There is a saying, “breathing is everything and everything else is intermediate”. This would be accurate, since breathing is actually the first thing we did at birth and the last thing we do. In essence, living means breathing and breathing means living. In researching how breathing works, I found that one breath reaches a quadrillion cells, over 600 muscles, 620,000 miles of blood vessels and 300 million air sacs in the lungs. Amazing, if you really think about it!
I enjoyed watching my sons breathe as they sleep as babies. I still enjoy watching them at 8 and 16 years old. If you watch a baby breathe, you will notice a remarkable sight. With each inhale, the baby’s belly fills with air, the pelvis rocks forward, the legs open. This is called “natural-body breathing”. It is the way we were meant to breathe. But as we grow older, we lose this way of breathing.
Many martial arts masters and fitness athletes have pursued the art of breathing to enhance their well-being and endurance. One of the forms of breathing is Power Breathing. Power breathing is a method of breathing that can enhance our health, reduce our stress levels, improve our martial arts and/or athletic performance, sharpen our concentration and increase our inner power (ki).In power breathing, we breathe from our ‘core”, which is the center of our physical being. Also known as the “hara” in the art of Zen, and known as the “tan tien” in Tai Chi and Chi Gung. The core is located in the abdomen just below the navel. I’ve heard the saying that “when the breath is dominated, the mind is subdued”.
Power breathing converts the mechanical process of the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles into essential energy. By raising the pressure in the cavities of the torso and forcing the entire body to expand and contract along with the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm muscle, you increase the power of your body. As the power and depth of your inhalation and exhalation increases, the main organs in your torso are stimulated by the movement of your diaphragm and abdominal muscles, enhancing the health and function of the organs. As you take in more oxygen, your muscles are able to work longer and harder. Your circulation will increase in turn be charged, lubricating all of the body’s key systems and delivering oxygenized rich blood to the brain and spinal cord, the muscles and organs and to all of the cells of the body. When we have insufficient room for breathing, we have insufficient supply of oxygen and a shortage of oxygen limits energy produced in our cells.
Ibuki Breathing in Martial Arts
As martial artists we may all be familiar with “Ibuki and/or Nogare Breathing”, which are methods of power breathing in the martial arts. Ibuki breathing known as rapid inhalation/exhalation which involves contraction of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles and is a controlled dynamic method of inhaling, condensing and then exhaling ‘through movement’ to build inner strength (ki).Ibuki breathing is also a way to emphasize the use of ki (internal energy) also known as “qi” in Chinese.
Power breathing is essential in many aspects of our lives. Deep breathing increases the oxygen in our blood. Well oxygenated blood in the brain is essential to clear thinking. It enhances our well-being, reduces our stress levels, improves our martial arts and/or athletic performance, sharpens our concentration and increases our inner power (ki). It not only strengthens our inner power but also enlarges the inner space in our torso to encourage optimal function or use of our organs. It also has a calming effect on the mind and body.
Power breathing also has a calming effect. Deep breathing increases the oxygen in your blood. Well oxygenated blood in the brain is essential to clear thinking. If you feel your concentration winding down during the day, a short session of Power Breathing can refresh your thinking and help you remain focused.
Many ailments that we have on this day-and-age are vague and hard to cure – back pain, neck pain, joint pain, insomnia, tension, and anxiety are frequent complaints as we grow older. Neck pain is one of mine. But many of these can be lessened or even banished from our lives through deep breathing and mindful movements. Power Breathing addresses the symptoms through the use of Gentle and Healing Breathing exercises that aim to stretch and strengthen the body while focusing on the breath, a time honored way of bringing the body back to health that has been used for centuries.
So I ask, is Power Breathing an Art or Technique? I believe that anything that can be attributed to a “Way of Life” may be considered an art. Proper power breathing can be learned, but only through years of constant practice can it be mastered. Learning how to breathe from our second hub, located in our lower belly, which is the center of energy distribution, is essential for more than just martial arts or sports. It can be essential for a healthier life and well-being.
There is a saying “Short breath, short life. Long breath, long life”.