There are really only two things that connect us to the planet – food and air; we eat/drink, and we breathe. Most of the time we do both without much thought; they are functional so that we can get on with everything else we do.
Leaving the food/drink aspect out of it, what does breathing actually mean? We breathe in and out hundreds of times a day, but by altering our approach to this ‘activity’, we can use it to affect our over-all health. You can’t do this every time you breathe, but there are many times in the day when you can play around with the concept; this could be when walking, going to sleep, driving, sitting on public transport, a quiet moment, etc. Half the problem is remembering to do it.
Breathing is fundamental to ‘Song’.
You can’t relax if you don’t breathe, which is one of the reasons why breathing is encouraged during childbirth. We’re not talking about ‘functional’ breathing here, this is about mindful breathing, breathing when you are fully aware of the breath, and not trying to think about something else at the same time. This is breathing when you allow the oxygen to alter your cellular structure, when you open the cells to feed them, and when you organise your body in such a way as to get the most out of a single breath.
‘Song’ is connecting yourself to your origins; you could say that this is a state of meditation; you are of the world, but at the same time you aren’t active in it, you are allowing the world to come to you. You are resting in a conscious and fully aware state. You are listening to what the world has to say to you.
‘Song’ does not mean soggy muscles. Dr. Lam refers to this as ‘…consciously and gently stretch(ing) the muscles from within’. It is as though you are slightly expanding the pipelines through the body, particularly at the joints, but without using or creating any tension.
Peter Wayne, in “The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi”, refers to Song (he spells it Sung) as ‘active relaxation’:
“… Sung is variously translated as relaxed, loose, or open, or as a quality that permits the natural flow of energy. Sung is also described as a process related to sinking — not necessarily physically sinking, as in bending the knees or sitting into a deeper stance, but energetically sinking. The Chinese character or pictogram for Sung depicts hair contained in a tight bun letting go and hanging freely.”
And later, in order to experience Song, he suggests a metaphor of a jar of honey that has just been turned upside down:
“It takes a while for the viscous honey to ooze back down to the bottom. … In Tai Chi training, you learn to let things “relax” downward naturally. … To be able to flow down more freely, the Qi needs to dissolve first. Just as you would run the honey jar under hot water to turn the crystalized honey back into liquid, with Tai Chi, you use gentle movements, breathing, imagery, emotional and behavioral changes, self-massage, and other techniques to soften and free the Qi so it can more naturally settle, or experience Sung”.