The Still Mind

Our world observed from stillness

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Abdominal Breathing

What is Abdominal Breathing?
It is safe to say that the majority of people are all familiar with the respiratory activity known as breathing. However, most carry it out constantly at less than perfect efficiency, leaving those that don’t know about enhanced ways of breathing, inhaling and exhaling at a considerably diminished capacity. Abdominal Breathing is actually not a new thing for your body. You’ve done it before; while you were still in the womb and for the early part of your childhood. The stomach would pump in and out to facilitate the exchange of blood and nutrients through the umbilical cord, as the lungs were still in development and also could not respire for lack of air. After you were born, the abdomen was largely instrumental in the breathing process, but later the chest took over, and breathing became shallow. Thus, Abdominal Breathing is also referred to as “Return to Childhood Breathing” as well as “Deep Breathing.” (Deep breathing can be done with the chest as well, however, a key difference is in the unique effects of abdominal breathing on the body, which I will discuss in the following post). It may seem counter-intuitive to most, for we know that the ribs and the chest in general are made to expand and contract with each inhalation and exhalation. However, for deep, fulfilling breathing to take place, the diaphragm must be brought into the equation. Continue reading



Still Mind Health – Standing Like A Tree

The year of the Dragon is upon us. For the new year, I will introduce a Chinese system of exercise that is sure to assist one’s body to transform into a picture of health and strength — to become like a dragon: strong when strength is needed, supple and soft when not. It is called Zhan Zhuang 站桩 (roughly pronounced Jan Jwong), also known as “Standing Like a Tree”; a form of stance training that demands of oneself total and complete union of both body and mind to carry out accurately. Adding even five minutes of Zhan Zhuang to your everyday routine will deliver a desirable result.

To begin with, first start with simple warm up exercises:

Light arm circles forwards and backwards. Loosen up the hips by circling the hips in both directions. Loosen up the legs as well. Standard repetition count  for these types of exercises usually fall within the 30 to 40 range, so shoot for roughly 30 to 40 repetitions in both directions. The object is simply to loosen the muscles and tendons and get the blood flowing. The best time to do the Zhan Zhuang exercise is in the morning as the sun comes up, but it is also fine to do it any time during the day. Five minutes at night before bed is also beneficial. There is an additional exercise called Ba Duan Jin 八段锦, or “Eight Section Brocade”, but I won’t discuss that in this post. I will reserve this exercise for a later posting, as it is an entire progression of postures and movements in itself. Continue reading