On Breathing

In Tai Chi, we learn to relax (sōng; 鬆), starting by using the heart-mind (xīn; 心) to guide the breath energy (; 氣) to the ‘field of elixir’ (dān tián; 丹田). The dān tián is at the center of gravity of the body, below the navel and inside, approximately where the mesentery (an internal organ) is located. Using the heart-mind to guide the to the dān tián and keep it there while moving in a relaxed manner is a core practice of the art. Every practitioner must pursue this to cultivate mindfulness, meditation in movement, and health.

So what does all this have to do with breathing? To sink the to the dān tián and keep it there with the heart-mind, we need to cultivate a particular way of breathing, which Cheng Man-ch’ing described.

“The requisite principle of sinking the ch’i is that the breathing must be fine, long, quiet, and slow.”

— Cheng Man-ch’ing, Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan, 77

† If you have questions about Chinese terms used, you may find About Chinese Terms helpful.

This is part of Thoughts on Tai Chi, a collection of writings exploring various aspects of Tai Chi. If you know someone who would enjoy reading it, please forward it to them.

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