Zhang Zhuang: standing like a tree
by Dominic Ng
The “Zhan Zhuang" unlike almost all other exercises takes most people completely by surprise, because although it is most definitely an energetic system of exercise, it involves virtually no movement!
Unlike almost all other exercise methods, which consume energy, this actually generates energy. How is this possible? The answer lies in the nature of energy in the human body: how it is produced, and how it moves within the body.
YOUR NATURAL ENERGY
Our bodies are filled with energy, but it is blocked within us. We are born bursting with life, yet we grow old depleted of vitality.
Zhan Zhuang is a unique exercise that reverses this process of decay. It builds up and releases an extraordinary flow of natural energy that is dormant inside us, and raises the body and mind to remarkably high levels of fitness.
The energy in our bodies is so natural and so spontaneous, we almost never stop to think about it. It is like the constant rhythm of our lungs and the ceaseless circulation of our blood. Thousands upon thousands of chemical reactions are taking place at any moment and countless electrical impulses are passing through every part of our body system. Not only that, we are all part of the entire flow of energy around us. The intricate networks of energy in our body form part of the energy of the natural world.
We are a miniature field of the electromagnetic energy of the universe.
ALIGNINING MIND AND BODY
When you stand still and correctly aligned, you are drawing energy (Chi) from the earth, and accelerating its flow through your body.
ADJUSTING YOUR POSITION
When you become comfortable in this Zhan Zhuang position, think about the points below. Quietly adjust your body to correct your balance and position.
Your wholes body frame is suspended from the top of your head. You hang it from it like a puppet. The point from which you are suspended is in line with the tips of your ears.
The Dan Tien lies 3cm (1.25") below your navel, one-third of the way into your body. It is in line with the suspension point at the top of your head.
From below your kneecaps, your roots extend downward. From your knees upward you rise like a tree, resting calmly between the earth and the sky.
Your weight is evenly distributed between your left and right feet. These roots sink deep into the earth, like those of a tree.
The weight of your body rests in the middle of the soles of your feet.
HOLDING THE BALLOON
The next step in Zhan Zhuang is holding the balloon.
Your knees bend as you sink downward. Your head, torso, and pelvic girdle remain gently aligned, exactly as they were in the first position. Your spine unfolds downward and straightens naturally. Do not bend forward. Imagine you are simply resting your bottom on the edge of a high stool. Your weight rests equally on both feet.
Slowly bring both your arms upward and forward to form an open circle in front of your chest at about shoulder level. Your open palms face your chest.
The distance between the fingertips of your hands is the equivalent of one to three fists. The tops of your thumbs are no higher than your shoulders. Your wrists are as wide apart as your shoulders. The inner angle between your upper arm and forearm is slightly more than 90 degrees.
Imagine that you are holding a large inflated balloon between your hands, forearms, and chest. You are gently keeping it in place without tension. It is resting naturally on the inner surface of the circle formed by your fingers, palms, arms and chest.
Your armpits and upper arms rest on two small balloons. Your elbows rest on two large balloons that float on the surface of a pond. Your thighs gently hold one balloon in place. A huge balloon takes your weight behind you, like a beach ball on the sand. The weight on your feet remains slightly forward.
Like other systems, this takes a lot of care initially; but in the end, your Chi will flow through a relaxed body that is synchronized with a relaxed mind.