(IV) Breathing naturally to coordinate the exercises
Breathing should be deep, long, smooth, and natural in Tai Chi Chuan. Beginners should start with natural breathing. After developing some skills, you can consciously guide the breathing on the basis Of your own experience and needs to better suit the requirement of the force application and the exercises. Such breathing is called “boxing breathing.” For example, when a Tai Chi exercise is nearing its fired position, steadiness, compactness and substantial force are called for. At this time, you should consciously coordinate the exercises with breathing so that the chest is relaxed, the ribs restrained, and the belly filled. In this way breathing is used to assist the force. The changes in the Tai Chi exercises are complicated. Generally speaking, when the movements change from solid to empty, the force is implicit and 1ight, the shoulder blades are unfolded, the chest is expanded, and you should inhale. On the contrary, when the movements change from empty to solid, the force is heavy and concentrated, the shoulder blades are closed, the chest contracts, and you should exhale. Such combinations are identical to physiological needs during the exercises. This is the exact application of the Principles of “using the mind to direct the flow of energy and using the energy to motivate the movement of the body” and the “combination of breathing and force.” “Boxing breathing” in Tai Chi Chuan is used to change the spontaneous activity of breathing into consciously guided breathing.
The use of “boxing breathing” is by no means absolute since Tai Chi Chuan exercises are not choreographed to the beat of human breathing. Not only do different exercises call for different breathing patterns, but people of different physiques doing the same exercise cannot be forced to breathe in the same way. To put it succinctly, “boxing breathing” shou1d be used only when doing the primary exercises or the exercises which clearly call for the Opening and closing of the chest and shoulders. When practicing the transitional exercises and exercises which you find difficult to coordinate with breathing, natural breathing or auxiliary breathing (short breathing) is needed for regulation. Therefore, no matter how great your Tai Chi Chuan skills, “boxing breathing” and “natural breathing” are always combined to ensure that breathing and movements are naturally and appropriately coordinated. Don't try listing procedures for breathing, this will make breathing too mechanical and absolute. Ailing or weak people in particular should practice Tai Chi Chuan in the ways suited to their own condition, using natural and smooth breathing. If they adopt “boxing breathing” in an awkward way, it will harm health instead of improving.