A full breath of healthy air nourishes your entire body! On your inhale, you take in fresh oxygen, which enters your bloodstream and flows to every cell. On your exhale, you let go of the past and release that which no longer serves you. Your breath is an essential source of Qi, and a constant reminder of your interconnectedness to the world around you.
As one of our most important gateways through which Qi enters the body, the quality of your breath has a significant impact on your mental, emotional, and physical health. This blog post will discuss the importance of breathing from a Chinese Medical perspective, as well as how Qi Gong can help you to release stress, boost your immune system, and cultivate presentness.
The Commander of Qi
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, breath is often referred to as “the commander of Qi.” Both physiologically and energetically, your breath works tirelessly to absorb energy and release waste. You can view your breath as a powerful gateway to your body, mind, and spirit. Both voluntarily and involuntarily, it is through your breath that much of your energy moves and flows.
If we define “Qi” as aliveness, our breath is our most essential process for taking Qi into our body. Humans can go weeks without eating, days without drinking water, but only a few minutes without breathing. All of our life’s activities depend on the oxygen and Qi that enters our body through our lungs. We’re reminded of this every time we exercise; the more energy we consume, the more breaths we must take to fuel who we are.
In western culture, people talk a lot about food and diet when discussing health. Indeed, the nutraments we choose at mealtime play a significant role in determining our health and wellness. Although we don’t discuss our breathing in the same way that we talk about eating, the way in which we breathe is very important. As the commander of Qi, our breath can be a powerful ally.
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, each part of the breath has an important role for our mental and emotional health. When we exhale, we’re able to release the past, along with emotions that no longer serve us. If you pay close attention to your breathing when you’re upset you’ll probably notice that your exhale accompanies moments of emotional release.
Our inhale is associated with embracing the future feeling inspired. Inhaling is the process of taking in new energy and vitality to help you move forward with strength and confidence. Although these processes happen naturally with every breath we take, there are specific Qi Gong breathing practices that can help us to harness these gifts of breath to their fullest potential.
Breath and the Immune System
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, the lungs relate to the metal element and the immune system. Together, the lungs and metal element control your Wei Qi, which is the protective energy that helps you to stay healthy. When your Wei Qi is strong, you can withstand many of the health challenges that the world presents. When it becomes depleted, you are more susceptible to getting sick or ill.
By working with the breath, Qi Gong practitioners can nourish their Wei Qi and fortify their immune system. Specific breathing practices bring in fresh, vital Qi to your entire body. Flowing movements circulate and cultivate your energy so it creates a protective barrier between you and negative Qi that you may encounter. You can think of your Wei Qi as a magnetic force field that repels toxic Qi. When your force field is strong, you can embrace life with greater confidence.
As a gateway to the present moment, it’s not surprising that almost every meditation involves working with the breath. Your breath offers a wonderful opportunity to connect to the present moment and bring awareness of what exists in the here and now. When you really slow down and follow your breath, your mind, body, and emotions begin to find harmony with each other and the world around.
Dropping into full presentness is both healthy and fulfilling. Many of our hardships are based on mental or emotional activity that is out of alignment with your true self. Stressful thinking and emotional tension in the chest are examples of energy that is not flowing smoothly in your body. By working with your breath, you can tap into the true reality of your experiences and move past any barriers you may have encountered.
The breath and lungs also provide the opportunity to connect with your higher purpose. Just as breathing exercises allow you to gain greater awareness of your thoughts and emotions, they also can help you to tap into a greater consciousness of life itself. By realizing oneness and your own individual purpose, you can live with meaning, compassion, and love.
Finding presentness through breathing also brings a renewed sense of enthusiasm and energy to life. The present moment is rich with both excitement and peace, and breathing exercises are a great way to access the beauty that is all around. By working with Qi Gong routines that focus on the lungs, practitioners can bring energy and vitality to their entire body. This makes Qi Gong breathing practices a great choice for anyone who suffers from fatigue or tiredness.
Like everything in Chinese Medicine, the lungs are important for both our physiological health as well as our mental and emotional well being. In each case, the lungs absorb positive Qi and release negative energy. They protect our body and nourish our mind through present moment awareness. As a practice that addresses each of these aspects of our being, Qi Gong is a wonderful way to cultivate strong and healthy lungs.
Qi Gong for Better Breathing Workshop
To help practitioners embody the lessons we’ve been discussing, our team has put together a pre-recorded workshop called Qi Gong for Better Breathing. This workshop is part of a five-workshop bundle and teaches practices to help students release negative emotions and experience energy, inspiration, and resilience. The practices primarily focus on the respiratory system and breath, with exercises that are both movement-based as well as meditative.
Your lungs are a special gift that is constantly serving you. Click the banner below to learn more about Qi Gong for Better Breathing and the other workshops included in this bundle!
By Ian Drogin