By Stephen J. Goodson
Septemebr 17, 2015
Breathing in Ti Fang
Using the natural metronome of the breath as we do the Tai Chi Form trains us to operate out of our center-of-gravity. We are asked, "is the master at home?" meaning, "are we operating out of our center?" The goal is not the Breath; rather, the goal is Central Equilibrium.
Change and the changelessness is the first principle of the Thirteen Postures. Change is the continuous exchange of yin and yang, hard and soft. The Thirteen Postures mutually affect and displace one another. Everything changes. The changeless is the principle of the Thirteen Postures which constitute the stabilizing power of the central equilibrium. (13T, Lo/Inn, p85.1)
The center of gravity of the body is referred to in T'ai Chi Ch'uan as chung ting. The chung ting cannot be separated from the tan t'ien. The Classics say, "Pay attention to the waist at all times," "controlled by the waist," and "the waist is like an axle." In other words, T'ai Chi Ch'uan could also be called an exercise that emphasizes the center of gravity of the body. (13T, Lo/Inn, p95.2)
In practicing the form we coordinate the breathing with the body's movements. It is the only reason Tai Chi is done slowly. This slow, sunk, guided to the center of gravity, breathing is not about breath but about putting or mind in our center-of-gravity. That is what is engrained—and it starts from day one in Tai Chi class.
In the two-person exercises we almost never go slow enough to coordinate the breathing (going too slow would hinder listening—play a record too slow and you can't make out the words). On average each breath is about 5-10 seconds long. That is way too much time to let your opponent play about.
All that to say, keep Breathing in the Form (sinking the breath to offset the body floating) and in San Shou training (exhale on the push), otherwise let the breath take care of itself. But the mind! That should always be in the right place.