There are many different meditative practices. Some patients often express that they don’t know how to relax. Developing meditative skills for relaxation is a great self-care practice. Increasing awareness of the differences between relaxation and stress is fundamental to meditative practice. Based on yin yang principles to support health, we need a harmonious transition of opposites for example: rest balances activity. I consider mental stress to be an energetically dispersing and consuming state of mind. This state causes an opposing secondary reaction of constraint to maintain individual control throughout challenges in life. In the practice of Tai Ji Quan and qi gong the mind leads the qi (vital life force). Mental constraint generates qi stagnation. Stagnant qi can manifest physically becoming more challenging to cope with and treat.
Breathing is the Strategy
In Tai Ji Quan, as a martial art the body is the battlefield, the mind is the commander of the army, qi is the army and breath is the strategy. If the mission is relaxation then the strategy relies on a deep, calming breath. I like to instruct a patient to become aware of Normal Abdominal Breathing (NAB) as a starting point. Lay comfortably in a supine position with hands crossed over your abdomen. Feel the abdomen rise on inhalation and sink on exhalation like ocean waves calmly advancing and regressing. Avoid any chest movement. Breathing from the chest is what I like to call a fire breath. Fire breathing excites the qi and causes a rising feeling in the body. We want to encourage a water breath that lowers our focus on the abdomen resulting in a settling and calming effect. On inhalation only fill your lungs to 80 percent capacity. If it is at 100 percent capacity it will cause tension and disturb your mind. In a sitting position you may slouch and obstruct abdominal movement. If your back is weak you may find it difficult to sit upright for long periods of time so a supine position will be more comfortable.
Practicing Moments of Meditation
Here’s an often asked question – “When should I practice and for how long?” I always answer: “Now and then is better than never.” Maybe you can dedicate some time each day to practice and maybe not, but the principles are portable and can be taken with you throughout the daily grind. The goal in this application is to make relaxation familiar. You want to take these lessons with you throughout your day. In any given moment when you feel stress be aware of the discomfort, take a deep breath and try to let it go. Be aware of the effects of stress. Observe how it constricts your breathing, changes your posture and disturbs your mind. Now practice restoring balance – adjust your posture, take a deep breath (NAB) and relax your mind – cool the fire. When I teach Tai Ji Quan in class we start off in a comfortable posture called wu ji or emptiness. In wu ji, as a gentle reminder, we say a unifying mantra to ourselves, “Calm the mind, relax the body and deepen the breath.” Tai Ji Quan is part of a cycle of movement that starts and ends with wu ji. So in respect to self-awareness, applying this wu ji mantra can empower a patient with a concept to transform moments of daily stress and minimize escalating tension and stagnation.
Refine self-awareness by using yin yang theory to observe distinguishing moments of tension and relaxation. A deep, calming breath (NAB) is the strategic key to unifying, centering and relaxing mind, body and breath. Make meditation practical by applying the principles throughout your day. Taking it with you promotes frequent practice pointing the way to natural conditioning so you don’t have to practice because it just becomes natural.
Source: Acupuncture Today- Christopher Carlow, D. LAc is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, Tai Ji Quan and qi gong instructor in Rhode Island.