MIND BODY BREATH
SUNDO’S EFFECT ON RESPIRATORY HEALTH & LONGEVITY
What if you could adopt a practice that enhances the effectiveness of your breathing and supercharges your immune system? What if this practice could improve your chances of fighting COVID-19 — the devastating respiratory virus which has spread to all parts of the globe?
SunDo is a meditation and breathwork discipline that not only helps lower blood pressure and activate the body’s relaxation response, it also creates a more flexible diaphragm, increases lung capacity, and greatly enhances oxygen intake. And over time, the practice can bring about a transformation of the mind. Many people find that SunDo practice gives them a better ability to focus and a more subtle understanding of themselves and the world.
Applied correctly, SunDo is one of the most powerful ways to optimize the body and mind through breathing. Most of the time our respiratory system works automatically so we don’t have to think about it — SunDo gives us the ability to deepen our breathing during practice and also in daily life.
By not investing enough attention in our breath, it can become restricted – and if we are not aware of it, can get progressively worse with age. While a respiratory illness like COVID-19 is running rampant, it's a very dangerous time to overlook the practice of breathing well. Thanks to the ingenuity of human engineering, we have the automatic part covered. Now the time has come to investigate the power of actively managing and strengthening our breath.
It shouldn’t take a worldwide pandemic to get us to slow down and contemplate the way we breathe, but for better or worse, we are now faced with the realization that respiratory health will determine whether we may live or die from an acute illness.
Shortness of breath and COVID-19: Dyspnea or Tachypea?
Doctors up to this point have had difficulty clearly diagnosing COVID-19 in its early stages as so many of its initial symptoms are shared with other illnesses like seasonal influenza, but one particular symptom is a dead giveaway — dyspnea, or what we commonly call “shortness of breath.” In later stages of illness as the lungs begin to fill with fluid, another symptom sets in: Tachypnea is very fast, shallow breathing where the patient seems to be breathing only within the throat.
In the beginning, one of the first things SunDo practitioners are instructed to do, is to move away from the shallow, choppy breathing many of us absentmindedly slip into, and practice deeper, slower diaphragmatic breathing. Author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art James Nestor likens shallow breaths to rowing a boat with short, stilted strokes as opposed to longer, more fluid ones. Both methods may get us to our destination, but one seems to work far better.
“You want to make it very easy for your body to get air, especially if this is an act that we're doing 25,000 times a day,” says Nestor. “By just extending those inhales and exhales, by moving that diaphragm up and down a little more, you can have a profound effect on your blood pressure, on your mental state.”
And our unconscious reliance on shorter, inefficient breaths doesn’t just keep us from experiencing true wellbeing, it makes the reality of a virus that causes shortness of breath that much more dangerous. Individuals prone to anxious shallow breathing may exacerbate the severity of their cases and add to the complexity of an accurate diagnosis, should they contract the virus. Medpage Today explains the dangers of COVID-19 compounded by anxiety in greater detail in the linked article.
A practice like SunDo validates an important principle: We cannot wait until our breathing becomes compromised and burdened with illness to learn how to breathe at our ideal capacity. We need to be proactive in our approach to give ourselves the critical tools needed to withstand a dangerous pandemic like COVID-19.
No Better Time than the Present
Each practice level of SunDo is designed to move the practitioner safely and slowly from a beginner’s breathing rate to a style of deep breathwork that is profoundly calming and enriched with oxygen. It’s almost hard to believe a human being could breathe this way.
At more advanced levels, practitioners experience a way of full body breathing that could also be described as energy breathing - where every cell in the body is being fueled with oxygen and Qi — the vital life force that exists inside each person.
By embracing many dimensions of health and wellness, SunDo offers you a gateway to optimal breathing unlike in any other practice. In times of a pandemic that disproportionately affects the elderly, it is especially important for us to start young, develop a regular practice routine, and maintain robust health and respiratory function into advanced age.
Choose to attend our open studio sessions where you can try a sample class and learn more about starting SunDo practice. One World's Open Studio on September 27 offers three morning class options which are followed by green tea tastings - a great way to boost your immune system for better health!
Why is focused breathwork with meditation necessary for beginners?
We know that authentic Taoist practices, like SunDo, stress the importance of focusing the mind on the breath, but what do other mainstream meditation practices advocate? The answer is quite similar.
In Hatha Yoga, chants and mantras are regularly used in yoga classes that closely mirror the breath focus in Taoist disciplines. “Think of a mantra as a mental instrument that fine-tunes your yoga practice,” says Yelena Moroz Alpert of Yoga Journal in a recent article.
In the same blog, Zoë Slatoff-Ponté, author of Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga, says “Incorporating mantras into practice can help to make it sacred and take it out of the realm of the physical and into a higher state of awareness.” This is a direct parallel to the power of breath to unlock higher states of mind and allow us to connect mind and breath in a way we wouldn't normally do during everyday life.
Furthermore, in Tibetan meditation, chimes and gongs are used to channel a similar state of deep concentration and self-awareness.
And even moving outside of the traditional realm, Grokker, a popular yoga, fitness, and health video network, offers a visualization-focused form guided meditation for beginners and casual users.
Across the board, we see that effective meditation is focused meditation. For most people, it is simply too difficult to make consistent progress within a meditation routine if there is no clear direction or focus. In SunDo, while our end goal may be a fuller spacious breath, most of the time, this deeper breathing comes with practice. There’s no shame in using a focused meditation to get there, and yogic traditions across the ages agree.
The mind-altering power of SunDo’s focused breathwork meditation
When we want to relax, we often switch on gentle rhythmic sounds that create a soothing, hypnotic effect. The ocean tide, the pitter-pattering of rain, or perhaps the sounds of a clear summer night teaming with life — these repetitive landscapes of sound take us out of our ordinary frames of mind and bring us to relaxed, trance-like states.
SunDo’s rhythmic breathwork taps into a similar psychological and physiological response. Over the course of each SunDo practice session, students devote 40 minutes to focused, rhythmic breathing aided by auditory cues and visualization techniques. These additional focus tools, together with SunDo’s rhythmic breathing, help practitioners remove themselves from the distracted, unsettled states of mind present in their daily lives, and bring them deeper into focused, relaxed self-awareness.
40 minutes may sound like a lot, but the value of this time becomes very clear when we consider the benefit we reap from extended breathwork sessions. Both meditation and breathwork change how our brains function on a physiological level. Rather than remaining in the Beta state we find ourselves in during most of our waking hours — a state associated with the thinking mind, SunDo’s focused meditation brings users to a very different brainwave state — the Theta state.
Theta wires the body for:
These powerful meditation benefits are the result of dedicated practice.
Yin Yoga and meditation instructor Josh Summers speaks to the values of a more open-ended approach to meditation on his personal website, citing the relaxation benefits of an unfocused style. Allowing one’s mind to wander and freely exploring our own inner world can, no doubt, be very relaxing. Unfocused meditation may vary wildly in its effectiveness from person to person but it is a tenuous first step in the right direction. Eventually, SunDo’s focused breathing, is a proven and more advanced system for optimal meditation with a rich history of success spanning thousands of years.
We’ve fallen out of rhythm — SunDo helps us get it back
The sedentary life of hustling to and from the office, shifting sleep schedules, and an ever-decreasing amount of physical activity have caused numerous health problems for the average adult. Many of us have fallen out of habit with how our bodies are meant to optimally function, and rough, inconsistent breathing is often one of the biggest culprits.
Every one of our organs and bodily systems rely on consistent, even rhythm of breath day in and day out. This is in our nature, and as we lose awareness of it, our energy levels, mood, and overall health suffer.
SunDo’s rhythmic breath meditation directly addresses these problems by synchronizing our breathing rhythm with our bodily systems. To understand how, let’s look at a similar breathing technique of the modern day called “coherent breathing.”
Coherent breathing uses a rhythm of 5 breath cycles per minute (cpm) — a rate just slightly slower than that of SunDo. Breathing frequencies of 4-6 breath cpm trigger dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system. There is wide consensus within the medical community that PSN dominance is indicative of sound health in individuals. Depending on how we breathe, either branch of the nervous system may be activated.
Shallow chest breathing turns on the “fight-or-flight” sympathetic system, while slow deep breathing engages the restorative parasympathetic.
A rate of 5 breath cycles per minute results in something called the Fundamental Quiescent Rhythm where both sympathetic a parasympathetic systems are optimally balanced. When both systems attain this synchronization, the many functions controlled by the ANS and PNS also become balanced.
Many coherent breathing advocates say that as the electrical rhythms of the lungs (respiratory), heart (cardiovascular) and brain (nervous) become synchronized, heart-rate variability (HRV) greatly improves. HRV is a measure of stress resilience, or lower internalized stress on the cardiovascular system.
SunDo’s breath meditation not only calms the mind, it also resets the body’s internal function and finetunes it for optimal health going forward.
Nearly 21 million Americans struggle with addiction, and as of 2017, only a mere 10 percent of those affected receive any kind of treatment. Those that do, have traditionally received cognitive-based or talk therapies that do not address the underlying effects of trauma’s imprint on the body. The practice of body-centered therapy teaches clients that all emotions and thoughts have a physical connection. Grounding themselves through the experience of the body, clients are able to reclaim their bodies as safe places, which allows new insights to develop.
Recently, a unique rehabilitation center has been changing the script on addiction treatment using the ancient practice of SunDo — and they’re producing real results with it. SunDo, a Taoist practice consisting of yoga-like posture sets, breathwork, and meditation, is helping people struggling with addiction in a wonderful and profound way.
Read the full blog >>
The sound of a mantra can lift a person to higher levels of self-understanding. It can bring transformation while imbuing power and strength.
Mantras are repetitive and rhythmic phrases that reach deep into the core of the unconscious mind to bring wholeness to the mind, body, and spirit. We can chant mantras out loud, practice them silently in our minds, and listen to them as part of yoga or meditation practices.
SunDo is an ancient Korean Taoist breath meditation practice that enables practitioners to accumulate Qi in the lower tancheon (lower-abdominal energy center) similar to other types of Taoist practices such as Qigong or Tai Chi. Once enough Qi has been stored in this lower center, a person’s body and mind become saturated with vital energy, which brings optimal health and increased power that can be used for augmenting any area of one’s life.
An audio recording guides the SunDo practice. The recording is a SunDo Master’s voice continually repeating the 16 words above. The mantra’s purpose is to focus attention and evenly synchronize the heartbeat with one’s inhale and exhale.
Additionally, these words help to create the “right heart” for guiding oneself on the path toward enlightenment. Here is the mantra in an ancient Korean-Chinese language and then English translation:
Heart-Breath Harmony Song for SunDo Breath Meditation
Jung Gak Do Won
Che Ji Che Nung
Bool Do Il Hwa
Goo Hwal Chang Sang
Awakened in the foundation of truth,
I gain wisdom and power.
When the universe and I are one,
I will save all living beings.
The idea of “life force” has fascinated human beings from the earliest days of prehistory to the modern age. We know it’s something important — it’s what allows us to be alive as a part of the natural world. We know countless intellectuals and nearly all world religions have explored the mysterious concept — but what is it, exactly?
The insights of Korea’s ancient SunDo Taoist lineage teach the life force concept of Jung, Qi, and Shin. Learn more about how these energy centers bring benefits such as optimal health, powerful breathing and much more...
The breath of life
The connection between breath and life force runs deep in spiritual and even scientific thought. We can see this in the linguistic roots of the word “inspiration,” which contains the root for the Latin verb spirare, which means to breath. Accordingly, inspiration, the experience that creates an uplifting, life-giving feeling, is something we “breathe in” from the world around us. This sacred feeling drives us to action, most often creative acts of expression, but sometimes religious as well.
Spiritual historian Stefan Stenudd theorizes that many beliefs in life force may have been attempts to explain the necessity for living creatures to breathe and absorb a vital invisible substance in the air. Nearly all cultures have had names for this unseen conduit to life force — prana in Hinduism, ruach in Jewish mysticism, spiritus in Roman antiquity, pneuma in Ancient Greek philosophy, and qi in Eastern thought, as we’ll discuss shortly.
The concept of life force in SunDo
The multi-dimensional nature of living beings is a common thread between Eastern and Western ideas of life force. In the New Testament Paul described the human being as consisting of three parts: spirit, body, and soul. Thousands of years before Paul was even a name anyone spoke, the ancient practice of Kouksundo (referred to in the modern world as SunDo) was created to harness life force through the development of the body (jung), mind (qi), and spirit (shin).
Through the ancient and timed-honored practice of SunDo one was able to preserve his or her own health, promote longevity, and unlock the highest potential in oneself.
The life force concept in SunDo is called Jung Qi Shin Samdanjeon. In this theory, the energy of the human body is Jung, the energy of the mental alertness and concentration is Qi, and the divine spirit and character of living things is Shin. The health of each of these elements are deeply interconnected and all need to be developed to create the most pure life force.
BECOMING ONE IN TAOISM WITH SUNDO'S THIRD PRACTICE LEVEL
We cannot truly be generous to others if we do not take time to tend to ourselves. We cannot have meaningful activity without periods of rest. We cannot understand true strength without allowing ourselves to be a little vulnerable. And many of the victories we’ve enjoyed could not have been achieved without the failures that shaped us along the way. This belief in necessary opposites is captured by the familiar Yin and Yang symbol.
SunDo, an ancient Taoist art native to Korea, contains the necessary tools in its third level of practice to unite dualisms and cultivate wholeness on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Taoist scholar Ron Catabia says of the third level postures with rhythmic breathing, “All stages of SunDo practice engage yin and yang ki [or qi in Korean]. However, the stage called Keon Gon Dan Boup, is primarily directed at developing and harmonizing yin and yang energy in the human body.”
This harmonization gently removes the boundaries between mind, body, and spirit and provides a path towards human wholeness and oneness with the universe.
Harmonizing the Individual with the Whole
Human beings aren’t the only things that have yin and yang energies — all things and all aspects of the natural world have their own unique energy configurations. Times of day, the seasons, hot and cold — these are all common environmental conditions that can have significant impacts on how we’re feeling.
Some of us just aren’t morning people; some of us have difficulty staying alert as the day progresses, and many of us find falling asleep to be a great challenge. Some of us are always hot or cold, and we can often feel depressed or more energetic at certain times of year.
These are ways that our internal conditions can be out of sync with the yin and yang energies of the world around us. SunDo’s third level postures allow us to adjust the energy balance between our bodies and the outside world, cultivating greater adaptability in any life situations we encounter.
Enriching the Spirit
Yin and Yang is also thought of as the divine balance between earth (Gon) and heaven (Keon), and this is reflected in the 22 postures that comprise SunDo’s third level practice. The complete set, based on the formation principle of the universe, includes 10 celestial stems, associated with yang energy and upward movement, and 12 terrestrial branches, associated with yin energy and downward movement.
For us to achieve our full potential as natural beings rooted in this universe, we need to open ourselves to the energies that both ground us in this world and pull us toward the divine. The celestial stem and terrestrial branch postures give practitioners an opportunity to reconnect on deep level with this important balance of spirit that influences all of our actions.
SunDo’s third level postures hold the power to soften barriers by starting with the sources of conflict (ourselves) and changing us through complete mental, physical, and spiritual transformations.
San Shin, Shinseon, and SunDo Taoist Masters
Mountains have always inspired an eye-widening sense of wonder in us. They represent a stairway to the divine on earth — a holiness and natural sanctuary that has captivated human beings since our earliest ancestors shared the world with these monumental marvels.
Mountains are also that rare refuge where we can deeply explore the mind, body, and soul — free of the common distractions that so often lead us away from our personal growth and well-being.
This view is deeply embedded in the spiritual identity of Koreans, and San-Shin, or Korean mountain deities, are reflective of this cultural tradition. The San Shin are benevolent spirits associated with the mountain peaks of the Korean countryside and are ubiquitous in Korean art, culture, and folklore.
The Korean people have an instinctive respect and admiration for the power and artistry of nature...
This is seen in the popular depictions of the San-Shin, and the related Shinseon, or “Eight Immortals” in both Chinese and Korean spirituality. The Shinseon were legendary figures who achieved immortality through communion with nature and mastery of Taoist breathing arts, like SunDo.
The immortals are believed to bring health, enlightenment, and longevity to humankind.
One might think of the elite Sundo Masters, like the internationally renowned Hyunmoon Kim, as people who have embraced the power of nature and enlightenment, allowing them to reach a higher state of being. And in these sacred mountains, the Taoist SunDo Masters spent most of their lives honing Qi through breath and energy meditation and living in oneness with nature.
This is also why SunDo has remained shrouded in mystery since the 1100s as an exclusive mountain hermit practice. It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that one of the masters, Chung San, brought the practice down from the mountains and opened the first SunDo school for the public in Seoul, Korea.
Since then, many thousands of people have now become regular practitioners, having experienced first-hand the benefits that SunDo practice brings to one's long-term physical health and emotional well-being. With its rhythmic sounding music and breath synchronization, SunDo provides a way to calm the mind during meditation. And, in the same practice, energize the body through Taoist yogic-like postures and conditioning exercise. Promoting self-healing and empowerment world-wide, SunDo provides a way for us all to live with more compassion, balance, joy and purpose.
Recently, for the first time in print, SunDo Master Ron Catabia has published an account of the life of a true Taoist Master, Chung San, or Blue Mountain, one of the masters responsible for bring SunDo from the mountains to the city in 1967. Read about the training and teachings of this legendary figure in the Journal of Daoist Studies, February 2019.
To purchase the journal online:
Cost: $25 Journal, $15 PDF
Learn more about SunDo practice or attend an introductory workshop at One World Wellness >>
Did you know that one of the ancient names of SunDo was “Way of Receiving Bark,” or “Way of Receiving Sun Energy” (BarkDolBup). Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that a discipline called ‘SunDo’ would have a history so closely tied to the powerful star that makes everything around us possible!
The earliest roots of SunDo date back to the end of the last ice in the late Paleolithic Period when a traveling people found themselves instinctively drawn toward the East, the direction the sun rises from each morning.
Amidst very harsh conditions, the sun offered nurturing warmth and energy. These nomads created a practice to derive the most benefit from the sun, by humbly facing it early each morning and shifting positions to expose each part of their bodies to its life-giving energy. This ancient form of posturing before the sun became what we now know as the 33 postures sets in SunDo Taoist yoga practice.
The ancestors thought of the “heavens” (the sky, sun, moon, and stars) as a sacred force present and alive in all living things. Their desire to get closer to the heavens eventually drew many SunDo practitioners to the mountains and inspired the distinctive breath focus of the discipline.
Taoists believed air was the connecting force between people and the heavens and that by honing one’s breathing, it was possible to unlock hidden potential and achieve greater oneness with the divine. And hence, these deep breathing benefits combined with the restorative power of sun energy made for a legendary practice.
SunDo still incorporates elements of its early sun revence into its modern practice. On a symbolic level, teachers today pay tribute to the masters of the art and the sun’s important role in the practice by placing their photos (normally of Taoist hermit masters like Grandmaster Chung-San and Master Kim) on the Eastern walls of their practice spaces.
Modern SunDo studios and classes continue to bring the restorative benefits of sunlight into each student’s morning practice regimen. Students complete their warm-ups facing the rising sun to the East. Then, to begin their postures, students face the West as the sun rises higher in the sky. By turning their backs to the sun, practitioners are able to absorb sunlight as yang energy onto their back sides, which are the yin sides of the body. During SunDo retreats, many morning class offerings also begin in the early hours between 4 and 6 am as sunlight gently grows stronger. This allows practitioners to receive the sun’s rising energy as the body’s energy is also rising upon waking after sleep.
Learn more or try SunDo, a powerful practice of postures, meditation and breathwork to bring alignment between you and the energy of Earth's greatest star!
Finding the “qi” to your wellbeing
Most of us come into the world healthy, with our bodies thriving in a state of balance with the world around us. But as we get older strange things begin to happen — we develop chronic pains, physical and emotional illnesses, and a laundry list of conditions that limit our wellbeing.
It’s common wisdom that to solve a problem in a meaningful way, we need to address the root causes, and not merely the outward symptoms. It’s very curious then that Westernized yoga “therapies” seem to only address symptoms and seek to merely reduce pain. This isn’t health in the true sense, and these aren’t lasting solutions.
Taoist philosophy has seen through these deceptions since the earliest days of recorded history, and developed many disciplines to overcome our barriers to wellbeing. These arts include Taoist practices like SunDo, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi. These arts all have one thing in common: an understanding that energy (qi/chi/ki) and the body’s ability to circulate it are decisive factors in not only maintaining a state of health, but feeling great and enjoying life to the fullest.
Channeling your qi into practice
Taoist practices direct their breath and focus inwardly on the qi energy system. If the mind is not able to focus on and ultimately direct Qi at will, one's practice is considered to be just an empty shell. Outwardly, it may look great. But inwardly, there is no true connection between the breath, energy within the body and the mind.
Meridians, or the body’s energy pathways, are another important aspect of the qi system. In order to feel not only free of discomfort, but in a true state of balance and wellness, our bodies need to regularly and efficiently send qi energy through the meridians — this is one of the major goals of Taoist arts like SunDo. For example, in a typical SunDo routine, a practitioner will work through three stages of activity that ultimately result in a balanced qi distribution within the body.
Being healthy is being whole
We see the seeds of Eastern wisdom buried deep in the language of the Western World. The word “health” comes from the Old English hælþ, which means “wholeness” or “being whole,” and from the Proto-Germanic “hailitho,” also meaning “whole” or “uninjured.” We begin in a state of wholeness. Things are in their truest, most pure form when they are whole, just as living creatures are in their most natural states when they are healthy.
While energy cultivation routines are effective in managing numerous medical issues, their greatest objective is to keep us whole — to give us the ability to enjoy the highest of quality of life. And to that end we say, why wait until you have an ailment to reap the benefits of these transformative tools? Start up an energy balancing discipline now and begin getting the best out of your life.
Learn more about SunDo and our uniquely powerful method of self-energy cultivation.
Finding light through the darkness
Which parts of our psyche usually get buried? The things we don’t want to think about!
Some thoughts wander in the depths of our minds, like lost children, waiting for us to guide them back home to become united aspects of our full selves. Until we do this, they whine and pull at our sleeves making it hard for us to focus or relax. We feel unsatisfied and incomplete.
We often want to confront our problems, but many of them may be too frightening or threatening to us, pressing against the boundaries of our comfort zones.
By openly acknowledging these hidden sides of ourselves and reconciling them with our conscious thought, we break from the tunnel vision of everyday life, balance our minds, and open ourselves to more productive and flexible thinking.
By seeing the big picture in life, we can take in the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the darkest depths of a murky swamp — both at the same time, as integral parts of our world. Our minds reflect an inner equilibrium where opposites unite in balance. We’re not as distracted and can now focus on the more important and rewarding aspects of life.
“Your vision will become clear
only when you look into your heart…
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
~ Carl Jung, Depth Psychologist
Unlocking the power of balance
From Jung’s desire to unite the wisdom of Eastern and Western thought, as well as the conflicting pieces of the mind, we see a common theme of balance that’s perfectly captured in a Taoist symbol we know all too well — the ubiquitous yin and yang.
Dark and light, surface and interior, mind and body, self and others — the famous, but glossed-over symbol gets us to the root of Taoism and the power its practices have to help us live better, more meaningful lives: the interplay of yin and yang emphasizes our need to reclaim balance and live at peace with ourselves and the world.
And Taoist practice is one of the most effective ways to find this powerful sense of harmony.
The change you’ll see from SunDo Taoist Practice
SunDo meditation and breathwork is directly connected to this theme of balance. Its exercises awaken old memories of stress, denial or trauma stored within the body or mind. The awakening process occurs slowly, over time, and only when we feel confident and resilient enough in our practice to experience change.
Through deep breathing, SunDogently brings these repressed parts of our subconsciousness into conscious awareness, uniting them to create greater physical and mental well-being.
A shift in temperament takes place as practitioners gain the benefits of SunDo breathing meditation and the Taoist principle of oneness. They establish an essential foundation for on-going practice in their individual journeys toward personal well-being and wholeness.
As we better ourselves through meditation, not only will we see a change in each other, we may also see more peace, balance and integrity in our world. In SunDo, we strive to connect our breath to a greater sense of self. We invite you to do the same.
Whether you simply begin paying attention to your breathing or become immersed in a daily deep breathing routine, SunDo can help you find a way to create more balance and harmony in your life.