The Internal Power Training Blog

Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.

The power of breath Bookmark

The breath is intimately linked with Internal Practices. Almost all of the internal practies i have researched or encountered have a very close relationship with the breathing system.

Obviously without breath we would not be around to practice, but why is this part of the body process so deeply focused on in the internal arts? Over the next few posts we will be examining a small section of this very large topic!

But firstly and practically, we can say that the breath is a very useful tool to lead relaxation and to remove unwanted tension. When we ask someone to relax, one of their natural responces (if they are not thinking too hard) is to let out their breath. This is the natural way for us to release tension.


As the lungs expand with a large in breath we can feel inter abdominal pressures build. This is something that power lifters actually utilize for support when they lift weights. The body recognises this pressure change and resulting increase in tension. So when asked to relax the most natural thing to do is breath out. 

This natural approach to release is a superb method when trying to let go of tensions from any part of the body. However, the question is often asked how breathing out can release tensions in seemingly unassociated areas like the calf muscles or the neck? 

Well firstly we must remember that our entire body is a web of tissue. As explained in earlier posts this web is interconnected with action on one point in the web effecting all others. We will see that as areas of the body release, the adjacent areas also release as this process moves through the web. I call this process 'radiating release'.

Secondly the act of breathing out with focus on the tensioned area has a direct consiquence on our nervous system. The area holding the tension will be 'told' to relax and will release, even if only slightly. 

When setting up the frame ready for practice this is one of the first processes. To lead relaxation with the breathing.


The utility of the 'In' Breath

As described previously the out breath can have a direct impact on the state of relaxation in the body. The pressure changes that occur during breath release helps to lead tissue relaxation over time. 

But there is also another useful part of the breath cycle we can utilize. This is the Inhalation phase.

We can actually use the 'in' breath and resultant increase in body pressure to 'pull' on stretched tissues to increase the potential conditioning and activation.  This idea is something often neglected in favour of out breath relaxation. Usually because, for this area of training to work correctly, the body needs to be very open and relaxed. But if performed correctly this method can be very powerful and deepen practices such as pulling silk.


There are important caveats with this work however. The body must be relaxed and open, even when pulled or stretched. We are not looking to tension individual muscle groups then breath in to increase that tension. Also we are not breathing in extremely deeply, just natural breathing cycles will produce the required effect. 

The idea with this work is like inflating a ball that is surrounded by slightly taut elastic bands. As the ball inflates, the elastic will be stretched a little further. (see diagram)

One of the best ways to observe the effect of in breath on the posture or position is to adopt static poses. Some standing work will allow you to clearly and directly feel this method at work. 

Some of the images attached show positions conducive to this sort of work.

In your standing practice, pay close attention to how 'in' breath effects and pulls on the body tissues.


"The postures breathe for you"

After gaining an awareness of the natural breath cycle, many traditions move the practitioner onto ‘postural breathing’ or training where the posture motivates the in or out breath. This is not a consciously controlled or timed breathing pattern, but is the breathing cycles reaction to the opening or closing of the body posture.

Taking Tai Chi as an example of an art where 'postural breathing' is baked right into the method, the forms are largely designed around open postures followed by closing postures.

By their design the forms encourage the flow in and out of the breath as the form is performed, with the adept moving from open postures motivating the in breath to closing postures motivating an out breath.

There is a very interesting benefit to this training. As we begin to let our posture breath for us, we mitigate the over pressurization of the body cavity that we see in people who are having problems 'raising the breath'. The breath naturally flows out when we commence the closing movement so there is no point for the breathing to pause for anything more than a moment.

The breath simply, and naturally, flows out as the postures start to close so there is no sticking point at the culmination of the breath cycle for this raising to occur.  It is important to note that we are not controlling the breath in any way, simply attempting to get to a point where the breathing is a natural flow in and out with no sticking in the change between open and close.

The biggest hurdle for most practitioners to overcome with this method is actually letting go of trying to consciously control the breathing cycle and allowing the postures to do their work.


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