This is the second of a series of three posts outlining some at-home Chinese medicine health practices that can keep you and your family healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first post was about applying moxa to a special immune-boosting acupuncture point that is great for overall strength and immunity. In this post, I’d like to focus on ways of opening the airways, expanding the lungs, increasing energy and calming the spirit through the qigong practice of tapping.
Tapping is a rhythmic percussive technique used to awaken energy in meridians and organ systems. Although one could do an entire routine of tapping along all the channels and areas of the body, this post will focus on respiratory and heart health. By tapping along the Lung channel, the lung organs and the chest, we can help invigorate qi circulation in the lungs, improve the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, relax muscles and tension, soothe the heart, and prevent the accumulation of pathological fluids that lead to cough and wheezing. The result is often an energized feeling, increased alertness, and a greater sense of calm.
This exercise can be a stand-alone practice, tacked onto a regular yoga or exercise routine or as a nice way to start or end a meditation session. It can be done any time of day but mornings, during mid-afternoon energy slumps or anytime you feel tired or anxious, are great times to take a break and tap!
The technique is quite simple and can be done standing, sitting or even lying down. As you tap, be sure to take slow, deep abdominal breaths. Combining tapping with deep diaphragmatic breaths helps to expand the lungs to its fullest capacity.
When we are stressed or anxious, we usually take very shallow breaths, utilizing only a very small portion of our upper lungs. If you notice yourself sighing a lot, this is a sign of shallow breathing. The body sighs as a way to force out the extra carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the lungs. Re-training your body to take deep diaphragmatic breaths and tapping to open your airways will not only bring in more oxygen and fully open your airways but can also serve to promote relaxation–so vital at this time.
- Gather your fingertips together to make a ‘bird beak’ shape.
- Locate the acupuncture point Zhong Fu, Central Palace, the first point along the Lung channel. This point is located in the depression between the shoulder and the pectoral muscles, 2 finger width below the collar bone. If you press into this depression it will be slightly tender to the touch. Zhong Fu is a very important point for all pulmonary conditions and general respiratory health. It is considered the “Front Mu” point of the lungs, a primary point related to the lung organ.
- Begin by gently tapping this point with the opposite side hand using the gathered tips of your fingers. As you get a better sense of the amount of pressure applied, you can increase the strength of the taps as well as play around with the tempo and rhythm. Stay here for a few minutes.
- Slowly start to tap along the bottom of the collar bone towards the sternum. Pause and tap wherever it feels good.
- Tap along the costal attachments to the sternum (or in laymen’s terms, where the ribs meet the breastbone), tapping up and down along these attachment points. Be careful not to tap on the bottom edge of the sternum at the xiphoid process. Ouch! You’ll know because it doesn’t feel good.
- Start tapping on the sternum itself. You’ll notice that some areas are not very sensitive while other areas are more tender to the touch. Focus on the sensitive areas.
- Tap on the center of the sternum at the level of nipples. This point is called Tan Zhong, or Chest Center. Tan Zhong is also a very powerful point to increase energy in the lungs and circulate qi in the chest. Stay here and tap for a few minutes.
- Repeat on the other side using the opposite hand.
- Another excellent area to tap is on the top of the shoulders between the spine and the rotator cuff. This is the common area many of us hold stress and is a great place to help release tension that may contribute to shallow, constrained breathing.
If you missed a previous post about how Chinese medicine understands the presentation of Covid-19 and some dietary, lifestyle and supplement recommendations, you can check it out here.
My next post will be about how to use guasha to open up the nasal passages, move lymph, and is great at tackling the first sign of any upper respiratory symptoms.