The first and most important step for effective meditation is proper breathing. There are two basic methods in use in Chinese meditation: Taoist and Buddhist.
Taoist breathing, also known as reverse breathing (Fan Fu ShihJ, is used to prepare the Chi for circulation, and its proper development is crucial. In Taoist breathing the normal movement of the lower abdomen is reversed during inhalation and exhalation. Instead of expanding when inhaling, the Taoist contracts, and vice versa (Fig. 3-6). One must never hold the breath or force the process. Inhale through the nose slowly, keeping the flow smooth and easy and contract and lift the lower abdomen up behind the navel. When the lungs are filled, begin to exhale gently. Inhalation is considered Yin and exhalation is considered Yang. They must operate together like the Yin Yang circle, one becoming the other smoothly and effortlessly in a fluid circular motion. As exhalation occurs, slowly push the Dan Tien and lower abdomen out. The area of the Dan Tien is where the Chi will be produced and accumulated in order to start the Small Circulation. Because of this, the muscles around the Dan Tien must be trained so that they can sufficiently contract and expand while the student inhales and exhales. At first expanding the lower abdomen while exhaling may be difficult; but with practice the muscles learn to expand more and more until the entire lower abdomen expands upon exhalation from the navel to the pubic bone. One should not force the Dan Tien to expand, but rather should work gently until success is achieved.
This whole process is a form of deep breathing, not because the breathing is heavy, but because it works the lungs to near capacity. While many people who engage in strenuous exercise breathe hard, they do not necessarily breathe deeply. Deep breathing causes the internal organs to vibrate in rhythm with the breath, which stimulates and exercises them. The organs would not receive this type of internal exercise without deep breathing. It can be seen that many forms of violent exercise only condition the external muscles, while doing very little for the vital organs.
In the Buddhist breathing method the movement of the abdomen is the opposite of the Taoist. When the meditator inhales, he expands it instead of withdrawing, and when he exhales, he contracts it (Fig. 3-7). This kind of breathing is called the normal breath (Tsan Fu ShihJ. It is the same kind of breathing a singer practices.
Both methods use the same principle of Chi generation. The main difference is that the coordination of the abdominal motion with the breath is opposite. In fact many meditators can use either method, and switch very easily.
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