On November 2, we opened November’s Saturday focus on Coiling, Spiraling, and Silk-Reeling Jins with a 45-minute performance of Master Yang’s Taiji Qigong Coiling Set. As you may know, the set is accompanied by Skin and Marrow Breathing. During this breathing, we have intention to move Qi strongly, so we proceed on the foundation of Reverse Abdominal Breathing. The Skin and Marrow addition to Reverse Abdominal Breathing means that on inhalation we visualize drawing our Qi into our bone marrow as if the entire body were being vacuum sealed. On exhalation, we visualize the Qi expanding all around the body as though it were a balloon being inflated.
Externally, the Coiling Set is designed to help Taiji practitioners connect the whole body in coiling and spiraling movements. The inclusion of Skin and Marrow Breathing allows us to accomplish several internal goals while performing the Coiling Set. Speaking first of health goals, Skin Breathing leads Qi to the skin cells to aid cell replacement, which you know diminishes with age. It also expands guardian Qi (Wei Qi). Marrow Breathing leads Qi to the bone marrow, helping to keep it heathy and functioning well in its task of producing red blood cells. For martial arts, Skin Breathing increases listening Jin.
Skin and Marrow Breathing can change the body’s Yin Yang state, i.e. warm it up or cool it down, and it is important to keep this in mind because you don’t want to change this state unintentionally. Skin Breathing makes the body more Yang, i.e. warmer. If you want to make your body warmer, you can enhance the warming effect by uncoupling Skin Breathing from Marrow Breathing (leave the Qi out beyond the skin at the end of exhalation), holding the breath for a count of five at the end of the exhalation, and/or making the “haaaa” sound during exhalation. You might want intentionally to do this if you are chilled during cold or chilly weather.
Marrow Breathing makes the body more Yin, which can be useful if you want to cool your body in hot weather. I have also been told that it works well for dealing with hot flashes that often accompany menopause. I don’t know that personally. You can enhance the cooling effect of Marrow Breathing by doing just the opposite of the techniques for enhancing the warming effects of Skin Breathing but use the Heng sound during inhalation.
Skin and Marrow Breathing can be done by itself in addition to during the Coiling Set. In either case, take note if you finish feeling too warm or too cold. Unless you have intention to change your body’s Yin Yang state, you should make the length and mind emphasis on inhalation and exhalation even to prevent significantly changing your body’s Yin or Yang.
For more information on these topics, consult Master Yang’s book and DVD on Taiji Qigong.