Five elements of breathing in Hun Yuan Zhuang

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Five elements of breathing in Hun Yuan Zhuang

Postby Yeung on Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:41 am

Five elements of breathing in Hun Yuan Zhuang

The pattern of five elements of breathing in Hun Yuan Zhuang is observed with reference to “The Five-element Theory of Xingyiquan” Institute of Martial Arts and Sciences, IMAS Quarterly, Vol.2 Issue 1 Winter 2013, and “Breathing in Taijiquan”, Australisian Martial Arts, Volume 6, Issue No. 2, April/May, 1999, p. 59. The pattern of breathing can be divided in the following stages:

Neutral = earth, Spleen, Taiji, oneness
Exhale actively = fire, Heart (pericardium), Taiyang, ascent
Inhale passively = water, Kidney, Shaoyin, descent
Inhale actively = metal, Lung, Shaoyang, sink
Exhale passively = wood, Liver, Taiyin, float

The pattern is a repetition of the following cycle continuously:

Neutral – exhale actively – inhale passively – neutral – inhale actively – exhale passively – neutral – exhale actively – inhale – passively – neutral - ……………………

The function of thoracic diaphragm from Wikipedia:

“The diaphragm is the main muscle of respiration and functions in breathing. During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and moves in the inferior direction, thus enlarging the volume of the thoracic cavity (the external intercostal muscles also participate in this enlargement). This reduces intra-thoracic pressure: In other words, enlarging the cavity creates suction that draws air into the lungs.
“Cavity expansion happens in two extremes, along with intermediary forms. When the lower ribs are stabilized and the central tendon of the diaphragm is mobile, a contraction brings the insertion (central tendon) towards the origins and pushes the lower cavity towards the pelvis, allowing the thoracic cavity to expand downward. This is often called belly breathing. When the central tendon is stabilized and the lower ribs are mobile, a contraction lifts the origins (ribs) up towards the insertion (central tendon) which works in conjunction with other muscles to allow the ribs to slide and the thoracic cavity to expand laterally and upwards.
“When the diaphragm relaxes, air is exhaled by elastic recoil process of the lung and the tissues lining the thoracic cavity. Assisting this function with muscular effort (called forced exhalation) involves the internal intercostal muscles used in conjunction with the abdominal muscles, which act as an antagonist paired with the diaphragm's contraction.
“The diaphragm is also involved in non-respiratory functions, helping to expel vomit, feces, and urine from the body by increasing intra-abdominal pressure, aiding in childbirth,[5] and preventing acid reflux by exerting pressure on the esophagus as it passes through the esophageal hiatus.
“In some non-human animals, the diaphragm is not crucial for breathing; a cow, for instance, can survive fairly asymptomatically with diaphragmatic paralysis as long as no massive aerobic metabolic demands are made of it.”

The neutral pause is necessary because the requirement of different sets of muscles to push the diaphragm upward and downward. The elastic recoil processes at maximum inhale and maximum exhale do not involve a noticeable pause or just relax the relevant muscles to utilize the potential energy.

The particular pattern of breathing is easy to notice when doing the Hun Yuan Zhuang because of limited movement of the body to maximize inhale and exhale and relaxation. There can be many patterns differentiated in time and volume for each process. In Hun Yuan Zhuang or other meditative postures the aim should be aiming at maximum inhale and exhale to enhance compression on the smooth muscles. However, when oxygen is not in great demand it is possible to try various patterns like in singing to make use of stored elastic energy.
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