How to Do Tortoise Breathing Exercises

How to Do Tortoise Breathing Exercises

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The exercise mimics the breathing of the tortoise, a symbol of longevity.

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The tortoise breathing exercise comes from the Chinese meditative practice known as Qigong or chi kung, which combines breathing and exercise to achieve a higher state of awareness. Tortoise breathing, also known as kuei hsi or "swallowing the breath," aims to mimic the slow, deliberate breathing of the tortoise, which is a symbol of longevity in China. Using the tortoise breathing technique, with time and practice you should be able to comfortably slow down your breathing rate to three or four breaths per minute.


Begin by either sitting or lying down on your back. Take a long breath, inhaling slowly and deeply until you feel the air inside your neck.


Swallow your breath by taking the air in your neck and forcing it down, as if you were swallowing a piece of food.


Exhale deeply and slowly through your nostrils, not your mouth, immediately after swallowing. Repeat this inhale-swallow-exhale cycle seven times.


Swallow the saliva collected in your mouth following the seventh breath. Move your tongue around the inside of your mouth to collect it, and swallow several times.


  • With practice, you should eventually be able to extend these breathing cycles to 15 to 20 seconds apiece.


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