The Ultimate Qi Gong Standing Posture for Health
Standing Qi Gong postures have been part of Tai Chi and martial arts since their inception. Every system of martial art and Qi Gong has static standing postures that have been developed specifically to nourish your body and Qi to make you stronger, give you more energy, keep you healthy and help heal your body and quiet your mind.
If there is one thing you should practice every day to keep yourself healthy, it is standing qi gong. These are so powerful that some people claim they are the source to longevity and the best anti aging exercise you can do. Some old monks in China, where the standing qi gong was created, even claim that doing standing postures correctly can lead to immortality!
Standing Qi Gong basically works by circulating the Qi in your body. Different postures can move the Qi to different places so you can send the Qi where you need to, if for example you have an injury, you could use a posture that would send the Qi to your injury to help speed up the recovery. But what is Qi? This is a complex question. Qi is, at it's simplest, vital energy. It is an etheric substance that in Chinese martial arts, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, is considered our life force. Without Qi, there is no life. If you lose all your Qi you will die. Aging is often described by the general running out of Qi. So you can see that Qi is very important. Qi Gong works because it nourishes the Qi, and helps you create and store more Qi so you stay young and healthy. Qi is stored in the Tan Tien or centre of the body, about 2 finger's width below your navel. When you do your standing Qi Gong, the mind settles and the body settles, when you become relaxed, the Qi can settle into the Tan Tien.
There are several key points to remember when doing your standing postures. One of the most important is relaxation. Qi cannot flow properly if the body is tense. Proper relaxation in Qi Gong is called Sung - imagine yourself like a sack of rice, completely relaxed and resting on the earth. The second key point is good posture. Without good posture, if you relax completely, you will simply end up in a pile on the floor. With good posture, your body will stack up on itself and balance nicely in the standing posture.
The classic standing posture that is taught in most schools of Qi Gong is standing like a tree or stake standing. Basically, your feet are shoulder width apart, knees unlocked and slightly bent, the head should feel as if it is suspended from a string and the whole spine should feel lengthened. Your arms should come up to chest height and should look as though you are hugging a large beach ball in front of you, with the palms of your hands facing your chest and your fingers pointing towards each other. You should look like you are giving a tree a great big hug :). In fact, the discription of standing like a tree is very apt. You should be rooted into the ground (this is a whole topic in itself) and strong like a tree, with your branches spread out to gather Qi.
The challenge, and in fact the first thing that you will notice in this posture is tension in your shoulders. You should relax the shoulders - holding this posture with strength will never work, and at advanced stages, you should hold this posture for up to an hour at a time. It sounds easy to just stand, but for most people, even 10 minutes of this is enough to make their shoulders and arms tremble with effort. But if there is effort, then there is something wrong! Remember the first key point - Relaxation. You must relax the shoulders and arms, and eventually the posture will feel light and easy, as if you are balancing on large bubbles. Once you have this feeling, then you can start to settle the mind and Qi into your centre...but that's a discussion for another time.