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Is your mindful movement practice working? One way to tell ("the natural abdominal breath")

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

I. A conversation with a colleague and a practice tip

Last weekend, I was chatting with a colleague about the relative importance and unimportance of posture. He seemed to think it was less than many chalk it up to be. I considered that the mental posture was maybe even more important - having a structure for life can motivate our health behaviors. Still, it is often our health foundations that give us the motivation and energy to Center in an overriding Purpose - however grandiose or seemingly simple that may be.

e.g. The way we hold ourselves has a direct and immediate impact on the hormones that the body releases; hormones, which may help or harm.

Arms held tightly close to the body increases production of the stress hormone cortisol; whereas the arms held farther away (w/ the elbow's slightly bent and armpits open) causes production of testosterone, associated with greater fluid production and feelings of confidence. (1)

We don't need to know the science to feel these effects, however. We can feel them immediately by observing how we feel. Normally one makes us feel more hemmed in, while the other helps us feel lighter and allows us to breathe easier.

This is because (in this case) the second posture decompresses the nerves and blood vessels running through the armpits (which when blocked can create all kinds of issues such as the common "thoracic outlet").

This allows blood and oxygen to freely flow to the extremities and to return through them. We feel physically lighter and more at ease.

What my colleague and I unearthed (again):

When we are in alignment, the breath should sink naturally to the lower abdomen

(at least to the bottom of the lungs, which generally follow the bottom of the rib cage (higher in front, lower in the back).

If our mind is fixed on something, or we are stuck in a posture too long -

we may notice our breath is stuck.

This disconnect is often due to physical discomfort. When we are uncomfortable, we tend to project into the future and dissociate from our bodies instead of getting to the roots of what would give us a sense of ease.

To move into ease, we need to find different ways of engaging our experience. Obviously, if we are hungry, eat, and thirsty - drink. Socially out of touch, have a conversation, and / or share an experience with online community.

Sun deprived? Step outside!

Standing posture "returning to the mountain",

Rock Creek Beach, Mosier, Oregon

During the practice of tai chi, if we feel stuck or tense, this means we need to engage our bodies in new ways.

If our arms are in stationary position, such as the final posture of the form "Returning to mountain" - this means opening the fingers to spread circulation through the arms, pressing gently out through the elbows, gently back through the shoulder blades, and/or through the backs of the hands.

When we are tai chi walking, this means refocusing on the principles. . . . Steady head, gaze even with the horizon, moving smoothly like a river (and first and foremost the position of the feet, and the shifting of the weight).

When we are in alignment, the breath sinks naturally to the bottom of the lungs

We feel more relaxed, and more at ease


1) Amy Cuddy's Ted talk which shares her research on posture, feeling, and hormones: 2) To register or learn more about our twelve week course on the biomechanics of optimal circulation (principles from Tai Chi designed to teach habits that optimize circulation), please visit: There you can also register for the demo when you can meet us and see whether this right for you. The longer course meets regularly in the Columbia River Gorge, with online options available for those who cannot regularly attend in-person.

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