Saturday, November 28, 2020

Qigong Breathing For Health

This week's video is a breathing exercise adapted from the yijinjing set taught by Master Jiru of the Mid-America Buddhist Association (MABA).  Ven. Jiru is my meditation teacher and I learned the yijinjing from him while on meditation retreat at MABA.

Humans are the only mammals (that I'm aware of) that have voluntary control over their diaphragm; in most other mammals, under load, the action of the diaphragm is controlled by the gait cycle.  In other words, when the animal stretches out while running, the rib cage expands and inhales and during the "pull" phase of their stride the rib cage condenses and they exhale.

These movements are similar to what's called "bellows breath" from yoga.

In the second phase of the exercise, we bend over.  Bending over relieves the diaphragm of it's obligation as a core stabilizer and allows you to use it 100% to assist in respiration, which is why you feel like you need to put your hands on your knees to recover your breathing after a big effort.

The third phase of the exercise slaps the kidney like a drum.  The kidneys are a very important aspect of Chinese medicine and in fact play an important role in our endocrine system as well as filtering/eliminating waste from our system.

To learn more about Venerable Jiru and MABA click here:

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a doctor.  Video is for informational purposes only.  Follow the exercises at your own risk. Always consult a physician before engaging in this or any other exercise or lifestyle change. 

 Now you can join me for I Liq Chuan classes from Tempe, or wherever you are in the world online.  Choose a time from the calendar below and RSVP!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Four Quarters of The Breath

GM Sam Chin likes to say "if it's a circle, it has a center.  If it has a center it has four quarters."

We tend to think of breathing as simply inhale and exhale, but I began to notice during my breathwork a year or so ago, one full breath cycle should also have four quarters.

Each inhale and exhale has two phases; an active phase and a passive phase separated by a neutral point.

The neutral point is when the diaphragm is completely relaxed and there is no movement of either inhale or exhale because the relative pressure inside the lungs matches the external pressure.

If we inhale from here, the inhale is active, requiring some effort from muscles like the external intercostals of the ribs, and if done properly the rib cage expands as the lungs fill with air.  At the very top of the breath, we reach maximum pressure inside the lungs.

From here we can simply relax and the built-up pressure will cause the air to rush out of our lungs until we reach the neutral point again.  This is the passive phase of the exhale.  Below the neutral point, we can use some effort to continue to exhale actively, which should cause the waist and rib cage to continue to condense by activating muscles like the internal intercostals and transversus.

At the bottom of the active exhale, we've built up some negative pressure inside the lungs;  if we simply relax, the vacuum will draw some air into the lungs until we reach neutral, and this is the passive phase of the inhale.

We need to acknowledge and actively train each of the four phases to some degree.

Why? Like anything else, it's "use it or lose it" as we age.

Lung function declines by almost 40% over the lifetime of an average individual, more so in men than women.

Most people develop a shallow, "vertical" breathing pattern that involves too much involvement of the neck and shoulders as their activity levels decline, spending most of their time breathing at and just above the neutral point.

This lack of excursion (change in diameter) causes ossification in the rib cage. As the rib cage becomes increasingly stiff, we're forced to take more breaths to maintain our normal 5-6L of air per minute. Heart rate and sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activation are directly linked to our diaphragm, this increased number of breaths per minute shifts us into mild chronic physiological stress.  

The alveoli, the tiny sacs in our lungs where O2/CO2 are exchanged, become deflated and increase dead airspace within the lungs reducing our ability to take in fresh oxygen.

Respiratory muscle strength decreases with disuse, impairing effective airway clearance leaving us prone to infection.

We're also left with less and less reserve to meet our needs during high demand states like when we're fighting off a bear (or pneumonia).

Pulmonary (lung) function measured as a function of forced expiratory volume has been shown to be a reliable indicator of life expectancy.

We also have research that shows that breathwork can and does improve lung function in older adults, so if your over 50 and you haven't been doing breathwork your whole life, you don't need to throw in the towel.

Start today and do what you can, with what you have where you're at.

Here's what to do
  • become more mindful of your breathing all the time. Make sure you're spending time breathing in all four quarters throughout the day.
  • incorporate max inhales and exhales during your breathwork.  Reach both hands above your head, inhale to your max and try to flare your ribs as wide as possible like the hood of a cobra
  • Ball your hands into fists and pull arms down close to your sides and exhale as much as possible.  Feel your rib cage and waist get as small as possible. Repeat 10x. (bonus, if you're training a martial art like I Liq Chuan, when you fajin, you're already training your forced expiratory volume!)

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Circle To Center - Weekly I Liq Chuan Online Class Highlights

Ninety degrees is the maximum angle for control.  This is the quality of "circle to center" that we talk about in I Liq Chuan.

The rotation of the radius and ulna is an important quality to look into for being able to maintain circle to center. 

If the rotation is off, you'll miss then center and you'll be losing power and control; you're point of contact will be slipping off because it's not direct. 

Matching the rotation of the radius and ulna is also an import skill for I Liq Chuan's sticky hand training; matching the rotation allows you to maintain a flat point of contact. A flat point means the opponent has no pivot point. Without a pivot point, you can change. A pivot point is "yin/yang" or full and empty at the point. 

Join me live every week for I Liq Chuan online here:

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Sunday, November 01, 2020

Find Movement In Stillness - I Liq Chuan's Zhan Zhuang Exercise

In this week's online class highlights, we cover incorporating all five qualities of movement into one exercise of "standing posture" also translated as "standing post" (zhan zhuang); generating circles within circles.

"If you understand one point; that one point has 6 directions, 3 dimensions, that reduce—sometimes later they call it  the primordial energy, the beginning of energy, the balance energy. That’s why Feng, Zhi Qiang calls it [ ?? ] Hun4 Yuan2 Tai4 Ji2—source of the beginning—the origin, that’s primordial."

~GM Sam FS Chin

 Now you can join me for I Liq Chuan classes from Tempe, or wherever you are in the world online.  Choose a time from the calendar below and RSVP!