What is the purpose of such things as chi gong, yoga and meditation? What is the point of these breathing patterns? Mantras or visualizations?
For the ordinary western brain, the whole thing seems pretty silly. And, with explanations in some poetic forms, arisen in a different time and culture, it all often becomes even more distant and ends up as religion and superstition. But, really, it’s science. Understanding of body and mind, and human nature. And, techniques that release and make available resources in body and mind.
Breathing is a link between the conscious and the unconscious in us. It happens unconsciously, all the time, without our having to think about it, at the same time it can be controlled without any problem by our conscious mind (within the limits of what the body’s needs allow). When we allow our consciousness to fuse with our breath, we can connect with what is happening in the body and mind at a deeper level. And, when we deliberately regulate the breathing to a quieter or faster frequency, deeper or more superficial breathing, we affect the nervous system in the body to calm or shake up. Even further, breathing training can give us greater control over our own emotions and more distance to our instinctive (gut) reactions through the discipline of regulating the body’s own processes, making it possible to see more clearly in stressful, pressured or emotional situations.
Meditation brings you into contact with the greater mind or grandeur of the consciousness behind the day-conscious minds and things that roam in the little conscious sphere (about 10% of the mind’s capacity). It gives you access to more of the mind’s resources through the ability to self-regulate perspective and horizon. And, it dampens the identification with everyday stress and other people’s reactions, by giving you contact with a larger version of reality than our little life drama of reactions and stress.
Yoga, tai chi, chi gong, kum new and other body and mind trainings have several different functions. The positions themselves open the body and strengthen the muscles. Particularly core and posture muscles, which, among other things, are crucial to prevent stress injuries from much sitting. It opens the body through deep stretching and floating movements that release deep tension from joints, muscles and connective tissue. This in turn releases stress and increases well-being. The combination of conscious focus and breathing together with the exercises increases contact with the body and mind and thus the access to the resources that lie there.
The effect of these things is brought to life outside the meditation pad or yoga mat. It gives increased focus, the ability to cope with difficult positions and breathe through challenging positions, increasing the ability to handle stress and challenges, increasing the ability of perspective or changing perspectives based on the discipline of meditation and focus. The increased contact with oneself provides increased knowledge about who you are and thus both your own resources and boundaries, which in turn makes it easier to make choices that are in line with one’s self. In addition, it usually provides better sleep and digestion, due to the release of stress and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Then all that you eventually discover comes from “spiritual” truths and all the dimensions found in being human and in the universe on top of all this. A nice side effect 🙂
So, after all, there is really little reason for not trying. The challenge is usually to find the methods and teachers that are right for you. But, you can take that as a journey of discovery. It will always be good things to take with you in any such meeting.