Because breathing occurs involuntarily, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the various qualities that are present in each breath. Furthermore, because we often don’t pay close attention to how we breathe, it can be difficult to realize the significant role that it plays in our health, happiness, and in our overall well-being. Breathing exercise can help.
In truth, the quality of our breath influences numerous psychological and physiological elements within us.
This article will explore the power that breathing practices offer, and also includes a three-minute Qi Gong breathing exercise to relieve stress and boost energy.
Benefits of Qi Gong Breathing Exercise
In so many ways, breathing is our gateway to accessing our inner potential. Through the breath, we can direct our life force energy (Qi) with intention and purpose.
Here are three primary benefits of Qi Gong breathing exercises.
Our breath and emotions are intimately connected. When fear, stress, or anxiety are present, the breath becomes quick and shallow. When you’re relaxed and at ease, the breath slows down and becomes deep and present.
Without conscious attention, this causal relationship usually happens in one direction — your emotions control your breath. However, through intentional breathing exercise, you can actually influence your emotions by working directly with your breath.
When you transform your breath from short and shallow to slow and deep, you’re able to calm your mind and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Doing so allows you to release stressful energy and experience a feeling of peace and joy.
Cultivating Flexibility and Reducing Atrophy
In addition to the emotional benefits, breathing exercises also have many different physical benefits as well.
It’s important to remember that the lungs are controlled by important muscles in the diaphragm. Therefore, it’s important to cultivate both strength and flexibility in the diaphragm, just as you would seek to do in your legs or arms.
Many breathing exercises focus on expanding the diaphragm and lungs. By doing so, you can increase their flexibility and resilience, which is important for reducing atrophy.
When it comes to being physically active, strong and flexible lungs allow you to exert more energy and experience more liveliness. For your overall wellbeing, they help you to absorb life-giving oxygen and Qi with maximum efficiency and flow.
Both of the benefits mentioned above contribute to another benefit — increased longevity.
It is well known that both emotional and lung health are important elements for living a long and fruitful life. Since Qi Gong breathing exercises can help you achieve both of those benefits, they can also help you to live longer.
Additionally, the right breathing exercises can also help you increase the efficiency with which your body uses oxygen…
Most people are aware that eating too much food isn’t healthy. In fact, it’s widely known that overeating shortens longevity by increasing the incidence of disease and illness. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful about not just what you eat, but also how much you eat.
Similarly, breathing too much oxygen can also have a negative impact on longevity. Just like food, your body only needs so much oxygen in order to thrive. When your body receives a little less oxygen, it uses it in a more efficient and healthy way. Not surprisingly, that translates into various health benefits that increase longevity.
Based on this, Qi Gong breathing exercises often reduce the quantity while focusing on improving their quality. Through the process, you’re able to nourish your full being — reduce stress, cultivate peace, improve lung health, and increase longevity.
Below, we’ve included a three-minute breathing exercise to help you get a small taste of Qi Gong breathing practices. Like many Qi Gong breathing exercises, this one focuses on letting go of stress, increasing flexibility, and gives you a boost of energy. We suggest reading through the instructions before doing the exercise yourself.
Soaring Eagle Breathing Exercise
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your side. If you’re unable to stand, you can try sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
Start to take slow, deep breaths. On your inhale, bring your hands up above your head while keeping your arms relatively straight. Since your arms are straight, each of them will make a half-circle motion as it raises from your leg all the way to the point above your head.
As your hands approach the point above your head, let them cross so that the palms of your hands are facing each other. The moment when your hands are above your head with your palms facing each other should correspond with the moment that your breath is at the top of its inhale.
When you’re at the top of your inhale with your hands above your head, try to breathe in as much air as you comfortably can. You should feel your lungs, ribs, and abdomen expand with the movement of your arms as you inhale. Take that feeling as a sign that you’re increasing the flexibility and resilience of your lungs.
On your exhale, let your arms return slowly to the side of your waist, as each outstretched arm makes a half-circle motion downward. Pause for a moment at the bottom of your inhale before starting your next, full inhale. At the top of your inhale, let your hands cross again above your head, but try to switch which hand goes in front. For example, if your right hand crosses in front of your left hand on your first inhale, try to have your left hand cross in front of your right on your second inhale.
As you keep breathing, on each inhale try to alternate which hand crosses in front.
Throughout this exercise, focus your mind on the sensations of each inhale and exhale. As you inhale, pay attention to the feeling of expansion in your lungs, ribs, and abdomen. On your exhale, feel your full body relaxing and letting go of stress.
Continue doing this exercise for at least three minutes, although you can certainly do it for longer. Like all breathing exercises, both the physical and mental elements are important here. Let your mind and body work together to cultivate the transformation you’re seeking.
If you enjoyed this brief exercise and want to experience more in-depth lessons, be sure to check out our upcoming online course.
The Breathwork Online Course
At Holden QiGong, we’re excited to offer The Breathwork Online Course! This is an on-demand course taught by master Qi Gong teacher, Lee Holden.
In it, students learn a variety of powerful breathing exercises that focus on releasing stress, cultivating vitality, and improving respiratory health.
This course contains four modules, each of which builds on the previous lessons. Because it’s an on-demand learning experience, you can enjoy all of Lee’s lessons from the comfort of your own home. Click on the banner below to learn more about how The Breathwork Online Course can help you feel your best.