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Brief descriptions: Below are brief descriptions of a broad range of breathing practices. These outlines give general descriptions, and are not intended to be complete instructions in doing the practices. To do the practices, it is important to have personal training, not merely relying on written words.
Basics of breath
Remember to build the foundation: First, you establish the basics of breathing. If you will quickly scan the topics listed in this section, immediately below, you will see that they are not so much breathing techniques as they are methods of establishing basic breath awareness, and elimination of irregularities. With breath training, one of the biggest mistakes is to skip the foundation, and go directly into the techniques themselves.
The science of breath
begins with awareness,
and ends with awareness.
It begins and ends with awareness: Breath awareness is so important that, in a sense, you can say that the whole science of breath begins with awareness, and ends with awareness. Everything else, in the middle, is preparation for awareness.
The finest bridge between body and mind: Breath is a bridge between the body and the mind.
Qigong breathing in the manner of the water method of Taoist meditation is an exercise in relaxation. Developing this skill requires patience and it should not be done in a forced manner. To begin learning this way of breathing you can do it laying down. When you are laying down, the chest and belly are relaxed. As you inhale, you allow the diaphragm to move towards your abdomen to cause the belly and the sides of the body to expand. Because of this movement in the abdominal region, this method is also called abdominal breathing.
Movement of the belly and the sides of the abdomen may be barely noticeable or uneven when you first start. If, while you are practicing, you need a reminder for maintaining your breathing with your diaphragm, you can place a telephone book or some other large book on your belly and allow it to go up with your in-breath and down as you exhale. Some find that placing of the hands on the belly works as well. You should work towards having smooth and even exhalations and inhalations, and relaxing into this pattern is the way to work towards that goal. Never exhale to more than 3/4 of your ability. (Source: http://www.qigonghealingarts.org/qigong-exercises/qigong-breathing)
TAI CHI CHUAN FOR HEALTH, COMBAT AND SPIRITUAL CULTIVATION
What does Tai Chi Chuan mean?
Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is a wonderful martial art. Besides being very effective for combat it is also excellent for health promotion and spiritual cultivation. Many people, however, are not aware of its combative and spiritual aspects. Even those who practise Tai Chi Chuan solely for health often do not get the best benefits of its health aspect. This article will explain why, and suggest ways you may adopt to get more benefits from your Tai Chi Chuan training.
The term ‘Tai Chi Chuan’ is a short form of ‘Taiji quanfa’. ‘Taiji’ is the Chinese word meaning ‘the grand ultimate’ or the cosmos. And ‘quanfa’ means ‘fist techniques’ or martial art. Tai Chi Chuan, therefore, means ‘Cosmos Kungfu‘. Indeed every movement in Tai Chi Chuan is made according to martial considerations, i.e. a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner moves the way he moves in a Tai Chi Chuan performance because that particular way gives him the best technical advantage in a given combat situation. Hence if you say that you practise Tai Chi Chuan for health and not for fighting, you probably do not realize that Tai Chi Chuan actually means Cosmos martial art, and that virtually all great Tai Chi Chuan masters in the past practised it for fighting.
(Read more at: http://www.shaolin-wahnam.org/taichi.html)
How to Do the Simplified Yang 24 Style
Tai Chi: The Meaning Behind the Movements
This is Patrick from Yoga Garden. We all know Tai Chi as a series of slow and peaceful movements designed to improve health. Often it’s compared to dancing or moving meditation. However, it’s important to remember that Tai Chi originally developed as a kind of practice on your own Kung Fu and that will made you these beautiful hand motions and execute the softer work. We are actually practicing a martial art.
Understanding the martial applications of the Tai Chi movements will bring depth and vigor to your practice and if you are just starting, it’s a great way to remember the forms as well as the names. On the screen here is Kieye Go Hogi, we all call her Kieye (ph). She heads up the Tai Chi program at Yoga Garden and as for me, I will be playing the part of Mr. Tanaka, drunk and slightly earnest salary man who just can’t get enough of Kieye. We will just add the glasses here and the transformation is complete. We hope you enjoy watching this video as much as we enjoyed making it.
Of the 24 forms in the game simplified style, we will just be taking a look at a few that shows some interesting variations on combat techniques starting with Yema Fenzong. This is a classic Tai Chi movement. You can see the curved arms encircling that Chi. All actions linked with bow steps, turning back and forth from the legs.
A primary importance in this posture is moving with the center rather than the extremities. You can see how she sweeps her arm forward, her whole body moves giving power to the action. Right hand switch back, as left hand pushes forward, all powered from the hips. In a fighting situation, it’s not going to make some ground for Kieye. She uses that forward powers, knock him off balance, hooks under his armpit and he is down. Then notice guy in the Yang style, he always maintain a 90 degree with her back and employ barbing the head up and down. This provide a lot more stability as you move through the forms.
Next is Louxi Aobu. This looks similar to Yema Fenzong but the power is actually quite different. Yema Fenzong used the sweep and as you can see here this is more of the foots. That’s why I start again. A key importance, using the hips, linking the arms and legs, watch how Kieye’s heels and toes have the same timing as the forward pushing. This allow the natural force to the movements and the form strip down to its essentials, a sweeping blocking arm, a forward push, all powered from the back leg, linked with Dung Chen. This time Tanaka chose to kick Kieye. The Kick is blocked and the push is applied to the Solar Plexus.
Next up is Shouhui Pipa. This is one of my favorite forms, it looks so enocuous compared to the others but it’s has dangerous secret. Let’s watch that again. The right hand reaches forward and pulls back in console with the right foot, as together the left leg and left arm come to the front. In this angle, you can see a little better what’s happening. The right hand goes back, the left comes forward and together they both push towards the center, right there, push. You can see the result on Tanaka’s arms. As he goes for a punch, punches traps and the force is applied at the joints. Tai Chi is based upon the ideas of Daoism, one of the most important of which is the interaction between Yin and Yang, yin being passive with drawing energy. Yang being forceful, aggressive energy.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Daojuan Gong, you can see the back hand is soft and withdrawing and suddenly transforms into a strong forward push. Even as the other hand against is melt away. It’s kind of like watching a living, breathing Yin Yang symbol in action. Let’s watch that again in isolation, the arms here are working together, one pushing as the other pulls, all linked with the hips. This movement is called for when someone is coming at you with strong energy, that forward moving energy is welcomed with the back hand, even as the front hand comes on, grabs it through as that’s for us. You can see here Tanaka san getting up close and personal with Kieye. She uses that forward movement and applies it against him.
Of the 24 forms in the Yang simplified style, many practitioners argue that it’s this one, Zuo Lan Quewei, that is the most important. This series of movements has been called it by one master, a kind of entrance exam for Tai Chi because it contains the fundamentals of all of the forms. Zuo Lan Quewei actually consists of four parts, you know it is the first one moving a bent arm forward stiffly, Pong, using Pong energy and moving to U, from U we go right into G. Dispersing the G energy, we bring it back to one final action Aan, which is why there is an isolation, his Pong, again the shoulder is secondary, kind of a delivery system for the power of the hips, waiting until it is knocking his off balance and adding the correct force. Next is U, it’s pretty easy to see martial application of this part. Having trapped, you pull his arm, drawing back until he is off balance enough so that you can follow through, keeping him away from you.
Next is G, this is great for close corner situations. And finally pulling everything back. Watch how the hips are working. Arm, this form has the additional benefit of stripping the arms from the neck and shoulders. Tai Chi is always moving slowly, never stopping, you can see it close right here and it’s Dung Chen. One of the most recognizable Tai Chi forms. You can see how the weight is constantly shifting between Kieye, never static, never staying in the middle of the body where there is little power to be found. Timing with the front foot, as usual will get it into down yet, simplified it might look something like this. In a real life situation, to knock his punch, as he captured and the energy is transferred and amplified into a neck chop. That actually really hurts much as acting right there — following a heel kick, to move right into Shuangfeng Guaner.
You have watched a few of these now, so maybe you can tell of this would actually be used in a fight. Tanaka san going for Kieye’s neck and she tried to cease the knee to the head in the boxing of the ears or temple. Here at the end of the 24 form, we come to this individual movement, Haidi Zhen. Haidi Zhen is a great example of balancing, the forces of Yin and Yang one action. You can see the right hand strongly moves forward but at the same time, the hips are dropping back and withdrawing. So their overall balance is maintained, that’s much of a Yin simplified.
You might be wondering, what the hell is going, well you will find out right here, a kick is blocked, oh that’s hard to watch, that’s hard to watch. Perhaps nowhere else can you see the Kung Fu history behind Tai Chi even in this action. Zhuanshen Banlanchui, there is that despite this being a very aggressive movement, you never see a straight line. There is always little bit of power with in. As always, the timing of the legs and hips is key here, much of the back leg and hips go together to deliver maximum power to this punch. You also have the chance to stop on your importance foot here, throw him off balance. Tanaka san leaves himself open and from there on he is putty in Kieye san.
Our final movement today would be cross hands, Shizishou. Well, long time I thought this was just a pretty way to end the 24th form allowing you to come down and back to the original starting place. However, in the making of this video, I found out that this too has a martial meaning. Keeping these meanings in mind as you practice your Tai Chi forms will not only make them more interesting, but more powerful and authentic. As for Tanaka san, this is as close as he ever got to Kieye. Well, a man can dream.
How to do Zazen – Seated Meditation
Hi, I am Patrick and today we are talking about Zazen and how to do it. Meditation isn’t just for buddhas or monks; it’s for everybody that can be done at almost any time. So lets get started. When you sit, you are going to want to elevate your pelvis. The most useful thing for this is something like a Zafu, it’s a round Japanese shape. But honestly anything will work, a pillow folded in half, a rolled up blanket is just as good. Don’t let not having a zafu keeping you away from starting your meditation.
As you sit, you want to have a stable base as possible. This cross legged posture for example, might be comfortable at first, but it’s not as stable, and after a few minutes, your legs will fall asleep, and you will become uncomfortable. A much better choice is something like this, Burmese sitting. You can see the base is much wider. This one is accessible for almost all people, and it’s pretty comfortable. Another choice is half-lotus. This is a great posture, just be sure on your both sides you can get a hip balance all the time.
And finally, classic full-lotus posture. Don’t force yourself in any of these poses, they are not crucial to Zazen, you can do Zazen sitting on a chair, standing on the subway. These gestures are some helpful classic styles. As we our base, lets move on to the hands. In classic Japanese style the dominant hand is on bottom. The other hand is on it’s top. The thumbs slightly come together to make kind of an x shape. These thumbs could be a mindfulness indicator, that you are squishing them together strongly, there is too much energy in the meditation, it will fall and open, it’s a little bit lazy and sleepy. Just keep them lightly barely touched.
Most important physical component of meditation is the spine. Often after a few minutes people are starting to look like this, with a curved soft spine. This will make your meditation dull and useless. On the other hand of the spectrum I see a lot of people, especially tough dudes trying to look like this, ramrod straight, this is completely wrong, so wrong muscles. It’s the wrong muscles. If you want to sit straight, you have to use your inner muscles recoil, not the surface muscles of your shoulder and chest. Also you don&’t lean too far forward, or too far back. A tall relaxed spine sitting squarely on the pelvis would give you more mental clarity, if there is any kind of chanting, visual views or that type of thing.
Another thing to look out for is the shoulders. After a few minutes, you might find your shoulders rising up towards the ears, filling with tension. This is natural, you have to say to everybody, if you notice your shoulders are tensed, just exhale and let them follow through, let the chest relax, come back into a stable center line, keeping your focus on the belly or the typical moves. I really enjoy the Soto style, of sitting, facing the wall. In this way your eyes have something to look at without getting distracted. You may feel tempted to close the eyes, but when you close the eyes it’s easy to fall in the dreamland, and usually get distracted.
Zazen can be done from anywhere between 15 minutes to one hour. If you’re just starting, keep the time short, it’s a very deep practice. Don’t go overboard.
The idea of the zazen is to have a clear empty mind without chattering thought. But if you are like most people something like this would happen.
Like a monkey you are constantly climbing from tree to tree, the mind meets some random thoughts or random thought. Through Zazen we can learn to tame this manic, mental chattering. If you are really having trouble quieting your monkey mind, you can try some counting breaths. It’s just a simple game. Breathing in is one, breathing out, two, breathing in, three. The only rule of the game is, if you have the straight thought like I am hungry, you need to go back to zero, and start from the beginning. Lets it try again.
I am only half as serious with these actions and things. You shouldn’t get discourgaed. Failing like this is actually a practice. Most people feel like they are in the driver seat of their mind, directing it where they wanted to go, but just a few minutes of Zazen will show you that your mind does its own thing, it goes all over the place without your control. Mind does good for you, as soon as you say, don&’t think, more thoughts come in. In fact, don’t think is a thought, and you move through everyday, having many dialogs with yourselves over and over again. When we see a homeless person talking to himself on the street, we say he is crazy.
But the only difference between him and us is that we keep our mental chatter locked up inside our skulls, this is the gift of meditation. You learn you are not your thoughts, you can imagine the thoughts are like clouds. You can relate it with nothing, constantly shifting changing shapes. Behind the clouds, always there is the sky, clear, ready, we also a have a deep purity that’s obscured by our everyday thinking about it. At times you will get a glimpse of this purity, you will feel something like this.
But at times you will be so wrapped inside your thoughts, you will feel like this. But it shouldn’t get you wrapped up in these highs and lows. In fact, 90% of the time, the Zazen would be like this.
Yes, Zazen is boring, but it’s also one of the greatest adventures that we are going to experience.
The Five Elements in Tai Chi Meditation: Concentrating on breathing connects one with one’s true self
Standing tall, heels in, toes slightly out, relax into the leg base, again, feeling that sense buoyancy. As you breathe in basing on the right leg, exhale forward stepping on to the left foot, fingertips touching fire, the first element. You cannot do that for too long so you shift back, fingertips in water. Second element, wood, the third is at your side, opening up into metal, grandeur and beauty of metal as you step forward, then shifting back, claiming and grounding with earth, the final element.
Let us do that again, slowly organically, easing into the right leg as a base. Stepping forward on to the left, fingertips touching fire, easing back, water, breathing, relaxing, wood is at your side, opening up, feel that beauty as you step forward, metal, shifting back, claiming, and grounding in earth.
Great, let us do the other side, easing now into the left leg as the base. Stepping forward on the right, just easily there, fingertips touch fire, shifting back, water, wood, relax, third element is at your side, opening up, metal, stepping forward, easing back, grounding in earth.
Great, one more time, slowly, just feel the beautiful organic aspect of movement. Noticing the solo nuance is in the body as you touch fire, easing back into water, wood, relax, supportive at your side, opening up, metal, stepping forward, feel that weight shift and easing back grounding into earth.
Excellent, stepping out into a horse stance, grounded to the leg base, spine extended, shoulders relaxed, arms coming up slowly, breathing in, exhaling, commencing form, palms coming down. Good, standing tall, let your arms relax slowly ease, and again, inhaling up, bending to the joints, relaxing shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers exhaling down. Good, feel that connection between your feet and your hands.
One more time, notice as my arms come up, I am going to ease back to in to my leg base. Inhaling, exhaling down, feeling very grounded in the center, lie your body to move a little bit there. Great, relax out.
Okay, commencing form right here, inhaling, exhaling down. Now, I am going to shift into what is called the right and left centering, easing into the left leg as the base, toes turning out to the right as you shift into the right leg, easing back, great, center.
The more you practice your daily Tai chi, it is a good idea to keep your head at a level, the same level as you move. So notice it was not a lot of rises and falls as I ease over.
Again, inhaling up, exhaling relaxed down, shifting to one side, relax into the body bending through the knees as you shift into the opposite leg. Elbows relaxed, shoulder relaxed, energy flow all the way through. Good, shifting into the right leg, left toes turn, easing into that left leg and shifting back.
Excellent, final, commencing form, energy down.
- T’ai Chi recommended for the elderly (humankinetics.wordpress.com)
- How to Relax, Melt & Pour (Tai Chi Standing part 2) (clearstaichi.com)