‘Standing like a tree’, also known as Zhan Zhuang is a powerful internal practice where a static posture is held for a period of time. Standing is an important part of Tai Chi and Qi Gong training and should be built up gradually whilst the body adapts, the legs grow stronger and the muscles start to relax.
Beginner students usually start with a few minutes and build from there. There are different standing postures, from empty stance, embracing stance, single legged stance, 5 Element stances, 8 Trigram stances to holding any of the Tai Chi movements within the form. All can be practiced for the same effect.
Wu Ji Zhuang
How to stand in the Wu Ji Zhuang posture, also known as Wu Ji posture or empty posture. The easiest way to align the body is to go from your feet upwards;
Ping Bu Cheng Bao Zhuang
How to stand in the Wu Ji Zhuang posture, also known as embracing posture, hugging the tree and Tai Chi standing. Follow the same sequence as above, the only difference is the hand and arm position.
Alignment and Structure
In your standing posture, root your weight to the ground via the Dan Tian. The aim is to absorb any pressure that is applied from any direction into the ground naturally without effort, without resistance. If someone pushes you from the front or pushes onto your shoulders, your body needs to be in such alignment that the weight is absorbed, meaning you don’t move, your body adapts to the pressure internally.
The mind may wander and jump about from topic to topic, some people call this the ‘monkey mind’. The aim is to become aware of the internal body, which in turn helps to ease off the monkey mind. Instead, your mind may become aware of areas in the body that are tense, here you can mentally relax and drop away tension. You may also become aware of incorrect alignment in your posture, here you can self adjust with micro movements. You may become aware that your breathing is shallow or erratic, here you can bring the breathing back to the abdomen. As you stand your bring your mind and body into the now. You no longer look to the past or think about the future, there is only what you are doing right now. This helps calm the mind and body, as the body merely reacts to what the mind tells it something fearful or stressful is happening.
Standing still can be uncomfortable to start as a beginner, aches and pains around the body and feelings of frustration, irritation and ‘why am I doing this?’. Over time with diligence and patience, you will start to feel the muscles relax more and more. This is the aim, to allow the body to hold itself up without using the muscles, instead using the soft tissue, fascia, ligaments and tendons. All the while relaxing more, softening more and releasing.
Sink Qi to the Dan Tian
Once in your standing posture, bring your focus to moving Qi in the Dan Tian. This means sinking your body weight from your head, shoulders, chest and upper abdomen down to the Dan Tian area. A natural sinking and lowering of your centre of gravity to give you a more solid feeling in the lower body.
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