Taking Dan-Tian Breathing a Step Further:
By Ken Andes, L.Ac.
When people first come to qigong, they’re often surprised to find out that they’ve been breathing the wrong way for most of their lives. Most people come to WISH and other qigong centers with the bad habit of breathing shallow breaths from the chest. This alone is one of the major culprits in health problems involving low energy, headaches, immune dysfunction, stomach disorders, and emotional problems.
As the new qigong student begins to change their breathing pattern to a slow, deep, rhythmic breath from the Dan Tian (the area 2-3 inches below the navel), the most common reaction I’ve seen over the years is that the person feels as if they are “reborn.”
As the qigong aspirant begins to make Dan Tian breathing a regular and eventually habitual form of life, the increased oxygenation of the body results in greater energy, a clearer head, relief from gastro-intestinal problems, and relief from chronic aches and pains. Additionally, the increased oxygenation from Dan Tian breathing gives people a higher metabolism and reduced cravings for sugar and junk food. Yes, you heard me right, the breathing methods taught in qigong have helped countless people overcome obesity and weight gain problems after other methods have failed.
Another interesting benefit of Dan Tian breathing is that it forms the basis for the meditation practices in many Eastern systems of spiritual cultivation (Zen, Vipassana, Yoga, etc.). Without realizing it, many qigong students find that they are happier, more content, and less prone to emotional instabilities such as rage, anxiety, and depression.
With all these changes that come from the practice of Dan Tian breathing, it’s no wonder that the word “reborn” is so commonly used to describe the experience of the new qigong student.
If you are one of the many who have reaped the benefits from learning Dan Tian breathing, I congratulate you on being open-minded and proactive enough to take charge of your health. However, the practice of basic Dan Tian breathing is just the beginning. There are many advanced levels of practice that will take your study of qigong to the next level of growth and evolution. Today, I’d like to share with you what I consider to be the next step in the art and science of breath control.
Huiyin is the acupuncture point located directly over the perineum (the area between the genitals and the anus). If the Dan Tian is located 2-3 inches below the navel, you’ll notice that Huiyin is considerably lower. In fact, it’s the lowest and most yin point on the torso.
Huiyin means “meeting of yin”. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) this point is a gathering point for the yin energy of the body. Yin is the energy of grounding, calming, and centering qualities. Huiyin is also the meeting point of the two most important acupuncture meridians in the body, the Ren (front centerline) and Du (back centerline over the spine).
Directing the breath to this point instead of the Dan Tian will take your qigong practice a step deeper. Activating Huiyin through the breath will provide a deeper stimulation to the abdominal organs and lymphatic system. It will take all the physical benefits of Dan Tian breathing a step further.
From an energetic perspective, the activation of Huiyin will energize and open both the Ren and Du meridians in the body. The Ren meridian is the source of yin in the body while the Du is the source of yang. Because both of these vitally important channels meet at the Huiyin point they can be harmonized and activated through Huiyin breathing. The benefits of this practice from a TCM perspective are enormous and too lengthy to go into detail in this article. Since disorders of the human qi field involve imbalances or deficiencies in yin or yang energy, the activation of Huiyin can be viewed as a “cure all” that will help harmonize and rebalance the opposing energies of yin and yang in the body.
How to learn Huiyin breathing.
It’s easy. Start by practicing Dan Tian breathing (while either lying down, sitting, or standing), then, once you are in a relaxed and centered state, direct your breath down to the Huiyin point over the perineum instead of the Dan Tian.
Visualize in your mind’s eye the breath moving all the way down to Huiyin then spreading out over the bottom of the abdominal floor in all directions, not just to the front. The expansion of the breath in all four directions (front, back, left and right) is what makes Huiyin breathing different from Dan Tian breathing, where the expansion is primarily to the front. If you are keeping your entire body relaxed, especially your lower torso, you’ll notice that the sides of your abdomen as well as your lower back will expand outwards along with your belly.
This method of breathing will teach you to relax your whole torso including your lower back.
When I teach this breathing method to students, I’ll have them place one hand on my stomach and the other on my lower back. As I breathe, the student will feel both my stomach and lower back expanding outwards as I inhale. They will then feel both my stomach and lower back contact on exhalation. Try having a friend do this to you when you are learning Huiyin breathing. Be sure to relax completely, direct the breath to the perineum, and feel your abdomen expand in all four directions
From a personal perspective, Huiyin breathing helped me overcome the pain from several debilitating back injuries. Years of full-contact martial arts, weight lifting, and general craziness left me with severe back pain and range of motion problems by the time I was 21. By faithfully practicing this method of breathing, I was able to progressively relax and correct my lower back area by breathing into it. After a few weeks of Huiyin breathing my back felt normal again.
Since then I’ve taught Huiyin breathing to hundreds of my patiants and qigong students with amazing results. Huiyin breathing is excellent for relieving back pain as well as hip problems. It fills the body with qi and corrects the imbalances in yin and yang energy, which so often result in disease and illness.
Practice Huiyin breathing for at least 10 minutes per day. Remember, it’s better to practice a little bit each day than a whole lot two or three times per week Also, practice this breathing method at odd moments. With a little discipline, waiting in line, driving in traffic, and other situations can be turned into qigong practice and the cultivation of self.
[Ken Andes, L.Ac. – a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and Medical Qigong practitioner, Mr. Andes has studied Qigong since 1989, and has taught Qigong since 1997. His greatest influence has been Master He Binhui, whom he studied Taiji Five-element Qigong. In addition to his full-time Chinese Medicine practice in Ramsey, New Jersey, he participates in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research, on the applications of medical Qigong to cocaine addiction, and Mr. Andes is also an avid practitioner of Zingyiquan Kung Fu.]