Let us first examine what happens in linear breathing, that is, natural breathing, which is involuntary. As you inhale and exhale in alteration, air fills your lungs and then empties them in succession, without your ever being conscious of the breathing process. On the other hand, voluntary circular breathing, an ancient Taoist technique, uses conscious effort. It promotes all-round health, both physical and mental, if practiced regularly and properly. It is quite different from the more widely prevalent pranayama, an ancient Indian technique involving a wide variety of methods to control and regulate breathing for health and long life. Some types of pranayama require you to hold the breath inside your body after inhaling or keep your body without it after exhaling. Taoist breathing does not advocate holding your breath either in or keep it out. On the contrary, its technique covers your entire being, both body and mind. Circular breathing is therefore whole-body breathing.
The basic principles underlying Taoist circular breathing are really related to enhancing “chi”, a Chinese term for both energy and breath. One step in the process of achieving whole-body breathing, according to these principles, is to learn to breathe with the belly. Inhalation expands and exhalation empties the belly. A point to note here is not to hold and control breathing between one cycle and another cycle of inhalation – exhalation. This is because the aim here is to attain relaxation, not to create tension in the body, which is not conducive to physical and mental health. Breathing should therefore be continuous and natural. Breathing from the sides and the back of your belly to the top of your lungs is something you have to learn as another step. Advance learners of the Taoist technique called reverse breathing have to contract the belly while breathing in and expand it while breathing out. Practitioners of the reverse breathing technique believe that it increases the “chi” movement in the upward as well as the downward directions in the body and thereby helps in energizing the whole body at once.
One of the main benefits of circular breathing, like in fact in any other type of sound breathing techniques, is improving oxygen intake, which in turns results in oxygen-rich blood, conducive to better blood circulation, higher energy levels, greater relaxation and lower stress levels. All these combine to contribute to better health overall. Even those suffering from specific heart or lung problems and some other body disorders find relief due to the regular and dedicated practice of circular breathing. They also find their physical and mental faculties to be sharper than earlier. These manifest in better body coordination and improved concentration levels, in short, in better efficiency. With these benefits of circular breathing, its adherents experience a rich and long life.
What you need in plenty for achieving perfection in circular breathing is regular exercise and practice. Taoist meditation that follows circular breathing practices does further enhance the overall “chi” that finally leads to spiritual growth.