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Tai Chi Breathing

Breathe is a verb used for the process of inhaling and exhaling. Breath is a noun that refers to a full cycle of breathing.

In Tai Chi, the breathing technique is deep and abdominal, where inhales and exhales are coordinated with movements of the body. As a general rule, breathing is continuous while inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth. Once you are familiar with the postures, you can practice breath along with the movements. The goal is always to move towards a calm, slow, strong state of breathing. It’s important to note that the state of breathing can vary depending on the individual’s lung capacities, coordination, and speed of movements.

According to Dr. Paul Lam:

“What about the breathing?”

Numerous students have asked me this question. Some teachers believe that breathing patterns should be very specific. For example, in each and every part of a movement, there is a specific breathing pattern-in and out, slowly or quickly. These teachers feel that the breathing has to be just so for each movement. I find this method difficult and think it can impede improvement for some students. It often leads to too much focus on the breathing and distraction from focusing on other essential principles. No two people are the same. They have different lung capacities and different speeds in their movements so to coordinate in the same specific pattern with others would be difficult for many. In addition, this can lead to forced or contrived breathing which can be harmful...... Every tai chi set are comprised of movements alternates between gathering, storing and then delivering energy. Often the classics describe it as opening and closing. When you open, it’s storing energy like someone drawing an arrow in a bow; in closing, the energy is delivering so it’s like shooting the arrow. Keep this image in your mind and the rest will be easy to follow.

When you’re inhaling (storing energy), think of taking in the life energy-oxygen- into your body. When you deliver energy or force, you exhale. This can be applied to almost all tai chi movements since they are, in essence, alternating opening and closing movements.


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