Deep Breathing and its meaning
These are a couple of pages from a book I did for my grandchildren a few years ago. Over the last year I have had over two hundred requests for all, or parts, of the book from people in need or representing a family member in need. I have no intent on publishing although my Sensei and several people want me to. This is a work of love to my grandchildren.
Because I teach these things at seminars and they are an integral part of my struggle with Myasthenia Gravis I have recently had a flood of requests on the breathing section. These are a few pages of it and I offer them as a catalyst for discussion in hopes of helping people. I make no claims regarding the exercises beyond what they do for me personally. This is one af many excecises.
"A Collage of Poppy's Life"
A Book to My Grandchildren
Copy Right 1999
TANDEN NO KOKYU:
The Tanden refers to the lower abdomen (hara), No is the Japanese possessive and Kokyu is breath. These various forms of deep breathing are designed to clean the internal organs, to purge them of poison and stimulate the body. This is much like sweating during a physical workout. This exercise is best done while sitting in seiza. Seiza is the traditional Japanese way of sitting with the heels under the buttocks, spine erect. However, if seiza is not possible then sitting in a chair is recommended. Sometimes they would prop me in a corner and I swear they would forget I was there for hours. The back must be straight, head erect, and the neck in line with the spine. The tanden (lower part of the abdomen) is pushed slightly forward. Hands should rest lightly on the thighs. All breathing should be abdominal. There must be strength or slight tension in the tanden (lower abdomen) at all times during these forms. For those times I found sitting erect a physical problem then I would lay flat on the floor. The thoracic cage must be kept as still as possible. The thoracic cage refers to the portion of the body between the neck and the abdomen, also the cavity in which the heart and lungs lie. The chest wall contains the muscles used for normal respiration such as the diaphragm, intercostal muscles and the rib cage. During these exercises the diaphragm and abdominal muscles will control respiration.
Since these activities are intended to cleans and heal the inner body it was necessary for me to understand a little about the repertory system. I'm big on visualization because I feel it often helps in the healing process. Also I just like to know what's going on. I developed the following as a visualization tool and it's not a detailed discussion of the pulmonary process but served as a good visualization tool for me.
Knowing something about the functions of the repertory system helped me get rid of some of excess spiritual baggage attached to the exercise. I was still having a problem reconciling some of my Christian beliefs with some of this stuff. If I was having a problem you can imagine what some of my fundamental friends were going through. They probably thought I needed daily saving. I later understood that there was really no conflict to begin with. The function of the repertory system includes gas exchange, acid-based balance, phonation, pulmonary defense and metabolism, and the handling of bioactive materials.
Gas Exchange; the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen takes place in the lungs. Fresh air, containing oxygen, is inspired into the lungs through the conducting airways by forces generated by the respiratory muscles, acting on commands initiated by the central nervous system. At the same time mixed venous blood from the various body tissues, which has a high content of carbon dioxide and low content of oxygen, is pumped into the lungs by the right ventricle of the heart. In the pulmonary capillaries carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen and the blood leaving the lungs, which now has a high oxygen content and relatively low carbon dioxide content, is distributed to the tissues of the body by the left side of the heart. During expiration, gas with a high concentration of carbon dioxide is expelled from the body." (PULMONARY PHYSIOLOGY, Michael G. Levitzky)
Tanden No Kokyu is often referred to as deep breathing exercise, or meditation. For this reason it sometimes is misunderstood. Deep breathing does not mean filling the lungs to capacity and expelling as much air as possible. Deep breathing means breathing below the normal threshold, taking the breath deep within the body. The average adult has a lung capacity of about 5700 milliliters of air. With normal inspiration we inflate to about 2800 ml. With normal expiration we deflate to about 2300 ml. of air. So during a normal cycle of inspiration and expiration we exchange about 500 ml. of gas in the lungs and airway. During the first breath of most tanden kokyu forms the maximum amount of air is expelled from the lungs. This is done by pushing the diaphragm down then pulling the abdomen in and leaning forward. It is not necessary to actually measure the amount of air exchanged during inspiration and expiration. Using the following description as a visualization aid I was able to develop a correct pattern of breathing for these exercises. It is possible to expel as much as 4500 ml. of air, leaving 1200 ml. in the lungs. This gas can not be forced out voluntarily; it is the remnant gas that prevents the lungs from collapsing. If you have ever had the breath knocked of you it is because some of the 1200 ml. was expelled and the lung partially collapsed.