The myriad creatures bear yin on their backs and embrace yang in their bosoms. They neutralise these vapors and thereby achieve harmony.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (42)
Yiu Style Tai Chi is extremely good for you because it allows you time to breathe deeply and concentrate on the lower abdomen. It is focussed on meditation (a walking meditation). That is seeking the Yin in the Yang (relative inaction, in action). This is reflected through the breathing of Yiu Style, that is breathing in gently but deep, holding the breath (pause) and then breathing out. Expanding and contracting the lower abdomen, naturally. Breathe in and expand the lower abdomen. Hold the breath. Breathe out and contract the lower abdomen. Therefore one respiration in Tai Chi has three parts (beginning – breathe in), (middle – hold/pause), (end – breathe out). Holding the breath is most important as it helps to automatically send energy up the spine, which, in turn nourishes the head, relaxes the subcortex, calms the mind and assists the nervous system in working better. Holding the breath and waiting for the energy to come up is called “energy integration”. It is important to keep the knees bent as this helps the breathing to be deeper more naturally.
The abdomen is the centre of energy flow. Deep breathing to the lower abdomen keeps the oxygen in the bloodstream longer, improving blood flow through the body and exercising your internal organs.
Basically breathing in Tai Chi warms the body, making the blood circulate better, circulating heat around the organs and the limbs. It is this heat and circulation through the body that nourishes and lifts the organs, unblocks the rubbish inside, burning the cholesterol in the blood vessels. As we get older the body tends to feel colder, Tai Chi however makes your insides warmer, the long term implication of this being that you will probably live longer. Our stored energy is also dependent, on the food that we eat. Ideally drink plenty of water and eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood.
Focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft, can you be like a baby?
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching (10)
When our breathing is deep we are calmer and more relaxed.
Breathing in Tai Chi is also related to the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence that all things arise, stay and pass away/disappear. In Tai Chi when we breathe in, we expand the lower abdomen (the abdomen arises), we hold the breath (the abdomen stays expanded) then we breathe out and contract the lower abdomen (it disappears). The same applies to our thoughts and emotions, they come, they stay and then they go.
The key to both the breathing techniques and the movements in Tai Chi is to be able to keep the mind totally focussed on them and so the mind directs the breathing and the energy flow. The mind creates a thought, which then mobilises the energy flow, and then the body will move. In Tai Chi thoughts are beautiful and connected with nature. If you are aware of nature you will flow with nature and the more you are with nature the happier you are. When the mind creates a thought and there is stored energy in the lower abdomen the energy will flow as directed by the thought. Tai Chi is not about how fast you go but rather how relaxed you are so that your mind is in control and still. Persistent practice will allow the flow of your breathing and movement to become more and more natural as each day passes as well as greatly improving your health and internal strength.