Taoist Relaxation Yoga
Although, in a sense, all yogic breathing exercises may be employed for relaxing, as well as revitalization and increased self-control, Taoist Yoga is especially good for relaxation and to remove anxiety. It gives prompt, quick relief. However, the effects can be quite temporary. Therefore, special efforts must be made to prolong and deepen these results by subtle, attentive, repeated, devotion.
The Taoist relaxation method is very simple: "Listen to your breathing." Nothing more is needed, except persistence and patience in such listening. If you do not persist, your attention will stray back into anxieties. Be patient; impatience merely adds to anxieties. Patience is an attitude which undercuts the roots of anxiety. The healing, revitalizing and relaxing effect of attending to one's breathing may be observed by giving it a trial. Breathing involves inhalation (yang) followed by exhalation (yin), that these succeed each other in a natural, rhythmic, continuing and reliable order. When you devote yourself to Nature's Way (Tao) all goes well. When you attend to your breathing, you tend to take deeper breath and you also gradually prolong it, and, in the process quiets your fluttering mental activities as the mind harmonizes itself with the slower, and slowing, rhythm of the breathing. By listening, you must focus your attention on the sound; thereby withdrawing it from whatever has been disturbing, exciting and fatiguing the mind. Of all the ways for seeking relaxation, none can be more harmless than this. No outside help, no drugs, no devices, no special skills, no muscular effort, no training period, no involved instruction are needed for successful use. It can be used anytime, anywhere, by anyone who has a few moments to spare.
Unfortunately, most of those who begin to try out this Taoist technique will give up too soon and drift into the conclusion that their experiment was a failure. How long does one have to listen to the breathing? Why not as long as he feels fatigue? If the method is to be effective, you must persist until you feel the effects. Keep listening until "you finally do not hear it." Listen to your breathing with undivided attention until you do not hear it any more. When you have persisted with patience until this happens, your anxieties should be considerably lessened. There is nothing, of course to prevent you from arousing them again, when you turn your attention back to their initiating objects, persons or activities. But one who has pacified himself with such a relaxing pause should have a bit more reserve energy to cope with his task. The traditional Taoist seeks self-containment; this technique requires nothing more than opportunity and will to escape from the demands made upon self by externals, and ability and will to listen to one's own self-made sounds until they can be heard no more. Whether one then sleeps or finds his attention occupied by other things, the surrendering of his attentiveness to the sounds of his breathing has occurred without further mental disturbance.
Chang said merely, "Listen to your breathing. Till finally you do not hear." This intuitively clear, common-sense advice can only be distorted by complex elaboration. Chang demonstrated with a slow breathing cycle and with a manner in which an enveloping quiescence was intuitively sensed. One who cannot grasp what is simple can hardly expect to comprehend the same when it has been made complex.
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