One of the great legacies of the ancient Taoist masters of China has
been the practices for regenerating the bone marrow through a series of
simple breathing exercises.
The practice of `bone breathing' developed in the context of the yogic
procedures for developing higher consciousness and opening the highest
human potential. They are considered a branch in the vast tree of Taoist
energy practices and have as a trunk the meditative practices for
calming the mind.
As the human body ages it is subject, like all energy processes, to the
laws of change and decay. This is especially true in the case of the
bones in our skeleton are the most dense and solid aspect of our body.
As solids they have a microstructure which is basically crystalline with
the property of absorbing and transmitting the energies radiated by the
Earth and the rest of the universe. The ancient Taoists understood the
human skeleton as an antenna channelling the necessary energies to
sustain life and at the same time serving as a communication medium for
broadcasting energy frequencies through the structure of meridians and
vital organs. The concept of the skeleton as a dynamic energy structure
forced the Taoists to develop ways to maintain the bones in optimum
shape and prevent the natural process of decay from taking place.
• When we are born our bones are dense and
heavy with red marrow. The high density of the bones is what accounts
for the heavy feeling of babies when they are held in the arms even when
not physically fat. As we age there is a progressive loss of bone mass,
due to improper diet and lack of physical exercise. The red marrow is
progressively replaced by a white marrow resembling fat. The reduction
of red marrow may be accompanied also by a progressive reduction in the
density of the actual bones, rendering them more porous and frail. At
this stage it is not unusual that an aged person fractures the bones
easily through a simple fall. Older people with frail bones feel very
light when lifted up in relation to their body size.
• The loss of bone mass, medically known as osteoporosis, affects
millions of people in the developed countries and in the last decades
has reached a great deal of attention through specialized studies trying
to find an effective remedy. One of the most common treatments involves
taking calcium supplements or hormone replacement therapy. The practice
of bone breathing is capable of arresting the loss of bone mass and with
continued practice begin to replace bone mass and red marrow through a
process the ancients called `bone marrow washing'. The main ingredient
of marrow washing is the breath, not the gross breath that enters our
nostrils but rather the subtle breath that penetrates through every pore
in the skin.
• The subtle breath is guided through the
bone marrow with the attention. For example one places the attention on
the tip of the index finger and slowly moves the attention up the length
of the bone, moving up to the wrist. This simple action activates a very
powerful law of energy work that states that any place in our bodies we
place our attention a flow of energy is generated in that direction. By
moving the attention from the tip of the index finger to the wrist over
and over again warmth, tingling, heaviness or subtle vibration of the
finger may be experienced. The warmth or heaviness that may follow is an
indication that the exercise is generating energy flow within the bone.
One of the basic tenets of Taoist medicine is that if there is good flow
there is health, and when energy flow is reduced illness appears. From
the finger the practice may be continued to the rest of the fingers and
gradually up the arms, up the legs and the rest of the skeleton.
• The practice of bone breathing was introduced into the Western
world by the Taoist teacher Mantak Chia back in 1983. One of the first
students was a middle aged woman residing in Los Angeles, California who
was losing bone mass in her spine at an alarming rate. She was under the
care of several specialists who had been unable to arrest the bone loss.
The predicted outcome of her illness would be an spinal collapse
threatening the nervous system and bringing paralysis or early death. As
soon as she heard about bone breathing she enrolled in a class and began
a daily routine of 3 hours of continuous exercise bringing subtle breath
to the bone marrow. Since the skeleton is considered an antenna the most
efficient way of practicing bone breathing is standing up in a special
posture that allows the complete skeleton to be aligned in the most
efficient way with the flow of universal energies.
Within six months of practice she not only arrested bone mass loss but
also began reversing the process and gained some 10% of the mass back.
The doctors who had been treating her were at a loss to explain the
reversal. Within three years of continued practice she began to
appreciably regain bone mass and at the end of five years had replaced
100% her bone mass without indications that there had ever been
This case is not an isolated one, since the 1980's similar cases have
been reported by practitioners in different countries in Europe and the
Americas. Bone breathing has been successfully used also for accelerated
healing of broken bones and torn ligaments. An important condition in
bone breathing practice is being able to feel the area being worked with
the attention. The ancient Taoists have left us the maxim that says that
`The practice of the Tao begins with feeling'. Without feeling the
practice may degenerate into being just a mental exercise unrelated to
• Bone breathing is not only for those
repairing bones, as mentioned earlier, the Taoists developed these
practices for opening the human potential to its maximum. One powerful
effect of bone breathing sessions is the ability to calm the mind and
arrest the current of internal talk which goes on constantly. It also
brings a profound sense of relaxation and openness that aids in
resolving muscular tension and stress. -From healing the bones the
Taoists went on to utilize bone breathing as a means of absorbing the
subtle energies of trees, rivers, sun, moon, and stars. For contemporary
people, bone breathing offers the possibility of maintaining healthy
bones regardless of age while at the same time delighting in the ocean
of calmness that it brings as a fruit of practice.
Bone Breathing Practice
comfortably and place the extended arms on your lap. The palms of the
hands are open and the fingers relaxed.
• Inhale gently through the nose in the direction of the abdomen
and then exhale deeply all the way from the abdomen. Do this several
times mentally letting go of tension with each exhale.
• Bring your attention to the tip of the index finger of the left
• The next time you take your normal breath, simply let you
attention run slowly from the tip to the base of the finger.
• As you exhale normally through the nose let the energy stay in
the finger and return your attention to the tip of the finger. Repeat
again the procedure with the next breath.
• As a sensation of heaviness or warmth develops in the left
index finger compare it with the right index finger where you have not
done any bone breathing yet. This will help develop the ability to feel
more deeply and identify the sensation bone breathing brings.
• As the left index finger becomes warmer or heavier continue the
same bone breathing procedure with the rest of the fingers of the left
hand, either one by one or all the same time.
• As the left hand becomes warmer and heavier compare with the
right hand where no practice has been done yet.
• When you decide to incorporate the right hand into the practice
simply reproduce the feeling in the left hand into the right or start
once again finger by finger.
• Once both hands are feeling heavy continue the same practice
but higher and higher in the arms until the same feeling is up to the
• For bone breathing through the feet it is best to remove the
shoes and any tight clothing and guide your awareness up the toes,
either singly or together up to the ankle.
• For breathing up the spine begin at the tip of the sacrum and
run your awareness up the spine higher and higher until you reach the
base of the neck and the same feeling of warmth and heaviness is
• As the practice progresses and the body relaxes, the gross
breath through the nose may become more and more subtle. Do not try to
force back to gross, rather let it stay subtle and calm. Continue to
guide your attention up the bones.
• Eventually it is possible to have the whole skeleton doing bone
breathing that is including the teeth.
• As practice develops try to breathe through the whole body at
once, like a sponge.
• If more specific knowledge of the bones is desired then it is
advisable to work with a anatomical chart of the skeleton to guide the
energy with more precision.