At the first part of this article we become familiar with the basics of standing meditation and its rules. Now we are able to go further, and expand our practice to the level of awareness, explaining Zhan Zhuang in detail.
Stand with feet pointed straight ahead, parallel to each other, and firmly on the ground at shoulder width. Grasp the ground with your feet while keeping them elastic with the tip of the toes slightly extended.
Extend upward from the crown of your head into the sky. You want your head to feel like it’s floating above your neck, effortlessly suspended above your spine.
Allow your hips to slightly sink down as if you were sitting at the edge of a high barstool. This will straighten the spine in your lower back. Most people have a natural “s” curve in their spine.
Keep your knees bent slightly. Your knees should never be too straight, and should never go beyond your toes - too bent.
Relax your shoulders. Round your upper back a bit, and make your chest slightly concave.
Let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. Imagine a small white ball under each armpit to create a small space. Just keep your hands and arms relaxed and loose, as they hang to your sides.
Let the palms of your hands face toward your hips. Hands shouldn't touch your hips; instead, they should hang about two to three inches from your hips.
Tuck your chin inward. Roll it inward and up toward the top of your head. This opens the area where your spine meets your skull.
Keep your eyes slightly open with a soft gaze ahead of you. Keeping your eyes open can lead to distractions and closing them can lead to tiredness. A soft gaze with eyes almost closed provides the optimal conditions when you’re first learning this or any other meditation.
Place your tongue gently on your palate and lips are barely closed. Relax your jaw muscles.
Internal basic rules on how to stand
Breathe comfortably, slow, and quietly through your nose. Feel your whole body relax deeper with every exhale. Sink all of your muscle tension into your feet and into the ground below them. To assist you in this effort, try placing all of your attention on your feet first. Avoid exerting ourselves either mentally or physically. If we use physical strength, our energy, or qi, will be congested and blocked.
Concentrate on different parts of the body. When we achieve a correct standing posture, we should turn attention to the various places where is tension in our body. The general rule is to start from the head and scan your body downward. When you locate an area of tension, breath into that area and allow the tension to dissolve and sink downward. When we release the tension, then we can place our awareness on the Dantian, two inches below the navel.
It usually takes a long time to achieve proper alignment, so be patient. In order to achieve the correct position, you can practice in front of a mirror. In every few breaths try releasing tension by raising up shoulders and then lowering it down for a few seconds. Putting your attention on your feet and feeling the weight of your body on the bottom of them will help you redistribute your energy away from your head. This provides a more calm, clear mind, ideal for productive work.
The optimal time to perform the exercise. We should start with only 1 or 2 minutes of practice. To gain the optimal health benefits of the standing practice, 1 hour of exercise is the best way to perform this exercise in time. During exercise, we may feel numbness, tingling, pulsations, warmth, or coolness in your hands, feet, head, or other portions of your body.
These sensations are signs the energy is attempting to flow freely through the body. Many people in the early stages of this practice is trembling and shaking. It shows that our muscles are too weak, and our tendons are still adapting to a new position. In time tremors and shaking will disappear.
Sensations experienced during standing meditation practice
Sweat – a sign that the body is overheated.
Heat – various Qi imbalances. This is often part of the process of burning out impurities of systemic imbalances. If heat appears at the site of an old injury, it indicates the body’s way of healing and restoring.
Cold – coldness in most cases is a sign of deficient circulation or a deficient organ condition.
Numbness – is traditionally a sign of dampness in the channel.
Shaking – is the body’s way of adjusting misaligned tissues and imbalanced pressures in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even the bones.
Pain – there are a number of different types of pain we may experience at one time or another during practice such as stingy, burning, achy, sharp, stabbing. twisting, oppressive, and others. Although each of these is indicative of certain causes, they can generally be divided into two overall categories: Qi stagnation and blood stagnation. The most basic way to differentiate between the two is that with Blood stagnation the pain is always in the same place, whereas with Qi stagnation the pain seems to move or jump from one location to another and then back again in a particular general region. Also with blood stagnation the pain is generally more severe. But this is not to say that the pain caused by Qi stagnation cannot trigger quite a lot of soreness as well. Now once again, these two categories can relate to both musculoskeletal problems or internal organ problems. Obviously outright pain is not something to be ignored. Prolonged blood stagnation in any of the internal systems should be treated as a serious ‘wake-up call.’ Prolonged pain anywhere in the musculoskeletal region should likewise be dealt with.
Confirmatory signs of correct practice
Relaxation – greater relaxation is usually the first positive sign and leads to a sense of greater ease which generates a greater sense of space inside the body.
Warmth – is a sign that the Qi is moving.
Heaviness – is many times the feeling that accompanies growing a deeper and deeper root. This feeling often indicates the body’s early attempts at unification.
Pulsing sensation – the feelings of Qi energy pulsing in part or throughout the entire body. Pulsing has a sense of ebb and flow.
Sense of power – These feelings are generally linked to the Low Dan Tien.
Euphoria, hollowness, emptiness.
When you’ve completed exercise, slowly rock your feet back and forth and side to side. Gently shake and tap around your body to release any stagnant energy that may have built up during your practice.
The main point is not to stand there suffering, but to learn to allow our bodies to relax in the position. This is very odd and difficult for a while until breakthroughs begin to happen. Then, instead of using the wrong muscles to hold up our arms and legs, our body unites, and energy begin to flow through us.
When we begin this practice, we only stand for a few minutes in the poses. We don't jump into standing for twenty minutes right away. This is a gradual practice, not to be rushed. Little by little is the way to achieve our goal.
As we continue our training, we begin to repair and improve old injuries, latent disrupted energetics, and other health problems. Eventually, we are able to harmonize and balance the primary energies of the body. We do this by bringing more and more of our consciousness to bear in the Dan Tien until we are able to activate the body’s own self-healing mechanisms. When these systems are brought online, one of the main ways by which healing occurs is through a major improvement in the circulation of both Qi and blood. When most of the blockages have been removed from the body’s channels there becomes a more abundant free-flow of Qi coursing through all the meridians.