Tai Chi and breathing

I’ve been sharing “meditations” from Josh Waitzkin’s “The Art of Learning” in the past few weeks. I’m down to my last two passages. Today’s note is about Tai Chi and breathing.


In William Chen’s Tai Chi form, expansive (outward or upward) movements occur with an in-breath, so the body and mind wake up, energize into a shape. He gives the example of reaching out to shake the hand of someone you are fond of, waking up after a restful sleep, or agreeing with someone’s idea. Usually, such positive movements are associated with an in-breath – in the Tai Chi form, we “breathe into the fingertips.” Then, with the out-breath, the body releases, de-energizes, like the last exhalation before falling asleep.


It is Chen’s opinion that a large obstacle to a calm, healthy, present existence is the constant interruption of our natural breathing patterns. A thought or ringing phone or honking car interrupts an out-breath and so we stop and begin to inhale. Then we have another thought and stop before exhaling. The result is shallow breathing and deficient flushing of carbon dioxide from our systems, so our cells never have as much pure oxygen as they could. Tai Chi meditation is, among other things, a haven of unimpaired oxygenation.


This is such a practical and, yet, fascinating thought. I plan to think about it further and see how I can integrate this idea into my day. More when that happens.

Thanks again, Josh, for a fascinating insight.