Aloha from Maui. Here's the new excerpt from "Zhan Zhuang Wisdom - The Breath of Life."
Once this has occurred we have begun to become in touch with the energetic aspects of the training. And these will come into play even more as we explore Longevity Breathing and enter into states where the breath takes unusual forms and sometimes seems to disappear altogether.
With Longevity Breathing, whose name derives from the compression and release of the internal organs facilitated by the descending of the diaphragm, we enter into the final stage of conscious breathing, the portal, through which it is possible to pass and return to the state of Original Breath, or breathing like an infant, the true ‘natural breath.’
To perform the Longevity method correctly, it is important to first define a few important parameters. Try this; inhale and then exhale normally. On the exhale note the place where the abdomen is most fully withdrawn. (Moved back toward the spine.) Now gently hold the abdominal muscles in, to that same moderate degree. This is done using only the minimal amount of force necessary and applied mostly to the following four points or corners. The first two points lay on the line of the navel where the Rectus Abdominis muscles meet the External Obliques. In other words the Left and Right Dan Tiens. The second set of points each lie on a line directly below the Left and Right Dan Tiens respectively, where each line intersects its respective inguinal crease.
There’s an easy way to locate the four points. Try this; place both thumbs on the navel. Next, slide the thumbs laterally until they reach the two points where the Rectus Abdominis [washboard muscles] meet the Obliques. There’s generally a slight vertical indentation in this region. These points are usually easiest to feel while standing. Now, while holding the thumbs in position, extend your middle fingers directly below until they reach the Inguinal Crease. And there you have it. (See Diagram)
Now having located the four masterpoints and while keeping them slightly withdrawn, [held in] breathe in very gently, slenderly and slowly behind the abdominal muscles such that the breath reaches the Perennial region and begins to fill the low back and Sacrum first and then an instant later, the sides and front. Once the breath has filled out the ‘circle’ in all directions at the level of the Perineum/Sacrum/Low Back, as you continue to inhale, the breath will seem to rise, like filling a large energetic cylinder which physically becomes the entire torso [abdomen and chest] and then later, the neck and head as well.
The organ massage spoken of earlier starts to occur as we drop our breath to the bottom of the torso. As we feel the breath reaching the floor of the urogenital diaphragm (Perennial Region) we soon realize that our (Hiatal) Diaphragm located at the at the level of the lowest rib has descended toward the pelvic floor in the process. And if done right, this will also include the chest and particularly the Sternum. This descending motion creates a slight compression within each of the internal organs which is in turn, released and becomes expansion as we begin inhaling.
Please note that this method is in direct contrast to the forceful withdrawal and tightening of the abdomen used in ‘Packing Breathing’ which people train in order to develop the Iron Body and Golden Bell Cover protection mechanisms.
Lastly, as one continues to practice the Longevity method they will find their breath elongating further and further, until the difference between inhale and exhale seems, if only temporarily, to vanish. This leads for some to the idea of breathing or needing to breathe itself temporarily disappearing. And with that we come full circle and arrive once again at the Natural Breath, only now with and entirely new understanding.
This form of Natural Breath has been found to also have a number of other health rejuvenating benefits, not the least of which, is the increased oxygenation of the blood and increased tissue oxygen saturation.
Increased blood oxygenation leads to improved circulation which nurtures the entire organism, including the brain. The increased oxygenation is especially valuable to the brain where it helps stave off the untimely cessation of brain cells which would ordinarily lead to problems like Alzheimer's, dementia and the like, as we grow older.
Increased tissue oxygen saturation helps such things as the muscles to function longer and more optimally during prolonged exertion. This can be very useful in maintaining one’s vitality into old age. As well as our daily Zhan Zhuang and Taijiquan training.
It has been my experience that Standing Meditation and Taiji are a perfect compliment of Yin and Yang. With Zhan Zhuang (Yin) we are outwardly still while things move inside, whereas with Taijiquan (Yang) we have just the opposite. We move outwardly while inwardly we maintain a still point. “The mind stays with the Dan Tien.”