“One, who wants to achieve wonders in his boxing skills, should dedicate his time to standing at stake (Zhan Zhuang). Arrange the posture of the whole body properly, strengthen the nerves in stillness, adjust the breath, firm up and nourish the muscles, let every cell activate naturally. “
-Master Wang Xiangzhai
The following exercise is one of many used in Li family Baguazhang as a form of Yoga like stretching for developing general health and also martial arts. It is used for creating leg, strength, superior balance, overall stamina, flexibility, core stability, strength, and whole body integrated power.
Post Standing / Zhan Zhuang
Post standing postures (Zhan Zhuang) for beginners involve standing upright holding specific positions performed in a state of relaxation (song). However, there are more advanced postures that take on the characteristics of what I call Zhan Zhuang Yoga.
These advanced postures can stretch ligaments, tendons, and place muscles under a load. That is the torso and limbs working against gravity, but remaining as relaxed as possible. The postures are held without undue tension, excessive stretching or rigidity. The goal is to relax into each posture and then maintain it for as long as one can retain the correct structural positioning. In Zhan Zhuang Yoga Daoyin (standing post yoking by leading and guiding mind) one holds a particular position and at the same time stretches some part or sections of the body similar to asana postures from Indian Hatha yoga.
How Long to Train Standing
An ancient Chinese maxim was “100 days of three brings reward” this meant that the student was to perform the given exercise for a period of 100 days performing the exercise three times a day, most often at dawn, evening and before bedtime. We can replace the 100 day program if the training is carried out with serious intent and dedication. Dr. Maxwell Maltz author of the landmark work, “Psycho-cybernetics” discovered it takes a minimum of twenty-one days of continuous repetition using guided imagery or a physical exercise or both combined for the unconscious mind to absorb the concept as a new behavior model and make it a natural pattern. I feel when training Zhan Zhuang Yoga there is no benefit to standing for hours as some people are want to do. My rule of thumb is to train the method each day and pay attention to how long it takes you to obtain the result you are looking for and to end practice just a bit past when you begin to fatigue the muscles. My advice to beginners is to work with each posture for a period of 30 days performing each exercise at least once a day and preferably three times a day for up to five to ten minutes. In time holding the position will be come very easy. It is at this stage that you are ready for the next level.
The Dragon Awakes is a powerful exercise that is a beneficial stretch and also stimulating to internal organs and spinal muscles. It also improves muscular strength and reputedly enhances energy pathways along the spinal column (ridgepole).
Fig. 1. to practice this method you stand in neutral stance (Wuji- bu) facing south. Step back with your right leg as far as you can comfortably. The front leg is bent approximately 75 degrees. The back leg is not locked out but is gently curved.
Archer Shoots North and South Posture
Fig. 2. now rotate your torso until aligned over both legs. Extend both arms horizontally, with index and middle fingers of each palm pointing forward, third and fourth fingers curled inward held in place by the thumb.
Attempt to separate both shoulder blades (scapula) away from the center of the spine by the action of pressing the arms away from the center as if they were two arrows shooting right and left. Be very mindful of this action, sensing which muscles must flex and which must relax to perform the exercise. Hold this position for a cycle of three in and three out breaths. Now allow the shoulder blades to relax moving slightly back towards the spine.
Dragon Awakes Posture
Fig 3. Slowly open both hands turning fingers upward as you lean your head and torso slightly forward. Make sure there is a straight line from crown to spine to the rear leg with that foot pressing firmly to the earth. Begin slowly twisting your head, torso and pelvis to the left (E). Press your left hand back moving it to behind your torso as if pushing something away from your hips with your palm. Move your right arm in a line with your spine, neck and crown of the head holding it above your head pressing slantingly upward.
Keep both arms very slightly bent not locked out with the fingers spread like claws of an awakening dragon. Separate the shoulder blades (scapula) pushing the arms further apart. Press your front and rear foot flat into the earth with emphasis on the bubbling well point (Yongquan) feeling as if you were about to spring forward.
Do not raise the heels of either foot at any time. Hold the position. While holding the posture concentrate on the pericardium #8 point (Lao-gong) in the center of each palm imagining you are drawing in breath through both points filling you whole body like a balloon. Exhale and imagine the breath going out these points into infinity. Do this for three breath cycles. Now stand up turn to face south assume void stance stepping back with the left leg change sides and repeat the sequence on the opposite side facing north.