A human being can go weeks without food, and days without water, but how long can one go without breathing? The current world record for holding one’s breath goes to German free diver Tom Siestas of 22 minutes and 22 seconds, which is minuscule compared to how long we can go without the numerous other energies we need for sustenance. I have heard of masters who have gone without food, but none who can go without air. Through all my research I have found that the quickest and most natural way to changing your life (Mind, Body and Spirit) is first through conscious awareness of breath. This focal point can allow you to access the various energies of your body and the infinite energies of prana/chi. Our breath reacts to our emotions, to our environment and to stress, and knowing this naturally gives you a tool that you can apply to all aspects of your life. If one masters the art of breathing, you simply stop reacting to life, and you gain the ability to transmutate your experiences and emotions, growing exponentially. Qigong focuses directly on the connection of to your whole body, directing energy through breath, movement and intention to all the organs of the body for overal health and healing.

In meditation, our ability to be relaxed and centered directly correlates to the motions of our breathing patterns. Qigong is a Chinese Meditation art that is truly holistic in the sense that it teaches techniques on not only how to control the mind, but on how to open our bodies and train our breathing to allow the chi/energy to flow naturally. We also use the Five Element Alchemical System and the philosophy of Yin and Yang to better tune our bodies to our environment to be in a more harmonious and natural state. The core concepts, though, are posture, breath and intention. Posture relates to our ability to breathe; the straighter the path, the more efficient the flow.

Emotional imbalances can affect our health in many ways, and an easy way to test our general state of balance can be observed through our breath. Just think about how we react when we are grieving over a lost loved one; our breathing becomes shallow and almost trapped in our throat. Or how about when we are angry? In states of rage, one takes deep, yet quick breaths which greatly stimulates their nervous system.

In Qigong we have two type of breathing, The Scholars Breath and The Warriors Breath. The Scholars breath is similar to the yogic breathing of slow inhalations into the belly and slower exhales which have a calming effect on our nervous system. This is a great breathing method for dealing with anxiety and to help get into deeper levels of meditation. The warrior’s breath consists of deep inhalations and faster and stronger exhalations. This breathing exercise can excite our nervous system giving us a tremendous feeling of energy that helps with depression, warms the body and greatly increase our physical strength. Qigong has many variations of breathing exercises based on these core concepts that can help with healing, emotional balance, meditation, pain management and so much more, but one must practice daily to really make an effect on your life an make real changes.

Breathing exercises taught at a young age could theoretically make the modern day pharmaceutical treatments for mental and emotional disorders obsolete. Life management skills were not necessarily taught in the schools I was attending when I was young, but Qigong and Yoga have given me the tools to balance my mind, body and spirit. Just think about how many people suffer from depression and anxiety.  The word anxiety comes from the root word angst, which means “to narrow”. This refers to the narrowing of the bronchial tubes. We can even see this happen when people get anxious; they breathe shallowly and rapidly causing hyperventilation and panic. Anxiety is caused when you are over stressed and your adrenal glands stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, effectively putting your body into a state of fight or flight (as if you are in extreme danger). Ancient cultures knew that our breath connected us to our body and our environment simultaneously, overriding our mind. Even the Navy Seals teach breathing as an important tool for dealing with pain and finding the energy to persevere through any level of stress. Knowing how to control our nervous system, and being aware of our mental and physical states, we can effectively treat our own symptoms and truly heal. We cannot always control our environment and our stressors, but we CAN have the tools to protect us and prepare us for the unknown. In Qigong, the Lungs are associated with the Metal Element. Metal represents our courage to stand full and proud in the world. Are you ready to take charge of your breath and take the first movement to be Be the Change? Take a breath with me.

Odin Starr