Thursday, December 2, 2010

Standing like a tree ... Zhan Zhuang

Recently, I have returned to standing qigong at the beginning of daily practice—Zhan Zhuang (pronounced something like "jam jong".) I have found that this really roots me before I begin taiji form. It helps me center, slows me down and gives the form a greater depth after "standing like a tree." It is a very simple process. You simply stand in the wuji stance for up to twenty minutes, breathing deeply, becoming aware of the body. Whilst I keep my legs in the open stance (shoulder width apart, knees bent slightly, shoulders and elbows relaxed, head as if suspended by a golden chord) I vary hand positions. Twenty cycles of breath in wuji, twenty "holding the belly," twenty holding the ball at chest height, twenty arms extended to the side, twenty hands opened outward, twenty "the great circle" and a few others. Seems quite simple! But you certainly feel it. Expect to experience a few trembles in different parts of the body, a little "burning," a few tingles. Simply be aware of the sensations. Focus on the dan tien and allow energy to circulate. It's quite surprising how you feel after twenty minutes meditating like a tree!
A very helpful book on all this is Master Lam Kam Chuen's Chi Kung: Way of Power. The book is well written, with amy beautiful pictures, Chinese calligraphy, and helpful illustrations. There is a complete long term system for developing Zhan Zhuang. Master Lam translates the calligraphy of Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai to demonstrate poetically the essense of Zhan Zhuang.
Inwardly alert, open, calm.
Outwardly upright, extended, filled with spirit.
This is the foundation of stillness.
Add the hard and the soft. the powerful and the relaxed,
Motion and stillness, contraction and extension:
In the instant these converge, there is power.

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