“Remember to breathe. It is, after all, the secret of life.” ~ Gregory Maguire
Prana or life force is the vital energy that keeps the body alive, and channeling that energy to the different organs in our body is equally important to maintain a state of good health.
Our bones are living organs too that provide structure for our body, protect all our important organs and help us nourish our entire body by producing red and white blood cells.
An ancient Taoist practice that uses this life force to restore health and give strength to the bones, is ‘Bone Breathing’. The practice uses breathing and visualization to bring more healing Qi into the bones and joints.
Mantak Chia, a taoist master known for his teaching Taoist practices under the names of Healing Tao, Tao Yoga, Universal Healing Tao System and Chi Kung, in his book, Iron Shirt Kung I, spoke about the potentiality of Bone breathing, “Bone Breathing or bone compression is the method of “Cleansing the Marrow”, or cleaning out fat in the bone marrow so that you can direct and absorb the creative (sexual) energy into the bone to help regrow the bone marrow.”
He also mentioned that bones are highly porous and are always breathing; just like a sponge sucks water, bones suck in oxygen, nutrition and blood.
A medical study in The American Journal of Physiology suggests that the oxygen supply to our bones directly affects bone formation and bone physiology.
The importance of Chi or Prana
The whole concept of this ancient practice revolves around the presence of Chi in our environment. Chia said, “Taoists describe the world as an interaction of positively and negatively charge electromagnetic energies.
‘Chi’ is an overall term used for these energies, which comprises the ultimate nourishment derived from food, air, sun and stars. Chi is also generated in our bodies by the organs and glands and extends around us as a part of our emanation.”
What we do not understand is the real essence of breathing lies in a full breath; a breath that refreshes, revitalizes and rejuvenates us.
Healthy breathing makes for healthy bones. All the bodily systems are affected by the quality of our breath and bones are no different. Our bone marrow, situated on the corner of the spongy bones with yellow fat in the middle known as medullary cavity, produces red and white blood cells, that are vital for our existence.
When we breathe fully, our porous bones sucks in oxygen, transfers it to the red marrow to produce cells and also cleanses the fat in the middle to create space for positivity.
Technique of Bone breathing
There are multiple modifications and variations used in Bone Breathing. Starting with the simplest one, first and foremost requirement is the belief in the theory. Now, imagine that your surrounding is brimming with charged energy. This vital energy that surrounds you is slightly thicker in comparison to the normal air.
Sit comfortably on a chair and place your hands on your lap. Fingers are stretched and open, and the palms are open and relaxed. Advanced practitioner often uses the ‘embrace the tree’ posture as demonstrated by Mantak Chia but for start even sitting comfortably will reap similar benefits.
Start by breathing deeply and rhythmically in slow motion, trying to inhale and exhale as deeply as possible. The ratio of the breath remains 1:2 (Inhale: Exhale). After a few breaths, bring your attention to the tip of the index finger of the left hand. Relax the wrist, hand and fingers. As you inhale, feel the energy transferring from the tip of the finger to the base of the finger and as you exhale from the nose, feel all the negative energy leave from your finger, gradually condensing in your bone.
As you repeat a few times, experience a sense of warmth/numbing/heaviness/tingling in your left hand’s index finger. Now, compare the same with the right hand’s index finger, which is yet untouched. This comparison will enable you to recognize the effect of bone breathing.
Now, bring the same awareness in all the other fingers of the left hand, either one by one or at the same time, sucking the vital energy in the body. (This need not be done individually every time you practice. This is intended only to help you to isolate the feeling of energy by concentrating on one small area at a time.)
Eventually all fingers will be used to draw energy simultaneously in both hands. Now, progress further to the forearm, upper arm and shoulders, visualizing your bones as a big sponge consuming in the energy (the beginning stages require more visualization).
Now, reproduce the same feeling in your right hand, gradually progressing from the fingers to the wrists to the forearms, so on and so forth. Feel the sensation of warmth/numbing/heaviness/tingling spreading in both your arms.
The cycle would go from the arms to the scapulae, collarbone, sternum and ribs. The sensation of warmth/numbing/heaviness/tingling might differ from one area to another, depending on the structure of the bone in the specific area.
Now, bring the focus to the feet and toes. It is best to remove the shoes and any tight clothing and guide your awareness up the toes, either singly or together up to the ankle. Breathe in from the toes of the left leg first and then the right leg or both the legs together depending on your capabilities. Feel the breath enter through all your bones, hold it for a while and then let the energy flow out.
Gradually move up from the feet to the ankle, calves, knee, thighbones, pelvis, coccyx and sacrum, up to C7 vertebra in the spinal column. The movement of the breath is depicted with arrows, in the image above. (Do not pull your feet up with the breath. Let them remain flat on the floor.)
Now, you will have to breathe simultaneously both from legs and hands, merging the energies at C-7 vertebrae in the spinal column and from there to the skull covering the entire body. Keep breathing for some time, with minimum of nine breaths of whole body breathing. And as you conclude bring all the energy to the navel center and close it.
If more specific knowledge of the bones is desired then it is advisable to work with a anatomical chart of the skeleton to guide the energy with more precision.
Benefits of Bone Breathing
Bone breathing helps the practitioner escape the modern day problems of bone mass deficiency, osteoporosis, stress management, lack of energy, low immune system, etc. By circulating the chi to the innermost parts of the body, energy created by Bone breathing, merges with the sexual energy.
One of the students of Chia, a middle-aged woman, was heavily losing bone mass, but with the practice of bone breathing for 3 hours regularly within six months regained the lost mass by 10% and in five years 100%.
Increasing the production of red blood cells and white blood cells, the process improves the flow of blood, secretion of nutrients, enhance sexual energy, boosts the immune system and stronger bones with increased bone density.
The biggest advantage remains, that one can practice this technique, anywhere and anytime. It is a very powerful technique that allows you to pull in energy into one specific area and feel supercharged in that area. It also helps to be more connected and in tune with the flow of energy in our body.
Bone Marrow breathing – Mantak Chia