However, since you will take countless breaths from this day forward in your life, meeting this challenge will immeasurably better your life. As a point of reference, we estimate that the average person has between a three- and seven-second breath. So by training yourself to maintain a 30-second breath, over time you'd increase the length of your breath by at least 400 percent!
Taoists also observed that the body made a positive and profound life-altering shift when practitioners could extend their breath to two minutes. This causes major changes in the body and positively resets many of the body's energetic baselines. For example, the circulatory and nervous systems shift to another level of capability, which most people don't even know exists. Even if this ability is maintained only for a year, it usually causes a beneficial effect that lasts for decades. This ability can allow the practitioner to regularly shrug off stress that would otherwise be overwhelming and cause misery and poor health.
China is a nation that historically has revered their elderly and their accumulated wosdom. Consequently, the Taoists were greatly concerned with promoting longevity and became renowned for their longevity practices. An essential component of their most successful longevity techniques os called "turtle breathing," which is an eight-minute breath. Giant turtles are known to live for hundreds of years. They commonly submerge themselves in the water and hold their breath for more than five minutes at a time.
One breathing aspect of Taoist breathing is aiming to generate a five- to eight-minute breaths. This practice is unsurpassed in its ability to transform and maintain the vitality of youth as the body and mind age.
I recently returned from a three week instructor training in a chi gung practice called “Gods Playing in the Clouds”. This intensive was held at Menlo College near San Francisco and I’d like to share some details about my experience.