Chinese medicine has focused on the channelling of energy or "qi" in the body as a source of healing and vitality since ancient times. "Qigong" is the Chinese system of breathing practices, movements, postures, and other practices to increase and direct chi in the body. "Ki Kou" is Japanese speakers' pronunciation of the Qigong Chinese characters. Ki Kou includes several breathing techniques.
Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing
The cornerstone breathing technique for Ki Kou is also its most basic. With diaphragmatic breathing, you inhale deeply from the diaphragm, expanding your belly to allow air to sink down to the lower parts of the lungs. You will then pull your belly in as you exhale. Generally, you will breathe through the nose while your lips are lightly touching and your tongue is resting against the upper teeth and palate. Breathing is slow and deliberate with pauses between inhalation and exhalation.
With reverse breathing, you breathe using movements in your midsection opposite to what you use with diaphragmatic breathing. As you inhale through your nose, you will contract your abdominal muscles, pulling in your stomach. Your chest expands as you fill the upper portions of your lungs with air. You'll then relax your belly as you breathe out. This type of breathing is believed to build protective energy in the body.
Complete breathing is somewhat of a combination of the diaphragmatic and reverse breathing. You start by taking a diaphragmatic breath, drawing oxygen deep into your lower lungs. Next, while holding the air in your lower lungs with belly still expanded, you expand your chest and fill the upper portions of your lungs with air as well. When you exhale, completely relax your body letting out the entire breath. This technique is thought to be cleansing and strengthening.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
With alternate nostril breathing, the basic technique is the same as with diaphragmatic breathing; however, you will use your hand to direct breath into and out of one nostril at a time. First, using the thumb of your right hand, block your right nostril as you inhale. Then, as you exhale, remove your thumb from the right nostril and use the ring finger of your right hand to block your left nostril. Maintain hand position so that you can now inhale through your right nostril, then switch fingers for the exhale. Repeat. This breathing is thought to energise the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
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