When beginners first learn Taijiquan invariably there will be unconscious tension in the body that results in unnatural and uneven breathing. Unnatural breathing causes tension in the muscles of the chest (which in turn leads to the compression of the heart, lungs, diaphragm etc). In addition, uneven breathing makes the muscles in the body continue to tense, which affects the smooth transition of movements required in Taijiquan. Insufficient exchanges of the gases cause hypoxia, and the resulting lactic acid concentration in the muscles as well as the depletion of qi and blood lead to premature fatigue during practice.
Unregulated and uncoordinated breathing not only affects movement specifications, but also constancy and speed (rhythm and timing). People often ‘hold on’ to the breath to execute a series of movements which means it becomes necessary to ‘snatch’ the next breath that forces the movement speed to change unnaturally. It violates the taijiquan requirements of smooth natural breathing and flowing continuous sequence of movements.
Related to uneven breathing and holding the breath (allowing qi to be stuck in the chest) are for example, shrugging shoulders, stiff neck, protruding elbows and other phenomena that seriously violate the standard specifications of body structure and movements. All of these make it difficult to manifest limberness, smoothness and expansiveness. Relaxation and looseness and strict adherence to movement principles go hand in hand with even and coordinated breathing.
The basic requirement is that breath and movements are consistent, first inhale, then exhale, breathing in accord with a particular rhythm in each sequence of movements. A common problem for practitioners is incorrect timing of breath and movement. The breath is finished before the action is completed, or the action is not finished and the breath runs out. Because inhalation is not deep enough, exhalation is inadequate and as a result breath and action cannot be coordinated. A few actions in a row is enough to cause tense and rapid breathing, tightness in the chest, eventually leading to shortness of breath and exhaustion.
Pay attention to overcoming uncontrolled breathing when practising. Train mindfully to correct erratic breathing that does not conform or match up to the requirements of the movement.