The Qigong Corner - 2: Qigong Walking

By John Voigt


Boston Common 2011. Source: author.

Introduction.

It is common knowledge in the west that walking is an excellent
exercise that promotes general fitness. When walking is practiced as a qigong it
becomes even more effective. For Chinese people throughout the world it is the
most commonly practiced qigong used to promote health and well-being.
Walking becomes a qigong when: The person is fully aware of 1. The gravity of the
earth grounding and supporting them. 2. The air they are breathing deeply and fully
into their lower abdomen (the simplest definition of qigong is “breath work”). 3.
The beauty of nature around them—the trees, flowers, sunrise, other walkers, etc.,
as well as the universal nature above them (sky, clouds, sun, the stars, planets,
galaxies, heaven)—and that they are an integral and living moving part of all of this.
Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.
Thich Nhat Hanh.

Qigong Gymnastic Walking.

There are many styles of walking qigong. What follows was synthesized
from various instructions from my teachers, observations
in parks in Chinatowns in the United States and Canada, and from the
sources listed below. A bibliography is attached for further study.

The Simple Walk. Stand straight. Relax your body and mind. Have your shoulders
loose, and your chin slightly tucked it. Breathe comfortably, slowly, and fully
through the nose into the lower abdomen. Now begin walking calmly, and allow
your arms to loosely and gently sway from side to side. When the left foot moves
forward the right arm sways forward and slightly to the left; when the right foot
moves forward the left arm sways forward and slightly to the right. Increase your
awareness of your surroundings, your gentle but full breathing, and the way the qi-
life energy is feeling inside your body. Walking in this way moves health bringing
energy (qi) throughout the vessels and channels (meridians) and organs of the body.
Increasing The Amount of Qi-Vital Energy. Mind thinking nothing. Body relaxed
and tranquil. Inhaling more oxygen than exhaling. (Sheng Keng Yun).

Now intensify your walking this way: have your right hand make a waving motion
up as you quickly breathe in twice. Then as you exhale once the left foot steps out.
Immediately reverse this with the left hand making a waving motion up as you
breathe in twice. Then as you exhale once the right foot steps out. Do this
approximately for five to fifteen minutes. If it feels really good and natural you may
do it for a longer period of time. If something feels wrong or not right then stop
doing it and consult a qigong teacher well versed in such things, or if necessary a
doctor or physical therapist.

Video of Qigong Gymnastic Walking


Carolyn Wilkins - Reiki master, spiritualist medium, tai chi and qigong
practitioner demonstrating
Qigong walking gymnastics.

Walking Meditation.

Walk very slowly, and optionally and if safe to do, with bare feet on clean
naked earth. When stepping out lift the heel first. When stepping down
the toes touch the earth first. Clear the mind of all verbal thinking about what
happened in the past and may happen in the future and be totally mindful in the
present. For a beginner, walk in this manner for ten minutes up to a half an hour at a
time.

If you can’t keep your mind quiet as you walk, then count numbers related to the
rhythm of your breathing patterns, or repeat a single word (e.g., “Peace”).
The walking becomes more spiritual or religious when you add a silently said
spiritual affirmation such as, I feel more youthful, healthy, and beautiful [or
handsome] with each step I take. Or a short religious prayer; e.g., Heal me, O Lord,
and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise. – [Jeremiah
17:14]. For believing Christians, silently chanting the name Jesus contains enormous
power. From a Daoist perspective, by observing your oneness with the movements
of interacting yin and yang energetic elements around you as you walk, you may be
brought to a place that offers the quietude of a deep seated mediation. This qi-
energy harmonizing is said to extend all the way to the stars, planets, and galaxies of
the universe to the divine forces in heaven.

A more simple practice as you walk is to repeat to yourself the word Dao; which may
be understood as “The Way” – (as in the path, the proper direction, for spiritual
progress).


Buddha’s Footprint. A symbolic representation of the presence of Gautama Buddha.

Practical advice.

  • When you step don't mindlessly drop the foot down, instead feel as if you are
    gliding above the earth. One of my qigong masters over the years never needed to
    have his leather shoes resoled.
  • Use a walking cane if needed. Excessive pressure should never be placed on any of
    the body’s joints or bones in walking qigong. Correctly done walking is one of the
    few exercises that will strengthen the joints and aid in preventing arthritis.
  • Most qigong exercises are best done at the break of dawn, in good weather among
    the civilized nature of a large well cared for and secure park.
  • Qigong walking is best done in groups. But within such groups the Chinese people
    seldom talk to each other in order to maintain a concentrated focus on what they
    are doing. It is after the walking that they usually gather in a tea house and socialize
    with lots of talk, and laughter. Opposite the Boston Common I would gather with
    one such group at a McDonald’s. They didn’t speak that much English and my
    Cantonese was worse, but there was plenty of fun and good feelings and smuggled
    home baked Chinese cookies hidden in purses to go along with the plastic cups of
    coffee and hot water for tea.
  • Knowledgeable Chinese do the walking in circles, usually—but not always—in
    some sort of counter-clockwise way (the left side pointed in to the center of the
    circle). In Chinese communities in the morning you will see this done around small
    ponds, large fountains, or even a tree. From a Southern Daoist lineage that I was
    taught in, this is best done with the people singularly filing after each other in a line
    that curves around in a circle. This is intended to bring peace to the walkers and to
    the world at large.

Disclaimer.

This article is not presented not as a cure for any illness but as a
possible way to help to gain well-being. If any this or any other qigong, or exercise
or activity, hurts or causes discomfort stop doing it and see a medical professional.

Author’s Note.

In this short article I wanted to introduce Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer
Walking Qigong, but time and space ran out on me. So I plan to write that for next
month’s issue of Chinese Medicine Living. But for now the interested reader could
reference these sites:

Walking Exercise - Persatuan GuoLin QiGong Malaysia
and Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer Fixed Foot Walking Qigong, by Jim Russo.


Boston Common 2011. Source: author.

Sources & Further Resources.


The Qigong Corner - 1: The Basics

By John Voigt

Qi.

A general meaning of this word is “life energy,” and the meaning of Gong relates
to “work,” “cultivation,” and “accomplishment.” Qi is pronounced chee with a fast
descending soft (close to she ) sound. In Cantonese, a language often spoken by
more older people from southern China, it sounds like “hay,” so we have hay gong.
The older English spelling is “chi kung.”

Feel the Qi.

Qi manifests in many ways, one is the flow of bio-electricity in our body.
It is relatively easy to physically experience this by doing the following exercise: Rub
your hands together, then stretch and wiggle your fingers. Tap your fingertips
together, and tap them on each palm. Wiggle your fingers again. Now pretend you
are holding a ball approximately a foot and a half in circumference. Inhale and feel
this imaginary ball expand. As you exhale squeeze it back to its original size.  Do this
for a few minutes or until you feel your palms and fingertips grow warm—or even
better hot—with the energy of life. You are experiencing a manifestation of the
reality of qi, of life force, of bio-energy.

Qigong.

Its origins are Chinese and many millions of Chinese people practice it daily
throughout the world in any number of ways; most often with gentle physical
movements, stretches, meditations, and mentally focused visualizations. The term
actually relates to the harmonious interplay of yin and yang energies in the body:
specifically in the way we hold our bodies and move, the way we breathe which
effects internal energy, and what we have in our minds. Its repeated practice helps
bring about mental, physical, and spiritual well-being and healing.
Stretching is a good example of body work, and you don’t need a park in Beijing to
see thousands of people doing it, just go to a baseball park during a game and take
part in the seventh inning stretch. If there is space for it after the stretching walk
about some. It all helps get the qi moving.

Or do as so many people do, upon awakening in the morning get out of bed and take
several deep breaths—(one definition of qigong is “breath work”)—as you stretch
your hands and arms upwards and pay attention to the way it feels. As with most
qigong this is best done in the morning in a park with people all about doing various
qigong or tai chi (actually the word is taijiquan) or other forms of physical health
regimes.

It is a simple step to see the resemblance of this kind of stretching to a qigong
master doing the first movement of the most popular worldwide qigong form, the
Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade” (Baduanjin). The stretch is called “Holding Up
The Heavens” and it is said to regulate the passage of qi in the body and mind, and
tone and promote healing in the functions of the body’s inner organs.

Take a look at a grandmaster doing it on YouTube:
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade. [it runs from 0:17 to 3:26].
More about Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming here

I suggest after you see Dr. Yang in action, you do some similar stretches
immediately. Five of them is enough. And take it easy: as you can see from the video,
qigong does not subscribe to the “No Pain No Gain” school of thought. If fact if there
is any pain stop doing it immediately and go see a health professional.
You now have an idea, and more importantly a physical experience, of what qi and
qigong are. Practice these or any gentle stretches in the morning as you breathe
calmly, smoothly, fully and gently into the lower abdomen.

Don’t do any qigong as if were a forced prison exercise drill, but rather as if you are
a young child having fun playing. And very important: keep noticing how the energy
feels inside of you. That way you become cognizant of the movement of the qi. And
don’t forget to smile. Smiling always helps increase the flow of this vital qi.

For the next issue of Chinese Medical Living we will go to a park near Boston’s
Chinatown and join the elders in the great healing exercise of social walking, and
learn about a simple walking regime that helps in the healing of cancer. If you wish
to learn something about that right now, on your browser explore this name, Guo
Lin and her walking qigong.

Qi has many appearances and definitions. One is “universal
consciousness.” Here is a painting by visionary artist and distance viewer
Ingo Swann titled “Cosmic Intelligence” which is an artistic depiction of such Qi.

Author with painting at the American Visionary Art Museum,
http://www.avam.org/ Baltimore, June 2018

Note: For more about Qi and Qigong go to qi-encyclopedia.com

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

John Voigt is a regular contributor to Chinese Medicine Living - you may read his bio here.


The Most Important Qigong – III (Standing Post Zhan Zhuang)

By John Voigt

This is the third and concluding article about Standing Post, a qigong pose of stillness, complete relaxation, and no observable movement. It features two versions of Standing Post, the latter version attributed to the legendary qigong master, Dr. Yan Xin http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm .

A list of books, online articles, and videos about Standing Post – Zhan Zhuang will be given at the end at the end of this article.

Many masters of Chinese health, martial arts, and spiritual practices say this type standing meditation is the most important of all exercises to do. The previous two articles about Standing Post appeared in the January and February 2018 issues of Chinese Medical Living. The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang & The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang II

Standing Post With Seven Imaginary Beach Balls, complied by
John Voigt

This image from https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/

First and most important: Have the entire body and mind complexly relaxed ignoring any discomfort—but if there is any pain immediately stop doing this exercise.

The feet stand straight ahead at approximately a shoulder’s width. The knees are slightly bent and never protrude past the toes. The spine is straight. The chin is slightly tucked in. Imagine that the crown of the head is gently being pulled up by a thread to the heavens.

The tongue rests on the palate. The eyes are half closed (as the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look). Breathe softly, slowly, deeply through the nose in a natural rhythmic way down into the lower abdomen. Don’t think, but do be silently aware of what is happening internally in the body; in other words keep the mental focus on your posture and especially on how it feels.

Hold an imaginary beach ball. The picture shows a typical way, at the upper chest, but the ball can be held at a higher or lower position. The hands and wrists are relaxed with the fingers pointing at each other; the thumbs point to the upward. The shoulders and elbows are also relaxed.

Next imagine that your elbows are resting on smaller beach balls, and that you are holding a smaller ball in each of your underarms, and one between your upper thighs.

Now imagine a super-sized beach ball and sit back on it (like sitting on the edge of a bar stool). Be careful—seriously, don’t fall over, this is imaginary after all. We want the weight of the trunk, head and upper limbs to rest on the thighs; and the weight of the body to be evenly distributed on both feet.

At the end of doing the Standing Post pose do some mild stretches, and it’s also good to take a walk.

Dr. Yan Xin on Zhan Zhuang

Image from www.china.com

The legendary Qigong master Dr. Yan Xin (born 1950 - ) http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm (pronounced “Yan Shen”) wrote the following: Now we talk about Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang). You always need to stand in the correct and relaxed way, then the movement is very easily learned; with just one "stand" you'll get it. But if you stand in your old incorrect way, that will easily produce or make you feel irritable and bored. Then you will loose any interest in learning it or doing Standing Post. It will be difficult to get started and gain any significant progress or results that way. Therefore, for those who say that they want to do this practice, we must nurture and cultivate their interest, and their desire to learn. How is this done? By having them recognize the importance of qigong and become aware of its many benefits. [From Eighty Characters: The Essentials of Qigong Practice. http://www.yanxinqigong.cn/fali/temp_lifa_yaoling_80zi_01.htm ].

[John Voigt speaking:] In the early 1990s my Chinese language tutor, Ms. Sheng Xue, learned Standing Post in Beijing from Dr. Yan Xin, or at times from his teaching assistants. (Dr. Yan moved to California in 1990, but made many trips back to China to do healings sessions with the then Premier.) She kindly gave me the following description of what he taught :

Preparation: “In the morning face east; during the night face north. Relax and the energy comes. [Note: In the profound words of Ms. Sheng, “You don't ‘have it,’ (if you think that) the qi-energy (will) go away.”] Have fingers not too tight—just a little bit open. Arms go up horizontally at sides to palms over the head to guide qi into the crown of the head (baihui). Then have palms gently and slowly come down in front of you which by itself—and without any word directions or mental will power—will cause the qi to flow inside through the face, eyes, lungs, into the dantian. Don't direct qi after its entrance in the baihui; just mentally focus on being aware of your dantian[the life energy storage center in the lower abdomen] and allow the qi to flow naturally down into the dantian. End by placing the hands over the dantian; then palms face the ground; drop hands slowly—that way the qi that has been built up is not lost.” [Note: this preparation is an example of the widely practiced Daoist qigong form, “Drawing (or “Pulling”) Down the Heavens.”]

Ball Holding Stance: More from Ms. Sheng: “Next slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Just standing you feel qi in the arms and hands—then it going into the bones. Then into shoulders; then upper legs, lower legs and feet; then shoulders and neck. Feet [pointed slightly in] helps keep knees from overlapping the toes. Think happy thoughts like family, [or being in beautiful] nature. Slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Feel hot qi in the arms. Do not go to thighs parallel with ground [i.e., extreme deep knee bends] unless [under the direction of a experienced] teacher. Expect to get hot [because of qi buildup] as well as working up a good sweat—this is a muscle exercise after all. Stand Pole [sic] has large quantities of life energy—qi power arms, legs and body.” End the same as beginning [with Drawing Down the Heavens] . . . then slowly place hands above dantian; then hands slowly return to the sides.

Concluding Odds and Ends

Zhan Zhuang in Chinese characters is站 ,and pronounced Jan [sinking tone] Jwong [high tone].

About Dr. Yan Xin. See: Yan Xin Qigong at http://yanxinqigong.net/
Many believe him to be one of the most outstanding qigong masters of all times in both in scientific experimentation, teaching, healing, and exhibiting paranormal abilities.

Highlights as a Healer: After a three year exile to the United States, he returned to Beijing to help heal the Chinese premier Deng Zhou Ping, who was dying of advanced metastasized cancer. Both Eastern and Western medical doctors had given up on Deng's survival, and the enemies of Qigong brought Dr. Yan back to China in the hopes of discrediting him and Medical Qigong. Deng Zhou Ping did not practice the qigong that Yan Xin asked of him, but at least Yan Xin was able to keep the Premier alive for another year and a half, essentially by his living off of Dr. Yan's bioenergy (Qi). This precipitated the "legalization" of Qigong in China under the [auspices of the] government controlled Chinese "Sports Authority."
http://www.michaelshaman.com/dr-yan-xin.html

He also went to the U.S. White House eight times to give energy treatments to President Bush, Sr., which gives some explanation to Bush’s paratroop jump in his 80s!
https://www.mind-energy.net/archives/246-the-highest-technology-of-all-technologies-the-yan-xin-secret.html

Since the 1990s, Yan Xin's main activities of teaching, writing, and participating in scientific research on external qi used for healing have been in the United States, and Canada.

A short biography exists on the Encyclopedia of Chinese Culture. https://contemporary_chinese_culture.academic.ru/907/Yan_Xin

As an example of his qigong superstardom, including some improvisational spontaneous standing meditation go to严新气功功理功法精选 1 [Yan Xin Qigong power law selection 1] on YouTube - [only in Chinese].
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvdet8nmSOw

For Further Study: Books – Articles – Essays - Videos
Kenneth S. Cohen. The Way of Qigong; pp. 133-143. Ballantine Books, 1997.

Michael P. Garofalo. “Standing Meditation," research by Michael P. Garofalo [at]
http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/wuji.htm

Karel Koskuba. Zhan Zhuang. [at] http://www.yiquan.org.uk/art-zz.html

Master Lam Kam Chuen. The Way of Energy. Simon & Schuster, 1991.

John Voigt. “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013. https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

“Wang Xiangzhai.” [at] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Xiangzhai

Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State; [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/03/wang-xiangzhai-entering-quiet-state.html

Wang Xiangzhai. “Seek Fullness of Spirit and Intention.” [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/04/wang-xiangzhai-seek-fullness-of-spirit.html .

Wang Xuanjie & John Moffett. Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole; [text in English]. Foreign Languages Press, 1994. [Has seven standing forms, five seated postures, four lying postures, and three moving postures. Master Wang said that Zhan Zhuang can even be adapted and used by people without arms or legs.]

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit. Stance Training and becoming a Scholar-Warrior
[at] http://shaolin.org/general-2/stance-training.html .

Yiquan: Collection of Essays 1996-2010, (e-book); published by Andrzej Kalisz. Yiquan Academy International Network. [at] http://www.scribd.com/doc/44719012/Yiquan-essays .

Yu Yong Nian. “Still Life,” Metro Beijing, March 23, 2011. https://www.scribd.com/doc/145816955/Still-Life-Yu-Yong-Nian-on-Zhan-Zhuang .

Videos on the Internet
Ken Gullette. Zhan Zhuang: Standing Stake Tai Chi Lesson. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnckgTx3-rE .

Standing Meditation Basics - Yiquan Masters Demonstrate. YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtUKTd2WKsc&feature=related .

Zhan Zhuang Lineage and Memorial. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OIcCTrLsCA

Sources of Pictures
Holding The Ball. https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/
Dr. Yan Xin. http://news.china.com/history/all/11025807/20161226/30114727_all.html


The Most Important Qigong II - (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang)

by John Voigt

In silence there must be movement, and in motion, there must be silence.

A small movement is better than a large movement,

no movement is better than a small.

Silence is the mother of all movement..

In movement you should be like a dragon or a tiger.

In non-movement you should be like a Buddha.

--Wang Xiangzhai, the Father of Standing Post Qigong

This is a continuation of the article - The Most Important Qigong - that appeared in Chinese Medical Living, January 2018.

A Quick Summary.

Stand straight and relaxed with chin slightly tucked back. Raise your arms and pretend to hug an imaginary large tree (or large ball). Breathe slowly, deeply, and smoothly. Hold the pose as long as possible. Relax into any discomfort you experience. If you experience any pain then stop immediately. With an empty mind be aware (feel) your posture; and gently correct it if necessary.

How Long to Practice.

Even a few minutes of serious practice each day should bring about some positive results.  As long as there is no pain, slowly extend the length of the practice. With an accomplished teacher several hours—even more—are theoretically possible.  However, for those who need more specific instructions: “Start by doing the standing exercises  for five minutes a day.  After three weeks, increase this to ten minutes.  Three weeks later, aim for 15 minutes, and 20 minutes after a further three weeks.  You can stand longer if you wish, but 20 minutes will refresh your whole system.”  Master Lam Kam Chuen.  The Way of Energy, pg. 25.

The important thing is to practice as relaxed, as long, and as often as you can.

MANAGING THE DISCOMFORT:

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/519532506985622303/

Discomfort is to be expected and dealt with by relaxing and breathing into the strained area.

Ignore any itches, tingling, even minor quick flashing pains which often are signs that energy blockages are being opened.  If it gets to be too much just stop doing the standing posture for a few seconds, then return to it with the arms not held so high, or the knees not bent so much. To alleviate some discomfort in the arms, imagine they are suspended up by strings from the elbows and wrists.  Or lower the hands down to in front of the belly.  Or imagine the arms are made of cotton.

Other ways to reduce discomfort are more fanciful, but perhaps more effective:  imagine you are floating in a pool of warm water; or you are a feather floating in the air.  For those that are more spiritually aggressive, imagine you are an angelic being of light floating in the heavens.

The simplest remedy is paradoxical: with the hint of a smile on your lips, just disregard the discomfort and sink into it as if it weren’t there—something like getting a “second wind” for a long distance runner.

However if sharp or intense pain occurs anywhere, especially in the knees or other joints, STOP!   If pain continues to occur during future practice, discontinue all practice until you receive professional advice from someone experienced in these matters.   

TECHNIQUES TO BETTER THE PRACTICE:

A Straight Back.

Be aware of the alignment and symmetry of your pose, and gently adjust and correct it as needed.

Although they may think that they are standing straight, most people lean slightly backwards or forwards when doing Standing Post. To experience what a straight back really feels like, lie on the floor in a supine position, or stand against a wall.  Or do it with a full length mirror to check your stance; or have someone look at you and tell you when are not straight.  Or imagine you are hanging from the limb of a tree by the hair on the top of your head.

Do not “tuck the tailbone under.”  Do not put that kind of force on your spine.  If you “sit back” on an imaginary high stool, the coccyx will properly straighten by itself.

Note:

Many people need to feel that they are leaning forward to get a correct straight posture.

Look at Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian with his students in the next picture.  For most (and especially with Master Yu) a theoretical plumb line could be dropped from the crown of the head through the center of the abdomen down to the perineum area.  Not only that: the Kidney-1 points (behind the balls of the feet) also line up, and all this is done so effortlessly!

Grand Master Yu Yong Nian with his students, Beijing, circa 1985.
Image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm

MIND:

This is a mental as well as physical exercise, overcoming random thoughts is an important aspect …. Only [by] being completely relaxed and natural, not trying to control, just letting thoughts come and go Without  Attachment, can one really stabilize and liberate the consciousness. Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State.

Other methods to clear the mind to gain that needed “quiescence”:  listen to the breath - make it silent - listen to the silence of the breath.  If that is too difficult, count each inhalation up to ten, then go back to one and repeat the counting.

Superstar martial artist Bruce Lee may have said it best in the movie, Enter The Dragon” with his “Don’t think, feel” … [that way you won’t miss ] … “All that heavenly glory.”

EYES:

Gaze in an absent minded way at the hands. As the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look.” This helps to more deeply relax into the static standing posture.

SHOULDERS:

If you have trouble keeping the shoulders loose, inhale and squeeze the shoulders up; then quickly exhale and drop the shoulders.

FINGERS-HANDS-ARMS: 

The fingers are slightly spread apart, and the thumbs are slightly bent—(imagine each hand is catching a ball).  Or, sometimes I tell my students, “think tiger claws.”  And keep the wrists loose.

Hands and arms are normally just below shoulder level, but they may be at the level of the lower abdomen (dantian), or the forehead, or the palms may face the ground;  there are many possible options.


The Eight Zhan Zhuang Posts of Yiquan
Image source: http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/06/eight-zhan-zhuang-posts-of-yiquan.html

KNEES:

The knees should never go past the toes; doing that can harm the knees.

About Knee Bends. 

Many martial arts teachers say that with the legs wider apart than shoulder width, you can gain a lower crouching stance which will enable more vital energy (qi) to be packed into your body.  This certainly has validity.  However in the standard practice of Zhan Zhuang, it is only an advanced option, and is best done only under the supervision of an experienced master teacher.

Normally the knees are bent about an inch—but it is standard to bend them as

much as you can without experiencing pain.

The knees should slightly push outward. To accomplish this, imagine a large ball expanding against, but simultaneously being held in place (isometric-like) by your knees. Guide your body weight to—and slightly lift up—the yongquan (Kidney-1) acupuncture points directly behind the balls of the feet.  This lifts the arches and distributes the weight between the heels, toes, and sides of the feet.  This will help you feel lighter and more agile.  It also keeps the knees from pointing inward.

Be a TREE. 

Zhan Zhuang sometimes is translated as “Standing Like a Tree.”  It may be helpful to bring the concept of  Tree into the practice.  For example, do the exercise outdoors among large healthy trees—You can imagine that you too are a tree standing straight and powerful; drawing up earth-yin energy and drawing down sun-yang energy.

Or visualize you are squeezing a tree and making it smaller; not only with your hands and arms, but also with your knees and legs.  Or imagine that you are pulling it out by its roots. All of these are done without any external movement.

To Prevent Energy Leakage.

Very gently tighten the muscles in the anal and perineum area.

What Not To Do. 

Master Wang Xiangzhai taught that Conscious Awareness and Physical Form working together is the basis of this work: In his words, “Mind activity is born from the posture; posture follows mind activity.”  What this means is that although he did teach using certain visualizations, he rejected thought controlled qigong practices such as orbiting qi in the meridians, working with specific acupuncture points, or Daoist or Buddhist breathing techniques.  I think he wanted us to be without any words in a place of Oneness (the “Flow” or  what athletes call, “In the Zone”).

BENEFITS FROM DOING THE PRACTICE:

“I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m happy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m healthy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I have a long life!”  - Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian https://munndialarts.com/english/master-yu-yong-nian/  (he lived 93 years).

Standing Post strengthens the muscles, and increases qi (life energy) in the body. It grants an awareness of the self—which may lead to profound psychological and spiritual experiences. Relaxing and being able to ignore discomfort is a skill that may be used in dealing with many of the difficult situations we may face in life.

Health: 

A basic premise of traditional Chinese health practices is that illness is caused when qi (vital life energy) is deficient, stagnant, excessive or blocked.  Properly done, Standing Post helps correct these problems.

Psychological:

Standing Post trains the mind to be still and concentrated, thereby gaining alertness, self discipline and will power.  The mind does not lose itself so easily in the daily stresses of modern life which often trigger a variety of psychological problems.

Spiritual Growth:

“In Zhan Zhuang Chi Kung one learns to return to the source of all power, to enter back into the very womb of universal energy and to experience the truth of the power of the void, the still point, the wuji" [i.e., the empty potential for infinite creation], (from Internal Arts Journal. http://www.qigonghealer.com/zhan_zhuang.html . Standing Post, occasionally called “Standing Meditation,” can bring the Body, Life Energy, and the Mind into an experienced state of Unity.  A place of Oneness: first with the self, then with nature, then the world, then the universe.  And finally perhaps with what some might call the “Dao.”

WARNINGS: 

If you have substantial [qi-energy] blockage in your body, the accumulated energy derived from Zhan Zhuang would cause internal injuries.” Wong Kiew Kit.  The Shaolin Arts. p. 150.   Do not practice when sick, instead go see a doctor!  Some sources say do not practice if you have high blood pressure, or excessive blood flow during menstruation or menopause, or if pregnant or right after childbirth.  As always, consult with professional health providers before doing any exercise or qigong; especially if you have any medical problems or health issues. As mentioned throughout this article: if there is pain stop. If the pain continues consult with a professional healer.

Notes

(Zhan Zhuang is translated many ways: “Standing Post” is accurate but without meaning for most English speakers.  Other terms are “Standing Stake,” “Standing Meditation,” “Standing Pole,” “Standing Like a Tree,” or “Stance Training.” Even its most important teacher in the 20th century, Master Wang Xiangzhai, near the end of his life called it Health Nourishing Postures,” and “Postures of Primeval Unity.”

This article is a summation of  “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013.  https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

The next issue of Chinese Medicine Living for March, 2018 will have the concluding The Most Important Qigong – III:  (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang). It  features

Dr. Yan Xin’s http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm version of Standing Post, as well as a list of books, online articles, and videos for further study.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Featured image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm