Breathing Exercises Are for Longevity + Trinity of Oriental Holistic Medicine

Breathing exercises range from diaphragmatic, box, pursued lip breathing, and many more.

In the past, I wrote about deep, slow, abdominal breathing and how it is absolutely essential not only for relaxed personality and cardio-respiratory functions, but also for longevity.

In this post, we will uncover why our ancestors thought it was so important.

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I am passionate about reading holistic medicine literature and applying ancient knowledge of health to attain longevity.


What are we reading about?

The excerpt below is written by a 15th century doctor and prince from Ming dynasty. He went by an alias 臞仙 (Emaciated Immortal).

I thought he called himself that because he only lived off air (aka breathearian), but apparently he was a huge tea connoisseur. Go figure.

The book, titled 臞仙活人心方 (Emaciated Immortal’s Formulas for Saving Lives) was written in 1424 CE.

精者身之本
Essence is the root of the body
 
氣者神之主
Energy is the ruler of Spirit

形者神之宅也
Bodily form is the house of Spirit 

故神太用則歇
Excessive use of Spirit leads to its stop

精太用則竭
Excessive use of Essence leads to its depletion
 
氣太勞則絶
Overwork of Energy leads to its disconnection (to the body) 
 
是以人之生者神也.
So, human beings live due to Spirit
 
形之托者氣也
Our form relies on Energy
 
若氣衰則形耗
If Energy is weak, then the form is consumed
 
而欲長生者未之聞也
And longevity is not attained

This is the Oriental Holistic Medicine (OHM)’s trinity: Essence, Energy, Spirit.

Essence is the vital substance that is manifested in our physical traits. In particular, it is critical for reproduction, birth, growth, and development of human beings.

Hence it is the root of our body. Without Essence, we wouldn’t have been conceived in the first place!

Energy here is synonymous with Qi. It’s the intangible yet vital force that drives all life.

We physically rely on energy to carry out our daily activities. Hence we need to ensure we always have proper amount of it.

Be careful not to put all our energy into overdrive, because it will scatter away, which would end up weakening our body.

Energy is so crucial that it rules our Spirit, which resides in our body (specifically, in the royal palace). In turn, Spirit governs our body via consciousness.

夫有者因無而生焉
Existence is possible because of nothingness

形者須神而立焉.
The form is established because of Spirit
 
有者無之舘, 
The existence is the residence of nothingness
 
…
 
倘不全宅以安生
If the house is not intact for a life of peace,
 
修身以養神,
Cultivation of the body, and nurturing of Spirit
 
則不免於 
Then one is unable to avoid 
 
氣散歸空
The unrestrained energy’s return to the void
 
… 
 
方之於燭
This resembles a candle where
 
燭盡則火不居 
Deformed candle no longer can sustain fire
 
譬之於堤
To compare to a dike,
 
堤壞則水不存矣
Broken dike no longer can contain water

We are alive (existing) because of Spirit (nothingness).

Spirit lives in our bodily form. Hence we could never separate the Spirit from our physical form, at least while we are living!

This means we have to make sure the “house” of Spirit is nicely kept.

By cultivating our virtues and ethics to live kind-heartedly with righteous manners, we take care of our Spirit to be at ease.

Calm Spirit equates to Energy in order and balance.

Sounds harmonious to me.

神能服氣
Spirit powers breathing exercises
 
形能食味
The form powers appetite
 
氣淸則神爽,
Clear energy leads to cool Spirit
 
形勞則氣濁
Form that is fatigued leads to Energy turbidity
 
服氣者
Countless people who exercise their breathing 
 
千百不死
Do not die
 
故身飛於天 
Thus the body ascends to the cosmos
 
食穀者,
Countless people who who eat (grains),
 
千百皆死,
All die,
 
故形歸於地
Hence the form returns to the Earth

There is so much Yin Yang to unpack here.

First, let’s start with the clear and the turbid.

In OHM, what’s clear ascends, and what’s turbid (think of feces, urine) descends.

The fresh air that we breathe through our nose (upper body) energizes and awakens us with vitality.

The food we eat eventually disintegrates into waste that is excreted in the lower body.

Breathe resonates with Yang. Food resonates with Yin.

The body and the form are not necessarily the same; the body is Yang which ascends after death, and form is Yin which descends to the Earth.

After all, we are composed of multiple different bodies, one of which is called a subtle body.

Food nourishes the physical form that we embody which is temporary.

Breathe energizes our body which is ethereal.


Breathing Exercises Are for Longevity: Conclusion

No wonder why our ancestors invented myriads of breathing exercises.

They are essential tools for longevity.

Seeing this in perspective of OHM’s trinity has been refreshing for me.

It’s something worth meditating on.

Keep the Spirit cool,

~energidoctor~

eternal student of life

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