Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tao of Love And Sex: Nine Exercises of Sexual Tao (Part I)

"I wanted to make love," the Yellow Emperor said, "but my penis would not become erect.
"I was ashamed to find myself like this, in a sweat before this young woman. How can I get my vigor back? Su Nu, can you give me the secrets of the sexual Tao?"
And Su Nu answered, "Your majesty, many men have this problem. When a man desires to make love, he must ready his mind and understand that the sex act needs slow, step-by-step preparation. Calmness of mind is an especially important preliminary. The man must also observe the five virtues: kindness, austerity, judicious attachment, knowledge, and sincerity."


MEN AND women of all ages can benefit from the nine exercises of the sexual Tao. These traditional exercises, which have been handed down from one generation of Taoists to the next, constitute a sort of energy calisthenics designed to preserve and optimize the sexual functions.

They not only stimulate the sexual functions but have general health benefits as well. They should be practiced ,every day if possible, but not within fifteen minutes before a meal or within an hour after a meal. The best times to practice these exercises are in the early morning at sunrise and—if you have the time—once again at bedtime. You can maintain the benefits of these exercises with only fifteen minutes of daily practice, but if you don't have that much time to spare, five minutes will do and is certainly better than nothing.

1. NATURAL ABDOMINAL BREATHING: THE CRANE
This breathing method is particularly beneficial for anyone who wants to begin qigong and for strengthening both the sexual organs and the internal organs—the stomach, intestines, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, and urinary bladder.
Staying healthy and in control of one's mental faculties means learning how to breathe deeply by developing the flexibility and tone of the abdominal muscles, particularly the diaphragm. To this end, the first Taoist physicians of ancient China invented an exercise to develop abdominal breathing. The idea for this method came to them from observing the crane, that magnificent bird, which, with its peculiar gait, always seems to be in the process of stimulating its abdomen as it walks. The exercise came to be called Crane Breathing.

Its benefits are manifold. Crane Breathing will allow you to use the movements of your diaphragm to massage your internal organs and thus improve the circulation of blood in your abdomen and genital areas. It is particularly recommended for those who suffer from chronic constipation, diarrhea, or digestive insufficiency, for the tissues of the digestive system are moved by involuntary muscles that are difficult to stimulate since they cannot easily be exercised directly. This breathing method can also help you to increase your lung capacity appreciably; asthma sufferers and people with chronic bronchitis can greatly benefit from it. Crane Breathing reduces adipose tissue in the belly and lowers cholesterol. People with hypertension will find this exercise useful as well, because it can help decongest the the body's upper zones.

Crane Breathing provides a good foundation for more elaborate breathing movements. It's also a good relaxation technique; practicing this method will give you a few precious moments every day to focus on yourself. Most people never learn to breathe in a way that allows them to take advantage of their full lung capacity. They never use the lower parts of the bronchial tubes and in fact hardly ever involve any parts of their lungs except the upper lobes. Thus they never manage to eliminate or expel all the carbon dioxide and toxins that can accumulate in the blood; as a result, their blood becomes impure and they fall ill. That kind of insufficient breathing may be unconscious, but it can hardly be called "natural," unlike the breathing that we discuss here, which is also called abdominal breathing.

Here are a number of points to keep in mind when practicing abdominal breathing: When inhaling and exhaling, you should involve your lower abdomen. Inhalation brings air into the bronchial tubes and fills the lungs, even the lower parts. Once your lungs become full, they press against the diaphragm, which consequently descends. At that moment, the chest inflates and the abdomen swells outward. As you exhale, your abdomen should tighten and your diaphragm should push upward against the lungs. This will allow the impure air to leave the lower part of your lungs, and the movements of the lower abdomen and the diaphragm will help your lungs expand downward as well.
You can make abdominal breathing part of your normal, daily routine. Try to practice it while walking, working, or lying down. It can also become part of your meditation exercises and will facilitate normal blood circulation.

When practicing abdominal breathing, remember that your inhalations and exhalations should not be forced and the transitions from inhalation to exhalation and from exhalation to inhalation should be natural and relaxed. Unforced inhalation means inhaling gently, lightly, and effortlessly, without lifting your chest or trying to over-expand the lungs. Unforced exhalation means maintaining a gentle, effortless respiratory rhythm, without compressing your chest or flattening your stomach. The transition between inhaling and exhaling and vice versa should be light and natural, without jerkiness, tension, or interruptions.

Another aspect of Crane Breathing is known as spontaneous breathing. There are two stages of respiratory control to this "energy calisthenics." The first stage is devoted entirely to relaxation. In this stage, you pay no attention to controlling your breath. The second stage begins after you have become relaxed. At this point, you begin to regularize your breathing so that it acquires a light, smooth, and regular rhythm. As your body relaxes more and more, your respiratory movements will become gentler, lighter, and more regular in pace. And conversely, the more your breath control increases, the more you relax. During this phase, your respiratory rhythm will slacken from its normal rate of twelve to sixteen breaths per minute. A regular rhythm is well-defined and fairly constant. It should not be slow and then fast, weak and then strong, short and then long. It should be regulated consciously. By the end of this exercise, your mind will be calm and your breathing will be gentle, light, and regular.

The principal effect of abdominal breathing is to create a state of calm and tranquility. Your respiratory movements create variations of intra-abdominal pressure that massage the internal organs, and it is this massage that produces the calming effect. This internal massage has the further benefit of strengthening these organs and improving the circulation of energy and blood within and among them. The more complete your state of relaxation and the deeper your inner tranquility, the more beneficial deep breathing will be for you. That is why the first, calming stage of this exercise is so necessary.

Deep breathing is a useful treatment for people who suffer from dyspepsia or from ptoses of such organs as the stomach or kidneys. If, however, you begin to feel a sense of fullness or bloating in your abdomen, stop the exercise and return to the meditation and relaxation stage instead.

PRACTICING CRANE BREATHING
Begin by lying on the floor or on your bed. If you are on your bed, be sure to remove your pillow. Spread your legs just slightly apart, and start rubbing your hands one against the other to warm them a little. Then place your hands on your abdomen, directly on the skin, on either side of your navel.

Exhale gently and effortlessly, while pressing down with both hands so that you make a depression in the abdomen. Expel all the air from your lungs.

Now inhale calmly, letting your belly inflate and stretch upward like a balloon filling with air. It should seem as though the air were entering your abdomen without inflating the rib cage. You can achieve this effect by gently raising your two hands, which should continue to lie flat against the area around the navel. With each inhalation, you should be conscious of this area; it is allied to the Lower Burner and the root of breath. It also represents the center of gravity around which the standing and sitting exercises that follow are structured.

Repeat this sequence of alternating inhalations and exhalations twelve times. Concentrate totally on what you are doing. You can help maintain your awareness by practicing the following visualization: imagine and feel that with each inhalation the air that is entering your body, charged with vitalizing substance and luminous qi, is moving downward to the lower abdomen, filling it with beneficial heat. During these internal energy exercises, feel the zones of strength as they begin to appear within the energy body.

That's all there is to it! The method is quite simple, but acquiring true mastery can take some time. After one or two weeks of practice, however, you should be feeling comfortable with this breathing technique.

This technique is the basis for a number of Chinese exercises such as Tai Chi Chuan and kung hi. Practice it in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before going to sleep. There is one exception, however: it should not be practiced by pregnant women.

Important note: When you practice Crane Breathing, you should be in a state of perfect relaxation and never force any of the movements. After mastering the relaxation techniques and spontaneous breathing, you can gradually transform spontaneous breathing into abdominal breathing. Again, the characteristics of abdominal energy breathing are as follows: your breathing rhythm should be gentle, light, regular, slow, long, and deep; on exhaling, your abdomen flattens; on inhaling, your abdomen expands.

2. UNFOLDING THE ABDOMINAL DANTIAN
Taoists attach great importance to the progressive development of qi, or vital energy. Those who would follow the Tao must first develop and purify their vital essence (qi) . through a process called "interior alchemy." This method, which is not reserved for adepts and hermits (at least not at the level at which it is presented here), consists of developing your energy in stages. The first stage is the lighting of the abdomen's alchemical furnace, the Elixir Field, or dantian. As we have already pointed out, this abdominal center is closely related to sexuality, and any deficiency in this region will have sexual repercussions. Regulating the sexual functions begins with work on this center.

While the dantian is a definite area, it does not have a concrete anatomical location. It is an energy reservoir, and by developing it you will increase your vital force. Practically speaking, the conscious development of your dantian will bring healthy vitality, better digestion, a natural sexuality, and a gentle feeling of internal warmth. When the furnace has been lit, self-healing can begin.
In China there are many exercises for developing the dantian, but it is the simplest ones that are the most effective. In this book, we have made it a point to suggest only simple and authentic methods that are accessible to everyone.

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