Breathing is so underrated! Yet every day, each of us draws about 20,000 breaths, (in a resting state). Breathing can be an involuntary and ordinary, or, it can deeply support your body’s intelligence and overall energy systems.
You’re breathing right now, but chances are you’re not breathing in a way that fills your lungs, improves your footing, relaxes you, grounds you, supports your gut and brain, and enhances your body’s perceptive abilities.
Case in Point: Off Center
I’m 5’9”, long and lean on the bottom, short waisted, and carry around my Dad’s barrel-sized rib cage, and then some. I’m top heavy. I used to breathe in the express lane, nose to lungs, upper chest rising and falling. Unwittingly, this added to my “topple potential”. When I went for my first tai chi class, my teacher said, “you look like you’re ready to fall over”. (Excuse me!?) “If I push you here….”, a light push to my upper arm had me on two left feet, “you’re already off center”.
Three years into Tai Chi, I’m still learning to breathe like the ancients–through my lower belly. Where is this area, exactly? Two fingers below your navel, and two inches inward. I think of it as a pearl in the sea of chi. What’s chi? Circulating life force. What our heart is to pumping blood (and so much more), this area that Chinese call the tan tien (don tee-en), and Japanese call hara, is the chi energy pump.
Breathing into the tan tien can bring forth a rich trove of subtle yet significant benefits. I still catch myself breathing in the express lane, but more and more, it’s lower, deeper, and curiously productive. These are my personal observations:
- Breathing thru my tan tien immediately calms me down when stressed.
- I used to zing with stray voltage, I now feel more grounded. Visualizing helps: I breathe into my tan tien, exhale through my feet, and imagine tree roots extending into the ground.
- My center of gravity is lower; the “topple potential” is reduced. I’m more weighted in my lower body.
- My intuition is on the uptick. I perceive / know things quickly and accurately through my gut. (Known to many as the second brain).
- The tan tien / hara power center supports the demands of my High Intensity Training workouts.
- At the gun range, breath control contributes to more accurate and consistent shooting.
Seriously 20,000 breaths a day! Two-thirds of them while awake… Truly, it’s only a slight tweak of where you allow that inhale to go. Think of the upsides!
Find Your Sea of Chi
To find your tan tien, place two fingers below your belly button; go in two inches with your mind’s eye–that’s it, that’s the pearl. Take your next breath there, in the sea of chi. Let your belly expand, notice the slight pause, release. You’ll likely find it to be a slower, deeper way of breathing. (If you’re someone like me who’s sucked in their stomach for four decades striving to look better, overcoming self consciousness may be the hardest part). Try that for a month, 20,000 breaths x 30 days, and feel the difference.
May your next 20,000 inhales and exhales bring you greater peace and presence !