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Speaking Tree

Push the Sky, Open Your Wings, Take Off
Fetch Your Breath Up From Deep Below
Just Stand Still to be in Sync with Nature
The Lasting Benefits of T’ai Chi
T’ai Chi Strengthens the Mind-Body Link
Emotional and Spiritual Balance with T’ai Chi
Good Teaching Inspires Flowering of the Mind
T’ai Chi is the Difference Between Life and Death
Gains from Independent Practice of T'ai Chi
Sit Like A Bell And Walk Like The Wind
T'ai Chi Is Effective In Sharpening Concentration
Remove All The Pressure That Builds Up Within You
Relaxed & Competitive with T'ai Chi
T'ai Chi for Energy is Absolutely Seamless
Sit Like A Bell And Walk Like The Wind

7th July, 2007

Breathing controls the body's bioelectric balance just as diet controls its biochemical balance. Deep abdominal breathing not only calms and brings emotions under conscious control, but also greatly heightens awareness, thought, and memory. The linkage that occurs between the upper and lower parts of the body as a result of deep breathing ensures the smooth transfer of energy from the legs to the upper body, an essential requirement in yoga or T'ai Chi.

'Cleansing breath' detoxifies the body and emphasises exhalation. 'Energising breath' collects and stores vital energy and focuses more on inhalation. Whenever toxins in our bloodstream reach a critical level, we instinctively sigh, a quick inhalation followed by a long, forceful exhalation. By contrast, when we feel lacking in energy, we involuntarily yawn a long, slow, deep inhalation followed by brief breath retention and a relatively short exhalation.

With increasing awareness of the benefits of breathing exercises, more people are making them an integral part of life. But, many don't understand the role played by the diaphragm a resilient yet flexible muscular membrane which separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. When lungs expand, they push the diaphragm downward; when lungs contract, they pull it up into the chest cavity.

Some breathing exercises specifically promote assimilation and circulation of oxygen and chi. Others facilitate rapid expulsion of toxins from the bloodstream and lungs, some sedate or stimulate the system. Before practising different breathing exercises, familiarise yourself with the four fundamental postures: standing, sitting, lying and walking. Taoist masters suggested 'Stand like a pine, sit like a bell, lie like a bow, and walk like the wind'.

The standing posture is ideal for doing meditation and therapeutic breathing exercises. The bones of your lower body are much more suited for locomotion or standing than for sitting. 'Stand like a pine' means keeping the spine erect as a pine from crown to coccyx.

The sitting posture has three variations: easy lotus, half lotus and full lotus. The lotus ('sitting like a bell') is a very stable posture, which allows body weight to spread evenly on the ground with the spine rising erect from a solid foundation.

The lying posture is recommended for breathing therapy only if you are incapacitated or ill. There are two ways. One is to lie flat on your back with head slightly raised on a small pillow, legs fully stretched out, arms resting by sides. The second, more preferred method is to lie on your right side, with knees slightly bent, right hand tucked between the pillow and your temple and left arm resting along the upper side. In the side position, due to the smooth curvature of spine and legs, the diaphragm deeply massages the abdominal organs. You are 'lying like a bow'.

Walking can be most healing and therapeutic when it is performed with deep breathing. Breathing correctly while walking trains the mind to stay concentrated on what you are doing with a high degree of focused relaxation. Therefore, it is often called 'moving meditation'. Walking synchronises your body, breath and mind, making you feel light and nimble, as though you are 'walking like the wind'.