I’m standing still, doing nothing, and looking at health and vitality in a new light.
I am following the practises of an ancient Daoist tradition. It is a tradition whose origins is in the Kun Lun region of China and can be traced back 1500 years. The tradition is not a religion, but rather uses practises to refine the body, mind and spirit, so we can be the best versions of ourselves in daily life. Including standing still.
One of the key ideas in Chinese Medicine, internal martial arts, and Daoist inner cultivation is to work through blockages, which may impede the smooth flow of Qi through the body. Physical bodywork, acupuncture, breath work, conscious movement and conscious intention are some of the ways to promote qi flow.
Healthy Qi flow is associated also with health and vitality.
And then there is another practise of doing nothing: Zhan Zhuang
Zhan Zhuang is a practice that I perform most days, where I stand still and do nothing. I stand in various positions, centre my body and relax. Simple right?
There are numerous obstacles when first starting to do zhan zhuang. Firstly, there is the boredom factor. I mean imagine standing for ½ an hour not moving. Your mind will come up with a million reasons, of how you could distract yourself better. It is as much a mental disciple as it is a physical disciple.
And then there are the aches and pains! Even in the most simple of positions (e.g. standing upright), your shoulders, knees, back will ache. Many people will stop here because the discomfort factor is too much. But the discomforts are showing us where the qi is blocked and not flowing.
In order to hold a certain position for ½ hour or more, we need to learn to be completely relaxed, and balanced. When we are relaxed, the qi flows better through the body. When we are tense, it causes stagnation.
Internal martial artist will tell you that the real strength is not in the muscle, but in the tendons. Relaxing the body allows the tendons of the body to start being developed. I’m told that muscles are difficult to maintain as we grow older, but the tendons are still as powerful no matter the age.
When you start practising, you are likely to break a sweat. In fact, I make a point of not overdressing when I practise zhan zhuang. I’m not a sweaty person, but I will get dewy on my face when practising.
One of my teachers says that the feeling of heat arising is the “Yang Qi” which starts to circulate and fill the body, as the body relaxes and allows the flow to each crevice and nook. Yang Qi is responsible for giving life and warmth to the body. It is used to heal injuries, and bring vitality to the body. Even though you are standing still, there is a lot that is happening internally.
Standing Still Will Bring Focus To The Weak Spots.
When we become still, the areas of the body that are weak become highlighted. All of a sudden one shoulder may ache, or your knees start to buckle. When we move quickly, we can hide these weaknesses, and they do not come to our awareness.
That is one of the main concepts of the slow moving arts such as Tai Chi. Many people think that Tai Chi is a slow meditation, which is partly true. Tai Chi is also a deep and profound martial arts. At the centre of its philosophy is the concept of always centering, grounding, and relaxing yourself in the face of “whatever comes”. A great principle for life!
It Gets Easier With Time
So the next time you hear me say, “I’m going for a workout”, chances are I’m about to hide in a quite corner and stand still and do nothing. I’ve been doing this practise for about a year now, and I never knew how many blockages I had.
The good news is that it is much easier these days, and my hips and shoulders seem to have gained more subtleness and flexibility.
For more information on Zhan Zhuang visit: www.craigmallett.com