Abdominal and Reverse Breathing

Discussion in 'Internal Martial Arts' started by SickDevildog, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. SickDevildog

    SickDevildog Lost In The Sauce

    Question for all you people practicing reverse breathing:

    - How far into your training did you start practicing reverse breathing?
    - When and how long do you practice it?
    - What differences did it make for you while doing form in terms of relaxation and overall feel?

    I've been training in Tai Chi and Shuai Chiao for about 7 months, up until now I've only been using natural breathing and experimenting with reverse breathing every now and then to get a feel for it.

    Would it be a good idea to mix natural and reverse breathing while doing forms, or should I stick to one or the other?

    Thanks in advance.


    Thanks, changed it to natural breathing.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2005
  2. onyomi

    onyomi 差不多先生

    In the Buddhist system of qigong I practice we use natural breathing for certain sets of exercises and reverse breathing for others. Generally speaking, reverse breathing is a more forceful method, conducive to dropping the qi into the dantian rather suddenly and also for sending it out to the limbs suddenly. Natural breathing is more conducive to full body relaxation, stretching of the limbs, increasing lung capacity, and full body circulation. As somewhat of an overgeneralization, natural breathing can be said to be more beneficial to health while reverse breathing is more conducive to martial applications. Both are an important part of a complete system of qigong.

    When you're fighting you will have a natural tendency to switch to reverse breathing, which is good, because this is better for releasing energy outward with explosive strikes. One will naturally tend to exhale when tensing the muscles for a strike and exhaling using reverse breathing will tend to send the energy out to the limbs. Exhaling in natural breathing, on the other hand, will tend to store the energy in the dantian and hold it there--good for health, but not fighting. Also, one will naturally tend to tense up and exhale when taking a hit, especially to the abdomen. In this case, it is better for your organs to have the stomach flexed outward as in reverse breathing, rather than inward as in natural breathing.

    Therefore, since reverse breathing is the best for actual sparring, therefore it makes sense to practice your forms that way at least when you're going for explosive power. If you're going more for relaxation you can use natural. Of course, the more adept you become at reverse breathing the more you'll be able to relax while doing it, but it still has a tendency to create more tension than natural.

    Also, I wouldn't call natural breathing "abdominal" breathing as they both are supposed to engage the lower abdomen. They are also called "natal" and "pre-natal" as well as "tiaoxi" and "daoyin" breathing, respectively.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2005
  3. reikislapper

    reikislapper see you on the flypaper

    Anyone who's had singing lessons will know how to do it anyway as it's an exercise you learn first off, so it's not that special is it. OK, centuries ago they mgiht have found it through someone saying this is a good idea to conserve your lungs a bit more and it can be used to reach the back of the theatre with your voice, I don't know but it's a good idea though lol.

    I already knew how to do the reverse breathing before I started up with ma so I was lucky enough to get the exercise spot on lol. Did you know it's also used for heart patients when they've been through a heart operation as well as it really hurts your chest when you've had your rib cage broken open and you can only take little breaths cos of the pain.
    lisa xx
  4. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    I learnt reverse breathing about two weeks in to my training, practiced around 20-30 breaths every day along side normal training. There is no need to force this sort of breathing in to your form practice. Once you can discharge energy on a basic level, the reverse breathing you have been training will incorporate in to your movement naturally, as long as you practice striking, i.e. discharging energy.
  5. hwardo

    hwardo Drunken Monkey

    I practiced natural breathing for the first two years of my practice, and then learned a complete system of qigong that included reverse breathing and packing as a practice. I wouldn't just mix it together with whatever else you are doing; I would find a teacher and just learn one system at a time.
  6. onyomi

    onyomi 差不多先生

    What is "packing"?
  7. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    Packing - to put into a receptacle for transporting or storing… just kidding

    One definitions I am familiar with is to pack Chi in to the lower dantien. It is done by specifically moving Chi to that area, and storing it there. Dantien’s is the obvious place for this, as there are not many other places that store Chi that well.

    It can be a dangerous activity though, especially if done forcefully, B. K. Frantzi’s mentions in one of his books how (if I remember correctly) Huang I Hsing’s (I think) brother hemorrhaged a lung doing this, and died.

    I think you can also pack Chi in to your bones, I think I may have done this before, but not too sure if its defined as “packing”.
  8. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    I'd go along with this. In training fa jin and taking hits it should come in after a while if you get yourself used to what its like. I played around with it early on. In form I keep it natural, these days my breathing doesn't come into my consciouss too much. Being hit while sucking in air is not nice. When training fajin reverse breathing seems to just happen. So having some fajin in your form is pretty good..for variation.

    If you're aware that you'r gonna take a hit down there you could even employ use a natural in breath and continue with a reverse outbreath.. if that makes sense.

    If your not used acclimatised to combat it's hard enough just to keep breathing proper whether natural or reverse..so the attitude of just letting it happen rather than forcing anything is a good one I think.
  9. EmptyHandGuy

    EmptyHandGuy Valued Member

    Sorry for my ignorance, but what is reverse breathing?
  10. SickDevildog

    SickDevildog Lost In The Sauce

    When you inhale you pull your stomach towards your spine. The hardest part for me is to keep the diaphragm relaxed and lowered.

    When you exhale your abdomen relaxes and goes back out.

    Sifu said not to worry about the breathing part during forms, the breath will adjust by itself.

    For now I'll just practice Reverse Breathing when doing Ironshirt.

    Good replies sofar, thanks for the input, keep it up!
  11. Achillis

    Achillis Valued Member

    So that would mean that most of your air goes into chest area ????? Like normal breathing?????
  12. SickDevildog

    SickDevildog Lost In The Sauce

    When reverse breathing it seems like there wouldnt be much room for air to fill the stomach but it is.

    You should focus on breathing into the stomach first, keeping the diaphragm lowered will help you "swallow the air" into your stomach.

    As this becomes natural and easier with practice your breathing habits will change from shallow, only breathing with the chest, etc., to deep abdominal breathing using only the stomach to deep abdominal breathing filling the stomach first and then the chest, or both at the same time.

    Its different for everyone, I went from shallow short breaths to breathing mostly abdominaly (used to hold my breath alot to) to filling the abdomen then chest, my next goal is using them smooth and simoultaneously.

    The main point is that you can take more air in if you breath with your abdomen only than if you just use your chest, and even more if you use both.

    When we're first taught breathing excersises, Sifu or a senior student will tell you to place one hand on the center of your chest and the other on you belly right below the navel.

    Now you breath normally without forcing the breath but becoming aware of it.

    Pay attention to which hand lifts more than the other if at all, is it only one or both?

    After you figure out what kind of breathing you're doing you should to try and only make the hand thats placed on your stomach move, experiment with the one on your chest aswell.

    Any book dealing with ch'an/zen meditation or Chi Kung/Qi Gong will give you detailed instructions on how to breath properly and do a better job than me. ;)

    Check out the books in the meditation and chikung sections, there are a bunch that'll help you on this:

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2006
  13. onyomi

    onyomi 差不多先生

    It's interesting--my teacher recently told me that in the Buddhist system of qigong (nearly all the qigong you see or read about nowadays is Daoist), the so-called "reverse" breathing (chest expands on inhale, abdomen expands on exhale) is called "zheng fushi huxi," as in "correct abdominal breathing," because it is actually considered preferable to the "fan fushi huxi" or "reverse abdominal breathing" (abdomen expands on inhale and contracts on exhale) that the Daoists call "natural." The reason it is considered preferable is because while it is more strenuous and seemingly unnatural from the point of view of the muscles, it is actually more gentle and natural from the point of view of the qi. In the Daoist "natural/natal" breath, the qi is pulled straight from the air down into the dantian on the inhalation. This qi that has not been in the body is considered "cold" and does not mingle as freely with the dantian qi as qi that has been "warmed" by first being held in the lungs and gradually sucked down into the dantian. This increases the overall amount of qi extracted from each breath and is considered to be a more gentle "chen" ("sinking") as opposed to "guan" ("transversing/thrusting").

    If you think about the lungs and dantian as two balloons connected by a narrow tube, you can see that in the Buddhist's "correct" breathing, the first balloon is first expanded to take in and hold as much qi as possible. The lower balloon then expands as the upper balloon contracts, allowing the qi from the upper balloon (lungs) to pass smoothly and in larger quantities to the lower balloon (dantian). When the upper balloon expands again, it not only takes in qi from the outside (air), but also from the dantian, increasing the exchange between the dantian qi and the outside qi (a good thing). In contrast, the Daoist "natural" breathing is almost like sucking the air all the way into the lower balloon and back out again, only using the upper balloon (lungs) as a passageway. From the pov of the qi system, the Buddhists would say this is actually less natural.

    The disadvantage of the pre-natal breathing is that it has a greater tendency to create tension and is more tiring. When I first started qigong for example, my teacher did not let me use it because it caused me to tense my throat area. After using the "Daoist" breathing, which essentially bypasses the throat and lungs, for a while, he finally started letting me use the "Buddhist" breathing. But, as I've described above, it is the opinion of the Buddhist school that what people generally call "reverse/pre-natal (or, ironically, "Daoist") breathing is the best type of breathing from the point of view of the qi system. I've started using it for all my qigong exercises and even during much of my everyday life and have already noticed significant improvements in my energy level, feeling of the qi meridians, etc.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2006
  14. sparrow

    sparrow Chirp!

    I practice both methods with my Taiji and Qigong, but am not always aware of which I'm using! At the moment, it's not my focus, so perhaps I should pay more attention. We are taught to use reverse with the form and loosening exercises. I teach my new students abdominal (natural) breathing, and briefly mention reverse to longer standing students so that if they are interested they can try it out for themselves or ask further. As a general rule, I say to get the movements first and then see if the breathing can fit in. For most of them (I teach older people) that's enough.
  15. fermento

    fermento New Member

    I started hen i started training, This 'reverse' breating as you say, came natural to me as it should to anyone else. Just takes a little concentration of the mind.
  16. onyomi

    onyomi 差不多先生

    Although "reverse" breathing is usually described in terms of the abdomen going in and out in an order opposite the usual, it's really more a matter of the abdomen and the chest operating seperately. You can sink the qi into the dantian on the inhale, exhale, or even both! Ultimately they should operate almost like two seperate but connected sets of lungs, the chest being your connection to the outside qi and the abdomen being your connection to the inside qi.
  17. wudangfajing

    wudangfajing Banned Banned

    Yes i now have a question on breathing to it relates to Hung Gar an think Lau Gar has same style of Breathing in it as Goju Ryu.

    I have heard they do a fire breath that can cause a from of heart malfunction was wondering if any of you out there know if there is a way to reverse this effect or if there is away to develop less tension so you dont develop a form high blood pressure. The Breath is called Fire breath an Goju is were i learned it but have serious question for any Lau Gar or Hung Gar.
    Well in daoism is called that fire breath, but buddhist is different name can not remember. I know the Taoist do to fact that alot of the arts i studied are Taoist. But the question is around the tension training factor if they have away to lesson this effect to the Heart. :

    Seriously a real answer is need to this. :confused:
  18. middleway

    middleway Valued Member

    When performing form, the postures will 'breath' for you. look at how your body opens and closes through out the form, feel what your breath naturally wants to do ... the founders were very clever and built this in ... when we think about breathing we take it back out of the form ;)

    Motion is harmonised with the breath naturally throughout the form

  19. wudangfajing

    wudangfajing Banned Banned

    This Relates to Goju Ryu!

    It is about Iron wire practice in Hung Gar breath! Not really related to how Taiji is Chris middleway. Yes, i know that, is my answer to your post Chris.
  20. cloudz

    cloudz Valued Member

    said what ? breathe eazy!

    breathing backwards sounds like a fine idea, but i can't really be bothered. *look into my eyez, look into my eyes.*

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