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.

It was a lot of fun making this thumbnail!

Hi, thanks for clicking on this blog.

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.

Essence is the root of the body
Energy is the ruler of Spirit

Bodily form is the house of Spirit 

Excessive use of Spirit leads to its stop

Excessive use of Essence leads to its depletion
Overwork of Energy leads to its disconnection (to the body) 
So, human beings live due to Spirit
Our form relies on Energy
If Energy is weak, then the form is consumed
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.

Existence is possible because of nothingness

The form is established because of Spirit
The existence is the residence of nothingness
If the house is not intact for a life of peace,
Cultivation of the body, and nurturing of Spirit
Then one is unable to avoid 
The unrestrained energy’s return to the void
This resembles a candle where
Deformed candle no longer can sustain fire
To compare to a dike,
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.

Spirit powers breathing exercises
The form powers appetite
Clear energy leads to cool Spirit
Form that is fatigued leads to Energy turbidity
Countless people who exercise their breathing 
Do not die
Thus the body ascends to the cosmos
Countless people who who eat (grains),
All die,
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,


eternal student of life

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart