Taiji Day 222: Notice Breath Patterns

After yesterday’s confusion, I was interested in doing something really basic with the practices this morning. Things are complicated by the fact that the Design Lab at school is an utter mess; and that all the chairs which should be in the conference room are currently in my classroom.  The conference room is home to the Book Fair this week, because the Design Lab wasn’t available because of yesterday’s event. So the chairs from the conference need to be stored in the Design Lab so that I can teach in my classroom.  None of that could happen yesterday (although that was the plan), because I was exhausted after the  event, and ready for a nap; plus I had the cast wrap-up event for being in NightFall on Saturday… busy, busy weekend.  All of which means that here I am, at my normal time to get up, already finished with my tai chi and ready to go on to showering, shaving, and heading into work… to clean up and reorganize two different classrooms so I can teach in them.

I know that today is going to be a busy day. That’s to be expected.  I’m far behind on a lot of the basic projects of teachers: grading papers, planning classes for the next three weeks, working on my substitute reports for October 30, and so on. (What am I doing on October 30? Teaching teachers, of course. More on this in another post.)

All of this is to say, it’s easy to get stressed out.  When you’re at risk of stressing out, focus on the breath. That’s where stress enters, and where it leaves.  So focus on slowing the breath down, and paying attention to its patterns.

It turns out that the tai chi form’s breath pattern is pretty simple.  In and out. There’s an inhale, and there’s an exhale.  Ideally, one keeps the same breath pattern all the way through the form.  There’s another ideal way to do it, which is to inhale on the body’s contractions, and to exhale on the body’s expansions. There’s another ideal way to do it, which is to inhale on the body’s expansions, hold when there’s a pause in the form, and exhale on the body’s contractions.

For those keeping score at home, that’s three ideal ways to breathe while doing the tai chi form.  Each perfect, and each the exclusively best way to do it, and each utterly incompatible with the other two.  Good luck with that.

So, I focused on the two qi gong routines this morning, and tried to find their breath patterns.  Here’s Five Golden Coins:

  1. Joining Earth and Heaven.  *As one hand goes up (and the other down), breathe out. Breathe in as they come together.
  2. Gathering Apples. As the body twists and the opposite hand crosses to ‘pick’, breathe in. Breathe out as the spine returns to center.
  3. Bend the bow.  As the body twists and one hand shoots forward, breathe out. Breathe in as the arrow is loosed and the hands return to center.
  4. Toe touches. *Breathe in as you stretch skyward, breathe out as you touch your feet.
  5. Carry milk to heaven. *Expel air from lungs during the crouch, take in as much air as possible during the rise.

yes, yes… it’s all in and out, in and out. That’s fairly typical. The insight this morning was that the starred ones are very long breath cycles… that is, it should take a long time to fill the lungs and a long time to empty them.  The unstarred ones are short breath cycles, to be completed rapidly.  The result is this intense little form that raised my heart rate, made me sweat, and gave me a pretty good workout, all in about 8 minutes.  Not bad.  I’ll have to remember this little trick.

Because of yesterday’s confusion about time and date, and that little complication with September 202122, I no longer know if this is day 222 or day 223. I’m going to keep the numbering the same from now on, but I’ll try to remember that I’m working on a year-and-a-day.

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