Breath (qi) and Breathing


In the alchemical practice, Breath has a wide meaning: it involves both the breath of respiration and the precelestial Breath, or internal Breath (neiqi). Refining Breath is an important component of the stage of "laying the foundations." At the beginning of the practices of collecting the mind and ceasing thoughts, one performs the ordinary breathing: exhaling, the belly contracts; inhaling, it expands. This is called "harmonizing the breathing" (tiaoxi). Although there are many methods of "harmonizing the breathing," their common goal is leading one to enter the state of quiescence. Before clearing the Function and Control vessels, one should progressively shift to "inverted breathing": exhaling, the belly expands; inhaling, it contracts. The technical term for this is "practice of the bellows" (tuoyue gongfu).


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