Standing meditation for health
Standing pole exercises
The qigong exercise zhan zhuang is practised by people all over the world for both health and for martial arts. Translated as Standing like a tree, the exercises appear simple to the casual observer, but are challenging in a gentle way that means everybody can practise them, whatever their age.
Standing like a tree
For health and martial arts
Zhan zhuang - pronounced jam jong is practised in some form in most Chinese martial arts. Its practice is intended to build and strengthen chi or internal energy, and this is why 'standing' is also very good for overall health. External styles commonly employ deep horse stances, an example being the Golden Bridge.
The internal styles that use zhan zhuang tend not to use muscular tension. The aim is to relax, to correctly align all parts of the body, to breathe correctly and to allow the mind to circulate chi.
How to do the standing pole
Relax and enjoy as you increase your strength!
The videos presented below show you exactly how to perform the standing pole exercises. On the basis that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, these video clips will give you a better idea of the basics than I can describe.
The first clip, featuring Master Lam Kam Chuen, who is now based in the UK, shows the warm up and initial position called wu ji.
The second clip with Sifu Ken Gullette goes to great lengths to show how difficult it can be get the posture correct. This is a great video and highlights lots of the pitfalls to overcome.
The third and fourth clips demonstrate the second posture - Holding the Ball, or Holding the Balloon.
Effects of standing meditation
Signs that your zhan zhuang is working
Here are some signs to look out for when doing your zhan zhuang practice:
- Numbness - this is quite uncomfortable sometimes, but will pass. At different times, various parts of your body may feel numb, including your hands, feet and head, and occasionally one side of the body. It is also common to feel 'prickling' sensations. These are entirely normal, and result from increased blood (and qi) flow.
- Aching - in the first few weeks, you will probably feel aches in your arms, legs, neck, knees and shoulders. Persevere. This is normal and will pass after a few weeks. It is also common to be revisited by aches and pains from previous illnesses and injuries you may have had, sometimes from years in the past. This is part of the healing process unlocked by zhan zhuang. Keep at it!
- Warmth - after holding a posture for 20 minutes, you will feel very warm, and some people sweat profusely at this stage. If you can continue through this phase, you will feel very comfortable and relaxed after you complete your practice. Others signs to watch out for, due to increased energy flow to your digestive system, include hiccups, burping, flatulence and a rumbling stomach - again, all perfectly natural! Don't hold onto them!
- Shaking - this occurs as you use muscles that may not have been used for some time. It is important to relax and focus your mind on natural relaxation at this point. Let it happen - sometimes the shaking can be extremely vigorous. If you can hold your posture through the shaking stage and return to a quiet, stable posture you will have taken both your body and mind on to a higher level of development.
- Asymmetry - this is another very common sensation. You can see your arms out in front of you at the same height and yet one feels higher than the other. Or one leg may feel longer than the other; or one hand hotter than the other. There are many possibilities. Perfectly okay and natural, and a sign that your training is working.
- Relaxation - with daily practice over a period of a few months, you will feel much stronger, calmer and more relaxed when standing. Your mind and nervous system will be more alert and relaxed. Keep going! To feel the benefits of zhan zhuang, try to make it part of your daily routine.
The Way of Energy - by Lam Kam Chuen
This is an excellent instructional book on the art of standing pole. It describes in great detail: how to attain the correct postures, how to breathe correctly and how to calm the mind.
It also has a detailed section on the other qigong practice called Ba duan jin - or Eight Strands of Brocade.
It then finishes with a section describing how zhan zhuang - and ba duan jin - can be used in everyday life, to relieve stress at work, for teenagers, the elderly, and its practice during pregnancy.
A great self-contained book on the art!