Zhan Zhuang is considered as part of the most fundamental Qi Gong exercises. It is most important for cultivating Qi.
Beginning Without Compromise
In the beginning when people are tense or have a lot of physical problems like pain in the back or shoulders they tend to lose discipline and encouragement to continue Zhan Zhuang practice. Real Zhan Zhuang practice goes without compromises and cannot be made much easier. Before people can truly relax they learn to accept and feel the fire burning up in their tendons and muscles, simply because they are too tense or have many blockades inside their body. It is not common in our western culture to endure this much when the interest lies in “relaxing” qigong. The westernized overall picture about Qi Gong is at fault here. The most basic Zhan Zhuang posture is simply standing straight in Qi Gong posture and keep the arms in circular shape in front of you at chest height. Fingers, hands and arms form an “invisible ball”. The elbows fall naturally down without losing shape.
Relax but don’t lose posture
The biggest mistake often is to stand like a rock. Beginners tend to be very rigid which makes it a lot harder to relax and prevents them from feeling anything. It is true that you do not move, especially the spine should not be moving at all times. Yet vibrations are natural and since Qi connects in form of “vibrations” it is not good to suppress any of it. Think about the bamboo in the wind, yet the trunk (spine) is not moving nor bending. Create a place of total silence and calmness inside yourself, you might feel your heartbeat and several other impulses inside your body and mind.
Buddhist and Taoist Zhan Zhuang are not the same
Buddhists tend to practice for a more spiritual goal. About not doing or not wanting, suppressing needs and shutting out everything else. Zhan Zhuang may be more seen as a sanctuary.
Taoist practice is to understand your problems and work on them. There is no “third eye” or any holy focus. Taoists focus on the inside and functions of the body and mind. Instead of shutting all out Taoists feel, select and order their toughs and Qi. Emotional states influence the healing effect and is sometimes used for more specific healing. The balance between emotion, toughs and physical relaxation is very important. Do not occupy yourself with anything, let things come and go.
- Zhan Zhuang is your place and nothing else should be able to disturb it.
- Must remain calm and not moving.
- Don’t stand solid, stand relaxed but don’t lose posture.
- Keep the arms in circular shape at chest height and relax your elbows.
- Especially never move or bend your head or spine.
- Relax the tongue so the tip naturally rolls slightly up.
- Eyes are almost closed but not completely, you should be able to see your own eyelids to prevent sleeping.
- Do not interrupt by swallowing or coughing – take it as challenge.
- Zhan Zhuang should be practiced effectively at least over 15 minutes, longer is recommend. This is the minimum time for any effect to “kick in”.
This is what happens
Basic Zhan Zhuang exercise promotes the blood and Qi circulation. You will feel heat maybe more or less, the effect is depending a lot on your general condition. Blockades or tense muscles will heat up more or even “burn” while some areas may stay cold, this indicates disturbances inside your Qi circulation. If continued Zhan Zhuang exercise does not help you should go to a proper Zhan Zhuang master, which unfortunately are very rare to find. Stretching is also important to free you from blockades faster.
Zhan Zhuang also has a “refreshing” nervous effect by calming the brain. This can only be achieved if the head or spine did not move for at least 15 minutes. Research confirmed that this is very important for concentration and stress relief.
Final “Cooling” or “Sealing”
There are many methods about this. The most simple one is to place both hands relaxed on your Dantian (2 fingers below navel). Men right hand first and left hand on top. Women do the opposite. Both hands should always “connect” to the Dantian. The heat in your hands and body should go back inside, you will experience a “cooling” effect if you did the Zhan Zhuang exercise correctly before. Directing the Qi back to the center in order to save it.
If you ever happen to be in Austria feel free to take Zhan Zhuang classes in my school!