Aside from ‘taking a deep breath’ in a moment of crisis, many assume there’s just one way to breathe: in and out. However, by gaining control of the breath — learning to slow down, speed up and retain the breath for varying lengths of time — we are able to promote optimum health, vitality, healing, and even spiritual insight.
For thousands of years, yoga, meditation, and Qigong masters have promoted the benefits of breath control. Students of Qigong, for example, use the breath to guide healing Qi energy to the organs and meridians that need it most: increasing overall energy and clarity of mind, while healing mental stresses or managing bodily discomfort, too.
Here, we’ll introduce you to six of the most powerful breathing techniques for mind and body. Although the techniques seem simple, they can take time to master — but the effects are worth it. It’s possible to try the first two techniques on your own, but special training is required for the final three techniques as they are difficult to perform.
1. The Buddha’s Breath (aka Yogic, Abdominal, Diaphragmatic, or Belly Breathing)
This is the most simple breathing technique to perform. However, the effects, which generate a profound sense of relaxation, quiet the mind, and oxygenate the blood, should not be underestimated.
You need to inhale deep into the abdomen. Then, allow the breath to rise into the rib cage as you continue to inhale, so your lungs are completely full. When you exhale, you gently contract the abdomen to expel the air from the bottom of your lungs first. Then allow the chest area to deflate.
2. Daoist’s Breath (aka ‘reverse abdominal breathing’)
Along with the “Buddha’s Breath,” the “Daoist’s Breath” evolved in the sixth century BCE when Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, spread the benefits of breathing techniques. These were used to stimulate Qi energy and focus the mind for meditation.
Also known as ‘reverse breathing’, the Daoist’s Breath follows the opposite pattern to the Buddha’s Breath. On the inhale, contract your abdominal muscles; when you breathe out, relax your belly and lungs. It’s not as easy as it sounds, however, and it’s easier to master the Buddha’s Breath before trying the Daoist’s Breath.
3. Primordial Breath (aka Embryonic, Foetal, and Internal Breathing)
Primordial Breathing is an integral part of Static Sitting Qigong. It’s an incredibly powerful way of both generating and storing inner Qi energy, allowing the practitioner to access new levels of consciousness. When you try the Primordial Breath, the breath needs to be synchronised with the contraction and expansion of the third eye (referred to in the yoga world as the Ajna chakra) and lower Dan Tian. At White Tiger Qigong, we teach the Primordial Breath after the Buddhist (abdominal) and Daoist (reverse abdominal) breathing. Discover this profound breathing and meditation technique with our Primordial Breath Qigong online course.
4. Golden Elixir Breathing
Golden Elixir Breathing is a way to enhance other breathing methods, using the power of saliva to strengthen and heal the body. Once regarded in Chinese Qigong as a secret, it is now widely used in Medical Qigong, and is a technique we teach at White Tiger to use during their Primordial Breathing Qigong meditation. This involves touching the roof of the mouth to generate saliva, inhaling, and then and swallowing. On the exhale, the saliva is directed to the Lower Dan Tian.
5. Buddhist Vase Breathing (aka Tummo or The Mystic Kiss)
This complex breathing technique is a feature of many ancient traditions, including Hatha Yoga, Qigong, Tantra and various martial arts. Known for its power to propel the practitioner into a deep state of awareness, it is used to generate intense heat in the body. After taking a deep inhale, the practitioner pushes down through the lower abdomen whilst simultaneously drawing up through the pelvic floor. At this point, the breath is held for as long as is comfortable, before being slowly released.
6. White Tiger Breath (aka White Tiger Green Dragon Breath)
The White Tiger Breath is an ancient Daoist breathing technique that shares many similarities to Tummo, some Yogic breaths and even the Wim Hof breathing method, but, with Daoist principles. It’s principles match the microcosm and macrocosm of the I-Ching. It contains fire and water. It contains the martial fire breath（武火）, Golden Elixir and more. Students must first gain proficiency and understanding of the Primordial Breath before moving onto the White Tiger Breath as it contains all the same elements, but it can be much more intense. This breath can be dangerous if done incorrectly which is why it is only taught in person.
It can be tricky to fully understand how to perform these breathing exercises. If you’d like to learn more about them, in addition to how to become mindful, check out our blog here. Alternatively, if you’d like to become a student of White Tiger, feel free to look into our qigong events. It’d be our pleasure to have you and teach more of the secrets Qigong has to share.