Most rarely pay much attention to standing, unless one is forced to do it for longer than they would like to. I think it is safe to say that ever since we learn how to walk, standing gradually becomes less and less of a thrill – just another thing to come to be taken for granted. Changing one’s perspective of standing can not only create a newfound appreciation for it, but also can improve your body, growing from the inside out like a tree.
Zhan Zhuang (pronounced jan jwong), literally translated as “standing post” has been a component of Taijiquan (Tai Chi) training – and martial art training in general – since its inception. In order for a strong execution of a technique, it must be propelled from a solid base. Thus, standing exercises are practiced to facilitate this. However, the benefits of such exercises are not merely limited to martial training, as the immunity boosting, and energetic principles of them can provide the average person with benefits just the same.
It is most often referred to as ‘standing like a tree’, because the practitioner stands motionless in a squatted pose, with the arms stretched in front of the chest, as though they were holding a beach ball. This position is held anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes (or more depending on preference and current state of stamina).
There are more than one type of Zhan Zhuang posture, but the principle stance, “Holding the Ball”, is the core of the system. Standing in such a manner is more demanding than it appears at first glance. As the minutes pass, the body strains more and more to hold on, as the thighs jiggle and twitch for want of the sweet relief of full upright relaxation.
The health benefits manifest from the inside out, just like the growing of a tree. Slowly as time progresses, stagnations in the body will be lurched into free flowing motion. Energy production and utilization by the cells will improve, and physical stamina will expand, as though fueled by nourishing roots. Coupled with deep breathing (or abdominal breathing), the exercise will further propel the physiological networks of the body to function at their optimum level.
It is quite often the case that the simplest of methods tend to be the ones that create the greatest effects, due to the fact that their simplicity resides only on their surface. The benefits come when the practice persists over time, and Zhan Zhuang training is no different. It is a practice that can fit into anyone’s life, no matter where you live, or your religious slant. The only principle tenant is that of the promotion of health.
Now standing around has a new meaning, so stand up and do something great for your body.
More on the benefits and practice os “Standing Like A Tree” here: Standing Like a Tree