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Tanden Breath & Longevity

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Tanden Breath and Longevity Ancient Eastern Health Perspective and Healing Wisdom

Tanden” is an acupoint located 3 or 4 fingers down from the navel and 3 or 4 fingers inwards on the hara*. Buddha, who was born in the ancient Indian era, learned the breathing method “Anapana Sachi” during a practice of penance. It is said that Buddha was born from training to hold his breath. This breathing method was spread by the Zen monk, Hakuin Zenji, during the Edo period in Japan. It is said that Hakuin Zenji had a pulmonary tuberculosis disease, and was able to overcome it through a secret healing method, taught by Hakuyu Sennin, a medicine man. The secret method, the “Internal Introspective Observation Method”, focuses on tanden (lower abdomen) and breath. This breathing practice is known as “tanden breathing” or “zen breathing”. Tanden location Our breath follows the mental, emotional and physical energy of attention. How we breathe with our Prana/Qi/Ki in life, is reflected through our bodily posture and internal functions. Eighty percent of brain activity depends on the internal activity of our abdomen/hara. If breathing consciousness is not engaged during healing practices, then the practice remains at a superficial level, stuck in old habits. Our breath reflects the mind, heart, body, and spirit. Restorative tanden breath can collaborate with touch meditation to remove habitual patterns. Through this practice, it is possible to regain an organic flow of seasonal Qi. We can embody nature’s grace, growth, expansion, and renewal. When we are born the first thing we respond/do is inhale (cry out), for energetic and physical engagement with the body. When we die, the last thing we do is exhale (or cough), for spiritual departure from the body. Our breath is much more than a respiratory system to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Spiritual worlds and physical worlds are interwoven through the bridge of each breath. We can watch our involuntary pausing between the in-breath and out-breath. Deep inhales are life-affirming. Long holding of the breath can lead us into a state of non-living. Life and death reside next to each other through each breath, Experienced in a moment of silence at a classical music concert, or being under the water like an embryo in a mother’s womb, or being in the eye of a storm. Mindful breathing can give us an opportunity to review and renew our lives in each moment. All it takes is present awareness. “Silence is the garden of meditation “ Inhalation is a receptive state of inspiration, providing vital oxygen with fresh Qi to our bloodstream. When we inhale mindlessly, our blood tends to shift to more acidic, and blood pressure can rise. When we are agitated, our breath tends to get stuck along the inhalation. Exhalation expires or releases acidic, toxic Qi with carbon dioxide and relaxes the diaphragm. When we exhale mindfully, our blood tends to shift to alkaline and blood pressure can drop. When we laugh, our breath becomes a series of out breaths and the whole body relaxes like a young child. Babies are masters of this, giggly without reason. Deepening (long sustained) exhalation is the key to creating more respiratory and abdominal space, allowing for a more organic intake of oxygen to support our life source (mitochondria). We can intuitively experience spiritual life through mindful breathing, eventually leading to the realization that we are one, a part of the vast universe. We are human beings instead of human doings. Mindful breathing leads to a state of natural well-being, or shizentai. Imagine the infinite breath exchanges between ourselves and others, an unconscious network of endless giving and receiving. Mindful breathing creates a web of love and space, uniting human beings globally. Right now we are breathing with the entire universe. Each breath connects us with worlds beyond time and space. Inhale as the universe exhales, exhale as the universe inhales. Circular, healing breath. We are inhaling a thousand million molecules that were exhaled by our ancestors. It is possible that we breathe in molecules that pass through enlightened spiritual teachers, including Buddha. *Hara (the entire abdomen) has psychological and spiritual connotations in the Japanese language and culture. In fact, hara can be seen as the unification of a person’s physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.


About the Author:

Yoshi Nakano, Asian Bodyworker & Five Lights Associate Shiatsu Teacher

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