I’ve been practicing what’s sometimes called the Bellows Breath, which is a rapid filling-and-emptying of the lungs without a pause in between inhale or exhale. It’s a pretty powerful if basic technique, and I find that I can do it while standing or sitting. One of its effects is a thorough clearing of the sinuses, which I need in this season of allergens, but the other is a subtle change in posture over time, and one which I quite like.
The Bellows Breath works the core abdominal muscles. It can’t not work those muscles — they’re central to the act of breathing. The act of tightening and releasing them to work the Bellows causes the body’s core to stand a certain way — it straightens the spinal column and ‘compacts’ the body in a sense (it also puts pressure on the intestines —stay near the bathroom!).
So, abdominal core exercises plus oxygen plus spine-straightening… huh. I wonder what could happen when that gets fused with qi gong…?
Oh, right. Chi.
So,the shortform explanation of chi is that it’s life force. That’s a simplistic explanation, but sure… go with it for now because it’s a busy Friday with all the usual Friday goings-on. When one first start s practicing tai chi, it’s easy to feel it. One lives cheek by jowl with it for months, because the channels for it in your body haven’t ever had to open up this much to the energy, and so the sensation is quite electric. Then, as your body stretches its capacity, the channels widen up, and you have to work harder and harder to feel chi moving through your body. And this is disappointing to many practitioners, because the chi-sensation is proof that you’re doing it correctly, right? Except that sensation goes away, and is replaced by …. Ordinary body sensations. Ho hum. Boring. Where did the magical energy sensation inside of me go? What happened?
But that’s just it. Your capacity to move and store energy and project energy hasn’t gone away. It’s just that the channels for that energy have been carved a little wider and a little deeper. you’ve gone from being a faulty wire installed in 1912 by a rogue electrician to a glittering new power cable thicker than a baby’s arm. The trickle charge you could barely handle before is now a broad stream of current. You have to really push yourself to feel the magical sensation of chi in your body, because that sensation is the body accepting in more chi than it currently can handle.
So, yeah… I’ve been triggering more than I can handle, and I felt that today. Even now, half an hour later, I have tingling in my feet and fingers suggesting hat I haven’t shed all I took in. It’s dissipating, but slowly. And I think it’s going to be ok. But this is how one finds new levels of practice, I think — challenge some part of your body to put out more effort than usual, and see how your regular routine is challenged by that search. You wind up working more than just your abs. .