What follows are *clippings* of messages related to reverse breathing, often somewhat out of context.

From: Terry Chan
Subject: Re: Reverse Breathing and Taijiquan

Joseph Brown:
>Mike Sigman mentioned that full power was only possible with reverse
>breathing. I wondered if some folks familiar with reverse breathing
>could post some training methods for getting more comfortable with
>reverse (or Taoist) breathing and coordinating it with form practice.
>For those who don't know, with reverse breathing the abdomen expands
>during exhalation and withdraws during inhalation (the opposite of the
>normal or Buddhist breathing).

[Joseph's teacher, Yang Jwing-ming was big on it but he always had a problem with it because it was "damn distracting.

>And it seemed that the breathing just took care of itself
>if I just left it to its own devices. But to use reverse breathing it
>seems you have to in a sense 'retrieve' breathing from natural
>unconscious practice and take control. When I do that I get more tense
>than I feel I should be when doing taijiquan.
>Anyone have any tips on this?

Yes, I agree that if you try to work reverse breathing too much that it becomes counterproductive and induces tenseness in the body.

I have become much more comfortable over time with reverse breathing and I agree that one's power is certainly well- augmented by reverse breathing. I didn't do anything special with it though. When I first learned the form, I just used regular breathing. Over time as I was introduced a little bit to simple push-hands and pushing I experimented with breathing both ways. Once I began to get the relaxation and coordination down and felt the different feelings and results with reverse breathing, it began to make more sense and it just began to get incorporated slowly.

What I'm saying is, just breath normally. Bear it in mind and experiment with it slowly. It'll find it's way in.

From: Eric Mitchell Sabinson
Subject: Re: Reverse Breathing and Taijiquan

> For those who don't know, with reverse breathing the abdomen expands
> during exhalation and withdraws during inhalation (the opposite of the
> normal or Buddhist breathing).

> One of my old teachers, Dr. Yang Jwing-ming, was very big on reverse
> breathing for anyone interested in taijiquan for martial purposes, and
> from the beginning he emphasized coordinating your breathing with the
> movements of the yang slow set.

> But I always had a problem with this because I just found it damn
> distracting. And it seemed that the breathing just took care of itself
> if I just left it to its own devices. But to use reverse breathing it
> seems you have to in a sense 'retrieve' breathing from natural
> unconscious practice and take control. When I do that I get more tense
> than I feel I should be when doing taijiquan.

> Anyone have any tips on this?

You are probably overdoing your attempts at reverse breathing. One begins with a mere suggestion of an inward movement. One isn't doing anything through the muscles. To me the sense is internal. (-: (-: And the usual dictum, "Less is more," helps the mind cooperate.
You might want to practice inverse breathing in a standing meditation posture or in a lotus or semi-lotus position before you take it to the form. See if someone knowledgeable is around to correct your posture. You may seem aligned to yourself, but still not be. You may also need to spend time working on merely observing how you breathe without interfering with it. (Easier said than done.)
IMO, "natural unconscious practice" is not always good practice. Most people, it seems to me, don't know how they breathe. (I certainly didn't know a damned thing about what I was doing, but I thought I knew.) At the moment one attempts to observe how one breathes, one tends to interfere. Breathing is something one must explore from inside. Most people that I have come across do not expect themselves to know how to do this. People are really 'uptight.' Not only does this affect one's breathing, but it also affects what one can know about one's breathing. It is difficult to be uptight if one can be "in" the breathing mechanism without interfering with it.
I am reading Mary Bond's _Rolfing Movement Integration_. She has some excellent scripts for one to discover how one is breathing and to change breathing habits. (What Mary Bond calls "fascial breathing" seems to me very much an exercise in Qi Gong and the observation of the movement or lack of it of chi in the body.) I, for example, overdo inverse abdominal breathing in such a way that I had lost a certain mobility and sensation in the anterior rib cage. Why I was breathing this way had a lot to do with my personality and the way my personality tries to solve its problems. Needless to say, I was having trouble maintaining verticality on doing twisting movements in Tai Chi Chuan. Either I wouldn't twist in order to maintain the verticality, or I would come off axis. "Intentional" attempts (as if I could make myself behave from the outside in) to change the situation only sent me further askew. I had to do both inverse abdominal breathing and some intercostal breathing at the same time in a _very_ _subtle_ way. I have had to accept a certain kind of failure before change takes place.

From: tec@slate.alta.com (Tim Cushing)
Subject: Re: Reverse Breathing and Taijiquan

Joseph Brown:
> But to use reverse breathing it seems you have to in a sense
> 'retrieve' breathing from natural unconscious
> practice and take control. When I do that I get more tense
> than I feel I should be when doing taijiquan.

Eric Mitchell Sabinson:
> You are probably overdoing your attempts at reverse
> breathing. One begins with a mere suggestion of an inward
> movement. One isn't doing anything through the muscles.
> To me the sense is internal. (-: (-: And the usual dictum,
> "Less is more," helps the mind cooperate.
> [other interesting stuff; I'll have to look into Rolfing]

Here's what I eventually settled on that seems to eliminate the need for "thinking" about it as a distraction. Any comments or corrections from someone who can apply the results of reverse breathing would be appreciated...

In several references there is talk of the "before Sky" and "after Sky" chi that is brought together during the inhalation and separated during the exhalation. The "before Sky" chi rises up from the lower abdomen, while the "after Sky" is basically your intake of air chi into your lungs (speaking fast and loose; someone please feel free to fine tune the details!). The two meet "behind the navel" (specifically, the dantien, I figure).

So, try some ordinary abdominal breathing for a moment and sense the feel of drawing chi all the way down without chest motion. Now duplicate that feeling but turn it over and work on drawing chi *up* from below the dantien as you inhale and relaxing the chi *down* from the dantien on the exhale (go ahead and allow chest motion for the moment). You should begin to get the feel of the lower abdominal region working in reverse. I find it important to *relax* the energy down, but without "letting go" and sticking the gut out.

Now, overlay the two feelings for simultaneous drawing of chi *down* from the upper body (lungs) and *up* from the lower body (sexual center, I believe), and into the dantien. The "waist" swells in all directions ("breath into the back"), the chest remains relaxed and sunk, the lower abdomen does a small in/out, etc.

For me, it's a feeling of gathering at the dantien, and by focusing on that during the form I'm able to better work the breathing with the opening and closing movements--keeping the concepts similar enough to not distract me, and simply extending the scope of my focus to the dantien and breathing. One the few moves where I perhaps understand the opening and closing aspects, I've noticed that it is becoming automatic.

From: Lim Tian Tek
Subject: Re: Peng in Xingyi

> Peng is the conveyance of the grond-force vector through the scaffold
> which is our skeleton. It is the main power of an opening (expanding) move.
> Closing is normally done along pretty much the same path (shortest path
> from target to ground), but it involves using the entire outer
> musculature as a unit which contracts (heavy attention on torso and
> thoracic musculature).

The above is absolutely correct. Right on Mike! :-)

> It takes a lot of practice to truly re-coordinate the body to work in
> this manner; academic understanding is not even close to the truth. All
> of the specialized jings which Peter is referring to are not possible
> without the basic building blocks of the open and close powers... the
> Xingyi 5 elements are also just uses of these powers (along with other
> things; remember that I'm simplifying).

Please note that opening and closing have a close relation with the expansion and contraction of the Tan Tien which is by the way the reason why we do reverse breathing and why it it more effective than normal breathing. The Tan Tien is the origin within the body of the root and power.

From: Stephen Chan
Subject: Re: ["Derek T. Dang": Mike Sigman's semina]

Next, Mike showed how to "fa jing" by adding the idea of compression and expansion along the peng path. Drills and a conceptual framework were taught which showed how issue jing from the hands, the elbows and the shoulders. By the end of the seminar, many people knew and could demonstrate how to generate internal style jings.
There was also an explanation of opening/closing (expansion/contraction), how it relates to fa jing, how arts like Yi Chuan and Taiji practice it and concrete examples of how to practice it and integrate it into the forms.

The second day consisted of training in using reverse breathing and various qi gongs to:
a) add power to movements
b) circulate qi (and blood) through the body
c) emit external qi

Hand in hand with the reverse breathing was training to store energy in the spine for power generation. Many people, for the first time, experienced qi sensations. The qi gong worked on generating qi, bringing it to the hands and then emitting it. Its application to self-healing was briefly touched on.

From: tec@slate.alta.com (Tim Cushing)
Subject: Re: beginner list of key points

> There was no mention of breath and I think for beginners I
> think this can't be stressed enough.
What would you suggest saying? My initial reaction is that at the beginning level you should "just breath", "don't forget to breath". I've personally pursued reverse breathing and open/close breathing, and would be inclined to agree with the "veteran" advice of "don't worry about it for now". Or, are you referring to simply proper abdominal breathing vs. chest-heaving? That probably should be mentioned somewhere, along with shoulders being dropped and the chest "sunken" (I've never liked that particular image, but the chinese translators seem to favor it). Any suggested wording would be welcome.
From: Lim Tian Tek
Subject: Internal Theories

Theory of Internal Development

The internal development of the human body comes from cultivating the the 'three treasures': jing, chi and shen. The most fundamental practice of cultivation is through breath training. The type of breath training that is used in real training in the internal arts is called reverse breathing.

Reverse Breathing

This is called so because when you breath in you contract your lower abdomen and when you breath out you expand it. This is in contrast with the normal breathing cycle which we will refer to as post-natal breathing, reverse breathing is also referred to as prenatal breathing.

The rationale behind this breathing is that the tan tien is the centre (indeed it is as it roughly corresponds to the centre of gravity of the body, the point at which the entire content of the body seems to act upon) and source of breath, so the tan tien contracts sucking in breath and expands expelling the breath. This contraction and expansion of the tan tien also draws in and pushes out qi along the meridians, hence in Tai Chi when you exhale you push out and inhale when you draw back, this enhances the flow and coordinates it with the breath.

Normally when we breathe we use the top two thirds of the lungs, if we look at the physiology of the lungs, the tidal air does not fully utilise the lungs leaving quite a large amount of residual air. With reverse breathing and the emphasis to draw the breath down into the tan tien, the lungs are used more fully even though the abdomenal cavity is drawn in.

Breath As Related To Internal Development

When we use reverse breathing, the compression of the abdomenal cavity massages the internal organs, in particular the abdomen is drawn upwards towards the chest cavity, this compresses the intestines, liver, pancreas, spleen, gall bladder and kidneys. Of importance to internal development is the pancreas and the kidney. The pancreas when stimulated thus produces more insulin which converts stored glycogen in to glucose in the blood stream. At the top of the kidneys is the adrenal gland, when stimulated it produces adrenalin, not in the amounts that are produced in a fight or flight situation but enough to be more than the normal amount present. This hormone facilitates the conversion of ATP to ADP releasing energy and heat.

The activity of reverse breathing stimulates the production of these two key hormones and so produces heat in the abdomenal cavity, hence the association of qi with heat. This is the hormonal relationship between the jing in TCM theory and the endocrine system of western biology. The reverse breathing also adds stimulii to the hypogastric plexus which improves the functioning of the pelvic organs which improves assimulation of nutrients.

The activity of reverse breathing creates a tidal flow of blood, qi, etc throughout the body, this activates and warms up the muscles, in cases also opening up any blockages in the muscle. This heat activates the muscles and the increased blood flow and opening the blockages improves the tonus of the muscle making it more capable of doing work without undue strain. Hence the imagery that the heat generated by qi cultivation refines the body by burning out impurities. As the efficiency of the muscles increases it manifests in a more refined way to use them in coordination resulting in chin, hence the term that chin springs from chi. This is considered the chin level of training, fa-chin (fa-jing) is the commonest way of utilising this in an attack.

As the tonus of the muscles improve, so does the nervous control, this increases the stimulus of reverse breathing on the solar plexus which roughly corresponds to two of the three major plexuses of the sympathetic nervous system. Namely the cardiac and coeliac. This area also corresponds to the middle tan tien. It has been long hypothesized that the qi is related to the nervous system. It seems to have an electrical nature and could be linked to concious control of energy (electrical?) flow through the nerves (not proven). Assuming this to be true, stimulating the plexuses could be a route of gaining concious control of a normally subconcious function. Hence heating up the middle tan tien (or burning) is associated with the qi level of training.

Therefore, fa-chi could be the concious projection of electrical energy (a charge?) which could have electromagnetic properties. I can't verify this but I can report that in my clinical experiences (I treat at a local free clinic when I have the time, part of community service I guess), fa-chi can be used to treat patients to a satisfactory level. I cannot verify by eye witness testimony that it can be used in a combat situation but that does not eliminate the possibility. The feedback mechanism could be part of this process to gain control over the nervous system.

As nervous activity increases, this in turn stimulates the hypothalamus, pitutiary and pineal glands (actually the whole diencephalon) in the brain which roughly correspond to the upper tan tien and the 'third eye'(actually the pineal is considered the third eye, the diencephalon is referred to as the crystal room. It has been put forward that training at this level is probably the oft referred to shen level. Here we are dealing with the psychic centre of the human being. Perceptions here would change, capacity to accept more external information which is normally screened out. Other latent abilities might be also expressed like telekinesis, telepathy, etc. I hesitate to write of psychic abilities as there are cases like psychic detective Dorothy Alison who have remarkable successes and have track records that seem to prove that it is not just the result of intelligent guesses. So at shen level, if these abilities were to take on a martial intent, I leave it to you to go and imagine. Combined with the attainment of the previous levels it would make a formidble array, if it could be attained.

The last level is to train shen to wu-wei, that is nothingness or rather oneness with the source, the goal of all taoist internal alchemic practices. But that is another matter altogether.

Other Related Breathing Methods

Five Gates Breathing

This is drawing in qi directly to the tan tien via the five gates, namely: Bai Hui (Du 20), the two Lao Gong (P 8), the two ung Chuan (K 1). It is also called ang Tan Gong (cultivating the tan tien).

I would guess that this links the nervous control from the five appendages to the central body and helps facilitate developement of nervous control to the five appendages.

Tan Tien Breathing

This is drawing the qi directly into the tan tien through qi hai (Ren 6) and Ming Men (Du 4). This I would guess would serve to localise the tan tien area and make it a focal point from which chin could be utilised. This is called Lien Tan Gong (training the tan tien)

Development Of The Body In Line With Internal Development

The activation of the nervous system around the skeletal structure also activates the cells within the marrow to produce a denser internal bone structure, the chan ssu chin practices enhance this as it causes all the muscles not just the antagonistic groups to be activated at the same time. All the joints and muscles are called into play.

Sinking of the two kwa enhances the root and allows the whole upper body to move as a coordinated whole, relaxing all the joints and relying on optimum positioning to have a posture with minimum stress also enhances the ability of the activated muscles to be utilised effectively, hence the term that chin comes from the muscles and not the bones.

The entire structure is trained simultaneously and coordinated to achieve a particular end, external conditioning exercises are frowned upon because it focuses on conditioning that is not a part of whole body synthesis, the idea is not to train force but to the smooth functioning of chin. Structure, its ability to take the power grow simultaneously with the power itself unless force takes the place of power.


With heightened senses and control, one is able to differentiate energy from vector force. This energy is often referred to as qi as well, while it is a part of it, there are many classifications of qi in standard chinese taxonomy.

Some of the forms of Tai Chi advocate 'playing with the energy ball', this has its origins in being able to project, direct and manipulate energy. The energy built up by the body by internal development can be used initially but then we are surrounded by energy of all sorts, eventually to be able to manipulate, channel and use external energy will allow one to go beyond the limitations of ones own energy resources. (Please feel free to brush it off if you don't subsribe to it but don't get sarcastic)
From: Eric Mitchell Sabinson
Subject: Re: Internal Theories

> Reverse Breathing

> This is called so because when you breath in you contract
> your lower abdomen and when you breath out you expand it.
> This is in contrast with the normal breathing cycle which we
> will refer to as post-natal breathing, reverse breathing is
> also referred to as prenatal breathing.


My practice with my teacher tells me that Reverse Breathing is nothing to be forced. I think what is left out of instruction of this kind, although technically correct, is that a recipe for Reverse Breathing or any kind of practice of this sort will not produce results unless the approach is correct. The difficulty of Reverse Breathing is that as our 'normal' breathing is unconscious, Reverse Breathing must be as if unconscious. To force this kind of breathing is merely to tire oneself out quickly.
Recently I returned to studying with Cao, my Qi Gong instructor. He has had to spend a great deal of time in recent weeks correcting the defects my procedures and those of my classmates, all of which are manifestations of taking a 'rational' view of Qi Gong as something 'I' do, rather than as something that 'happens,' even I am 'doing' and if the mind is directing chi. We are all so industrious. The application of 'will,' to use the Western term, must be subtle. By 'subtle' I mean that one doesn't grossly control one's breathing, but rather one's breathing is gently coaxed with incredible patience into a discreet reversal. This kind of subtlety can be very uncomfortable at first, but if one gets use to it, one may then experience this kind of breathing as supernatural, even if there is nothing supernatural about it.
There were forty students who began Qi Gong studies under Cao with me. Very few continued once the 15 week initial program was over. The reason I think is that this 'subtlety' in applications was either too foreign for my classmates or not hit upon in the course of fifteen weeks, despite Cao's instructions not to think.

Sender: Bob_Loce.WBST147@xerox.com
From: msigman@netcom.com
Subject: Re: Internal Theories

On Wed, 26 Oct 1994, Eric Mitchell Sabinson wrote:

>> My practice with my teacher tells me that Reverse Breathing is nothing to
>> be forced. I think what is left out of instruction of this kind, although
>> technically correct, is that a recipe for Reverse Breathing or any kind of
>> practice of this sort will not produce results unless the approach is
>> correct. The difficulty of Reverse Breathing is that as our 'normal'
>> breathing is unconscious, Reverse Breathing must be as if unconscious. To
>> force this kind of breathing is merely to tire oneself out quickly.

>Could I ask what your opinion is for the reason to do this? Could you
>tell us of the results that have manifested to you? Have you noticed
>changes in your health, your personal strength, your emotional stability,
>etc.? (A lot of people who concentrate on the esoteric side of qigongs
>destabilize emotionally, so I don't mean this facetiously)


>Mike Sigman

Even though it is enjoyable to disagree with Mike and watch the Antikissinger at work, I have to add a form of agreement here. I have experienced, directly within myself and indirectly on former gongmates, various psychologically negative effects. My qigong sifu, of almost 20 years ago, lead the inner group through many dao yin practices. The results were often bizarre and powerful. After leaving the fold and viewing us from the outside, I see that almost nothing positve was gained psychologically from the experience. The most common psychological result was that many of the students adopted the attitude (Pardon the language) - "Fuck you, I am a holy man because I can do cool shit with my chi." The other key negative effect was similar to drug addiction, becoming increasingly irritable on worldly matters and wanting to spend more time "feeling the chi."

Also, there seems to be a high proportion of naive fruitcakes among those that spend alot time following Mantak Chia teachings after reading one of his books or attending a seminar. I had several students that followed this sparse teaching and I finally got one to leave my class and the other to rationally approach a complex and deep subject and not learn it from comic books.

My statements are not meant to disparage good qigong practice. I avidly practice and teach tai chi and qigong, but with a different sense then some of the qigong authors advocate. I try to not put much effort into consciously controlling chi flow. I believe that natural spirited movements, natural postures, and physical and mental relaxation lead to natural chi flows. A little doa yin may be okay, but I wouldn't spend much effort doing it unless it really seems right from many aspects.

From: Eric Mitchell Sabinson
Subject: Re: Breathing

> As for lung capacity when breathing, I believe that Lee has the right
> idea. Expanding the abdomen on the inhale allows the diaphragm to sink
> with the incoming air, allowing greater lung expansion; while taoist
> (reverse) breathing forces the diaphragm up, leaving less room for the
> lungs to expand, except with what little rib cage expansion is possible.

Not necessarily. The diaphragm can still "pull down" despite the retraction of the abdomen. I cannot say whether more or less air will enter the lungs with this technique. I am not sure it really matters. Whatever air that does enter the lungs will be under pressure. What is more, one might have the sense of the spinal column lengthening and there is less chance of hyperventilating.
When one plays a wind instrument, one learns how to breath this way. IMO, the pressure required for Tai Chi Chuan, as I have practiced it, is _less_ than that required to overcome the resistance of a clarinet reed for beauty of tone. (The tone will hiss if there is not enough pressure. It is not the volume of air that counts. Should there not be enough pressure, one is forced to use a lighter reed and the tone is not as refined.) My amateur guess on breathing in Tai Chi Chuan is that by creating pressure in the abdomen, one is not going to tense further up in the body (shoulders, throat, arms, wrists, hands). Much to the contrary. Breathing will support movement, rather than contradict it.

From: tec@slate.alta.com (Tim Cushing)
Subject: Re: Breathing

> Expanding the abdomen on the inhale allows the diaphragm
> to sink with the incoming air, allowing greater lung
> expansion; while taoist (reverse) breathing forces the
> diaphragm up, leaving less room for the lungs to expand,
> except with what little rib cage expansion is possible.
I think somebody already said "nay" to this, but I thought I'd add that the "Toaist reverse breathing" I've learned (which may or may not relate to anything, teachers being much maligned nowadays:) does not force the diaphragm up. It's the *lower* abdomen (below the navel) that's pulling in, while the upper abdomen/sides/back is swelling some. The 'guts' are thus pressed between the diaphragm coming down and the lower abdomen coming in (ever so slightly). No problem at all getting a good deep breath.

From: tec@slate.alta.com (Tim Cushing)
Subject: Re: Breathing

LScheele@ix.netcom.com (Lee Scheele) writes:
> ...maintaining sung seems more difficult when playing
> with reverse breathing and its variants.
For my practice, maintaining sung during an open/exhale is much easier with reverse breathing, whereas I find myself tensing as I close during an inhale. I'm working on keeping the breathing abdominal for the inhales, and when I go slowly I get much better "sung" than when I'm being less patient.

For rooting especially, the relaxing down of reverse breathing feels better for my root than the inward-going motion of regular abdominal breathing just when I'm trying to "hit somebody with my ground".

From: tec@slate.alta.com (Tim Cushing)
Subject: Re: beginner list of key points

Doug Heinsdorf writes:
> I have to also agree that concerning breathing and the
> beginners list: I also tried to control the breath early
> on, even when told it would occur in time correctly. That
> caused the mind to chatter during the form. I quit that and
> had a 3 month "doldrum" where I just breathed with no
> concern other than making sure it was abdominal, which
> after 2 years of wuji still wasnt that simple because of
> learning to move with the abdomen expanded. My breathing
> then just started correcting itself in accordance to
> movements of opening and closing. So I agree with
> prestated opinions.
Thought I might add that "controlling" my breathing never got me anything except out of breath. What I do when I'm "working on my breathing" is simply watch it and reflect on how it merges (or doesn't) with what I'm doing. I also occasionally "practice" doing a move specifically with opening and closing in mind, which seems to make the breath flow naturally. Separate from form practice altogether, I've practiced reverse breathing in conjunction with visualizations and microcosmic circulation. But certainly any deliberate "learning" to breath in the form was detrimental for me (although I'm noticing "improvement" just from passive observation of how well integrated I am while moving).

From: Stephen Chan
Subject: Re: Breathing

Bob_Loce.WBST147@xerox.com writes:
> Bob:
> >> The big but is - Are these results worth the potential price. The
> >> fact that reverse breathing is called "Reverse Breathing" and not
> >> "Natural Breathing" should raise a caution against a significant
> >> amount of this sort of practice.
> Mike:
> >Hold it.... you're using the English translation of their names to
> >establish a criterion of do/don't do? Please, Bob. :^)
> Pardon the sarcasm, but do you typically use names that have no meaning?
> Instead of the more enjoyable sarcasm, it may be more productive to
> ask - What does "Reverse" mean to you with respect to this movement?

I think that Mike's point is valid. I think that reverse breathing is in contrast to abdominal breathing. Neither of which strikes me as the way that people *normally* breath.

> In actuality, I don't strongly disagree with practicing reverse breathing.
> I am somewhat disagreeable on the topic partly for sport and partly
> because I believe that there are real cautions that should be observed.
> I think that someone should carefully approach putting something like
> this in their daily practice.

I think that its something which needs to be taught carefully, because quite obviously, the expansion and contraction of the torso is going to be pumping lots of stuff around: blood, as well as sudden movements of your internal organs. That's just my sense from playing around with it recently.

My own feeling is that sometimes reverse breathing is hard to plug into a movement and have it feel "right", so it is something which sometimes helps my practice and sometimes hurts it. Like anything else, it takes time and effort to see how it fits into the overall scheme of things.

From: louc@wimsey.com (LC Designs/Southern Tai Chi Chuan Centre)
Subject: Re: Breathing

>In actuality, I don't strongly disagree with practicing reverse breathing.
>I am somewhat disagreeable on the topic partly for sport and partly
>because I believe that there are real cautions that should be observed.
>I think that someone should carefully approach putting something like
>this in their daily practice.

As an instructor I worry about what my students read and or try on their own. Breathing techniques are almost a dime a dozen. From Yogic traditions,(the alternating nostrils basic yoga thing was mentioned by someone in the last week or so...) to Suffi's spinning and breathing tricks, to Aborigial hyperventialing/chanting. "Reverse" breathing is a technique for use in combat folks. That's the way I learned it. And why I learned it. It is not for playing with *just to see what will happen". It has a definite function which is not mystical. Call it activating whatever, but it's function is to reinforce the abdominal organs with pressure to withstand the trauma of being hit. If you are learning to fight then learn *how* to use it. If you are not - don't screw around with it.

I'm getting the feeling here that a lot of people are starting to confuse esoteric "qijiweegee" with stuff that was designed purely for function.

From: "Walter W. Sigman"
Subject: Re: Breathing

On Wed, 2 Nov 1994, Tanya Lim (ISO) wrote:

> In our Shaolin system we use reverse breathing all the time. A part of
> our reverse breathing techniques is used for Iron Shirt training. IMHO I
> think that reverse breathing has many different functions and ways of
> training. This can incoroporate techniques used in purely internal arts
> aswell as the mixed internal/external techniques of Shaolin.

Oooooo Tanya..... you're one of *them*!!!!!! A Shaolinner. :^)
I agree that just doing reverse breathing would build up somewhat of an iron shirt, but you'd need to add something else. For instance, when doing Xingyi with P'i chuan, it is said that you do not need to do an iron shirt practice because it is already there in proper Xingyi.

I agree with that to an extent, although the coverage is not complete without supplemental exercises.

However, just using the Xingyi example you should already have a clue that reverse breathing is necessary to put out the correct power.

I'm not getting too heavily into this thread because it's obvious that a lot of theorists are getting warmed up. :^) My main comment is that reverse breathing is a best a supplement to good basics; it's foolish to be distracted by the breathing when you do not really have the basics which the breathing supplements. :^)

From: Bob_Loce.WBST147@xerox.com
Subject: Re: Breathing

I admit that I am being rather loose, using anecdotes to make a point. Let me try for something more concrete and abandon the dead-master approach.

Quite a few years ago I was heavily involved in iron palm training (no Mike, this is not a autosexual technique, also note that when we refer to you as having a Chen-superior attitude, this is not a sex position). The way that I learned it was not against many of the principles that we tout as "internal" - issuing from the back, reverse breathing, visualisations, relaxed, and filled with peng (we called it inner connection or something like that). This was coupled with alot of qiging-type stuff, and hitting heavy bags (using the internal principles), and heavy doses of dit da jow.

Our hands got hot. The energy *really* flowed to the *hands*. At the time, several people cautioned me about taking energy from organs and basic bodily function so that I could have these powerful hands. Naturally, I thought that they were envious jerks. I have since come to side with the envious jerks. I now try to find the least disruptive method of gaining "internal strength."

Maybe my nature and current sifu's personality are too Lao Tzu Taoist for Mike's Chen (non-Taoist) roots of Tai Chi. I say Lao Tzu Taoist, to distinguish the philosophy of the Tao Te Ching from alot of Taoist esoteric health practices.

Here comes the personal anecdote, so by agreement we can filter this out. In my long slow path of learning Tai Chi (about 3 years of Yang style and 15 years of Wu style) I haven't really focused on reverse breathing. But I have played with it and hit with it. I think that comes natural to application when there is deep relaxation of the lower abdomen. I say that I have played with it in a manner that I think is consistent with what Mike was saying about needing to be shown non-intuitive "natural" techniques. Play with it a little, go back to relaxed natural practice, play, back to natural, etc.

After the experiences of my early years I have come to take the same approach to Dao Yin. The chi flows strongly and I don't have to visual where it should go. Based upon my experience I would be foolish to push Dao Yin too far. Again, play with it, feel it, let it go.

I think that I am starting to sound like a preaching jerk. So I am respectfully with kindest regards signing out of this post.

From: "Walter W. Sigman"
Subject: Re: Request for Information

On Thu, 3 Nov 1994 Bob_Loce.WBST147@xerox.com wrote:
> When I learned reverse breathing (years ago), we were
> instructed to be "lightly firm from below." Meaning the anal
> sphincter, uro-genital muscles, perineum, etc. slighty firmed
> up to prevent leakage of chi (they said it didn't mean air here).
> I think that this is also a protection against hernia. Note that
> it is only a lightly firm intent, not hard.
> Also the reverse breathing had little to do with the air. It had
> mostly to do with lowering the center of gravity and setting
> up inner musculature.
> Is this your understanding?

No. :^) Actually Bob, I'm not real sure. What has happened is that reverse breathing has been a biggy for a long time... just like Taiji. Analogously to Taiji, over that long period of time *everyone* has come up with variations on *how* to do it and *why* certain things are done. It's like the myriad "applications" you get for every posture in Taiji... which one was the original correct one? Hard to say.

I *think* that I know pretty much the why's and wherefore's of reverse breathing, but as I told Tanya Lim, it's reasonably complex and has to do with some core issues of internal strength. I'm not sure that it can be conveyed in words, and I may make a stab at it sometime, but not right now.

One thing, though, whether it's done right or wrong, I feel that moderate flexing and usage of the abdominal and perineal muscles is probably beneficial. It promotes fluid exchange and tonifies muscles that tend to atrophy with age (incontinence, prostate problems, etc.). For that reason alone, I tend to champion these forms of exercise.... if done moderately.

From: Bob_Loce.WBST147@xerox.com
Subject: Re: To tuck or not to tuck, that is the question.

This also plays into the polite discussion that several of us were having on reverse breathing. I think that reverse breathing is somewhat of a **natural reflex for certain movements/applications once the lower abdomen is relaxed** - which leads me to the approach of getting rid of this tension and thus needing to put less conscious effort into deciding how to breath.

Didn't mean to restart a breath argument. I think the main disagreement that Mike and I had there was a matter of degree.

From: "Derek T. Dang"
Subject: Re: To tuck or not to tuck, that is the question.

On a side note, if my abdomen is really, really loosened, I noticed that I automatically do reverse breathing. But, I can only do this while doing roll-back and push, though. If I don't pay attention to the breathing, I exhale while pushing and inhale while rolling back. If my abdomen is really loosened, it will expand as I finish the push and contract as I finish the roll back. It feels kinda natural this way, because as I finish the push, my tail bone moves downward and forward, which coincides with the expanding movement of the abdomen, which gives more weight to my push. As I finish the roll back, the compressing of the abdomen combined with the tucking effect, gives me a stronger root.

So, it seems that with my limited experience, reverse breathing should not be forced at all. All one needs to do is to relax/loosened to the right degree at the right places.

From: Peter Lim
Subject: Tun (Swallow) Tu (Spit)

Tun (Swallow) and Tu (Spit)

The two primary sources of energy manifested through Kai (openning) and he (closing). These are actually the two sources and not the vehicles via which the energy they create are transmitted (kai and he).

This actually has alot to do with reverse breathing. Try this exercise:

(1) Stand in a natural erect stance with feet about shoulder width apart and in a relaxed state.

(2) Extend your arms slightly in front of your body about a fist distance away from the front hands about 1/2 shoulder width apart, palms facing body. Much like holding a beer barrel.

(3) Sink your dan tian and visualise it like a black hole sucking everything in, including your breadth and tummy.

(4) Once the breath is in (remember you need to be relaxed about this), visualise the dan tian as an exploding star expanding outwards releasing everything including your breath.

If you are doing the exercise properly your arms should move in towards the body when you breath in and out from your body when you breath out. You have just swallowed and spit your breath and had resultant movements in the structure because of it which can be classified as closed and open. I hope this gets the discussions back on more practical matters than nitpicking on schools. Enjoy!

Subject: Re: Beginner's question ... (on reverse breathing)

Reverse Breathing can't really be taught over the net, but I'll mention a few things that may help point you in the right direction.

-Reverse Breathing is more related to open/close than to "breathing" per se. Ultimately, as the abdomen pulls in, the tissues of the body also pull in to the center (closing). As the abdomen expands, the tissues also expand away from the center (opening). When you coordinate the breath with the energy (inhaling as energy comes in to the center, exhaling as energy goes out from the center), voila: reverse breathing.

- concentrate on the open/close aspect first, until it's comfortable. The breathing should be deep and full, but don't worry about coordinating it until the coordination seems to happen naturally.

- Most important point: *DON'T FORCE IT* -- the breath should be relaxed and comfortable, otherwise you'll probably end up with a spastic diaphram.

- I would not recommend trying to coordinate the breath with the movements of the form until it feels completely natural. It's true that breath coordination can increase power; it can also increase tension, and it's very hard to un-learn this (I speak from experience).