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Introduction To The “Cleansing Breath” Practice

By Ilya Tolchinsky

There is a breathing exercise that I use to keep my lungs clean. This exercise is called “Cleansing Breath” and it is designed to eliminate foreign particles from the surface of the lungs.

Regular practice of this exercise keeps the surface of the alveoli in the lungs clean and improves the efficiency of lungs’ primary function – to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. This in turn improves the ability of the body’s immune system to keep the body healthy.

The “Cleansing Breath” exercise is performed as follows. Take a long, deep inhale through the nose. At the conclusion of the inhale, begin to exhale through the mouth. The lips are almost closed during the exhale, allowing only a very small hole to open between the lips, as if you are whistling (see photo below). The tongue should lightly touch the upper palate behind the front teeth. The length of the exhale should be two counts longer than the length of the inhale. Make sure you stay relaxed and comfortable. The exhale should produce a little bit of noise as the air rushes through the opening, something only you should be able to hear.

Ilya Tolchinsky doing seated breathing

Here are some additional details to make sure you perform the exercise correctly and achieve good results. 

  • The “Cleansing Breath” should be performed in a natural, relaxed position. Our recommended sitting position is shown in the photo above. The exercise can also be done standing. 
  • When sitting, you do not want anything pressing on the back or on the underside of the thighs, as this inhibits good circulation. To enable this, you should sit towards the front edge of the seat without touching the back of the chair.
  • You should sit with a naturally straight back. Do not slouch.
  • Keep your head level.
  • Rest your hands comfortably on your knees or the top of your legs.
  • Focus your mind on the breathing, nothing else. Closing or half-closing your eyes may help with this.
  • Make sure that during the inhale the tongue is in a natural relaxed position.
  • Start with an inhale that lasts around 3 seconds. As the lungs develop more elasticity you can inhale for a longer count.
  • The exercise is best done in a comfortable environment that is not too cold or too hot, nor too humid or too dry. These conditions are generally found at sunrise and sunset.
  • Whenever possible face the sun. This will help to relax the face and improve circulation. It will also maximize sunlight exposure to power the synthesis of Vitamin D.
  • Do this outside if you can, otherwise open a window to let in some fresh air.

The importance of the length and method of the inhale and exhale cannot be overstated. In the beginning, one should inhale softly and not longer than 3 seconds to prevent excess tension in the chest. When exhaling, ensuring the length is two counts longer than the inhale allows the body to stay relaxed throughout the process and be properly prepared for the next inhalation.

I recommend performing a set of 15 repetitions every morning. With practice the cleansing effect will become self-evident and you can decide when you have done enough. If you get dizzy at any time during the exercise, stop immediately. When finished, return to natural relaxed breathing through the nose.

I am not a doctor so please do not take the above statements as medical advice. I do, however, feel an obligation to share an effective method of keeping the lungs clean. How do I know it works? There is a noticeable difference before and after I perform the exercise.

This is only one of the many tools we have in our curriculum to keep one healthy. Here again there is a self-evident effect of practice. Since I started training, I have had a much easier time with seasonal flu. The frequency and severity of infection have been greatly reduced.

While this article attempts to give you enough details to do the exercise correctly, there is no substitute for having a qualified instructor to help you do this right and continue to develop your skill. Please contact me or any of the instructors listed on this website if you are interested in additional information.

I sincerely hope that you can use this exercise to improve your health!

Shifu Ilya Tolchinsky 

Shifu Ilya Tolchinsky has studied Qiang Shan Ba Gua Zhang with Master Bok Nam Park since 2004. He lives in Toulouse, France and is in the process of being certified by the French Federation on Chinese Martial and Energetic Arts which will one day allow him to teach on French soil. You can find more information on his website at http://www.ilyabagua.com