(From "The Tao of Natural Breathing")
Several people from this list and in workshops have recently asked Dennis Lewis about the value of "reverse abdominal breathing," which is a common practice in Taoism (as well as in other traditions). Dennis thought it would be useful to include a section here on this subject from his book "The Tao of Natural Breathing."
"Reverse abdominal breathing, traditionally called Taoist breathing, reverses the natural in-and-out movements of the abdomen that one finds in natural breathing. In reverse breathing, the abdomen contracts inward during inhalation and relaxes outward during exhalation.
Though reverse breathing offers many of the benefits of natural breathing because of its similar emphasis on moving the abdomen, it is traditionally used by chi kung practitioners, healers, and martial artists to help draw energy deep into their tissues and bones, as well as to direct energy--for storage, for action, or for healing--to any part of their organism
It is also used to build up what is called "guardian chi," a protective shield of energy around the body that helps ward off negative influences, including bacteria and viruses dangerous to our health. It is thus especially useful to help immune system functioning.
Part of the reason for the great power of this practice is the change in the pressure differential between the chest and abdomen. When the diaphragm moves downward and the belly contracts inward during inhalation, the resulting pressure in the abdomen helps "pack" the breath energy into the abdominal tissues and organs, as well as into the spine.
When the diaphragm relaxes upward and the belly relaxes outward during exhalation, the sudden release of pressure guides the energy outward wherever one's attention is directed.
It is therefore extremely important when undertaking reverse breathing to be clear about where one puts one's attention.
Otherwise one's energy may be quickly lost.
In spite of its many benefits, reverse breathing should only be undertaken when one is quite comfortable with natural abdominal breathing. Without this level of comfort, most people who attempt reverse breathing tense their faces, necks, and chests and draw their diaphragms upward as they inhale.
This not only negates the positive effects of the practice, but can also lead to a variety of problems, including chest pain, diarrhea, an increase in heartbeat or blood pressure, and energy stagnation. It can also lead to mental and emotional confusion and a scattering of the energy of awareness. ..."
Copyright 1997 by Dennis Lewis Used with permission.
The reverse abdominal breathing technique is often an unhealthy compensation for an unsatisfying in-breath or actually causes that unhealthy compensation.
The reverse breathing technique can also worsen what I call "The Speed Bump." Chronic reverse breathing can be counteracted using techniques on our DVD2.