This first class introduces you to the practice of Zhàn Zhuāng (站桩, or “Standing Post”/“Standing Like a Tree”). This training method has immense health benefits as well as forming the foundational structure of your Tai Chi training. The Zhan Zhuang posture you will learn in today’s class forms the foundation of many of Yang Style Tai Chi’s most essential movements - practicing correctly will help you to build a martially sound body structure and help you to understand proper body alignment and awareness before introducing more dynamic Tai Chi practices into your training.
Beginners can start practicing Zhan Zhuang for a few minutes, gradually increasing this practice to upwards of an hour. During practice, focus your consciousness on your internal state and detecting subtle changes in the body. Some pain and discomfort in the beginning is normal; if you persist, you will see excellent recovery and health benefits. Continuing to practice can help recover internal organs and bone marrow, in turn relieving afflictions such as skin diseases and persistent ill health over a long period.
During the initial stages of training, you may experience the following:
People with depression and neurasthenia will often experience head pain, dizziness, inability to sleep, weakness of limbs of loss of appetite. How long this period lasts for depends on the severity of the illness, and can last anywhere from a few days to several months. However, once this stage is over, the practitioner will enjoy deep, restful sleep and a refreshed mental state.
People with rheumatism will often experience cold sweat and a coldness of breath early in their practice. Those with severe rheumatism should wear warm clothes when training Zhan Zhuang even in the hotter months of the year. It is also common that people affected by rheumatism will experience hot sweat on one half of the body and cold sweat on the other half. If you persist with this training however, your body will begin to feel hot all over during training without sweating; at this point, the rheumatism has already markedly improved.
Those with tinnitus and discomfort in the ears may experience toothache at this point; with careful practice, recovery can be achieved in less than 100 days.
People with knee joint pain and spinal issues will also often experience repeated pain at this stage. Once more, repeated practice over a long period of time will gradually relieve this pain.
Those with breathing issues will often experience chest and lung pain at this stage also along with gastrointestinal discomfort, excess gas and other symptoms.
Those with heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and lower limb arthritis will experience lower limb swelling, sometimes making it difficult to put on and take off shoes and socks. This is due to the obstruction of Qi and blood flow which gradually eases over time.
During this period, if you experience the above reactions, you should pay attention to correct practice and have confidence. Change will not come overnight; persisting with continued practice is important to avoid a further decline in health and future medical treatment. Ensure your thoughts are unburdened during training and slowly increase the time of your Zhan Zhuang practice according to your own situation.
Zhan Zhuang training helps to make stable legs in old age, increasing longevity and quality of life in a person’s later years. The legs are incredibly important in maintaining health during the ageing process, with the legs containing around half of a person’s bone mass, muscles, nerves and blood vessels along with being responsible for load-bearing capabilities. Ageing begins from the legs, so maintaining their health is crucial for ageing well. Zhan Zhuang is a non-impact exercise suitable for all ages, meaning it is a safe and harmless training method for all ages which carries a very low risk of sport injury.
Basic Standing Method:
Before practicing Zhan Zhuang, ensure you are wearing loose-fitting clothing and have gone to the toilet. You should also not practice in the time period one hour before or after meals.
Feet: Stand with your heels slightly wider than your shoulders and your toes at around the same width as your shoulders.
Head: The head should be straight, the collar should be raised and the chin should be slightly tucked. The mouth should be slightly closed, the tongue against the palate and the expression should be calm. Look straight at your hands, breathe naturally and relax.
Neck: The neck should be naturally upright, and the muscles should not be strained, stretched forward or tilted backwards.
Hands: The hands should naturally relax, as if they are holding a balloon in front of the chest. This beans that the arms are rounded and embrace the body into a semicircle. The hands should be no higher and the shoulders and no lower than the umbilicus.
Elbows: Keep the elbows heavy loose and naturally curved.
Shoulders: The should be be relaxed and naturally dropped and loose. Some people may sweat when practicing Zhan Zhuang for extended periods, and their hands may become cold. This is because their shoulders and elbows are not relaxed, and the movement of Qi is therefore blocked. To help overcome this, try shaking your shoulders and performing some rotation exercises before practicing to ensure they are relaxed.
Back: The back should be neutral and relaxed naturally, with the spine remaining straight.
Waist: Keep the waist loose and natural, without bowing backwards or forwards.
Hips: The hips should sink and converge without protruding either backwards or forwards.
Knees: The knees should be slightly bent, without allowing the knees to go beyond the toes.
Body: Keep the upper body straight and do not slouch. Keep your chest slightly concave, with the perineum lifting and the tailbone straight.
Whilst training, try maintaining this posture and relaxing the whole body. Let your mind relax and your body be in a natural state. In the beginning, your legs and shoulders may ache, however persevere and endure beyond this feeling. Keep in mind that standing too upright will damage the effectiveness of your practice; although it may feel a little uncomfortable, try to sit a little down into your stance. After you have gained some experience in this practice, you will start to feel your circulation and Qi movement in your body. Although the effect may not be obvious in the beginning, after 100 days of consistent practice, the benefits become clear. In summary - have confidence and perseverance when training Zhan Zhuang, and you will reap the benefits.