Aligning mind and body

When you stand still in the first position, with your body correctly aligned, you are drawing energy (Chi) from the earth, and accelerating its flow through your body. This practice of standing still is an ancient discipline. The first known reference to it dates back to the oldest and most influential book in the history of world medicine, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Ti Nei Ching), thought to have been written about 4,000 years ago. In the opening section, the Emperor tells the court physician:

I have heard that in ancient times there were the so-called Spiritual Beings:

They stood between Heaven and Earth, connecting the Universe;

They understood and were able to control both Yin and Yang, the two fundamental principles of nature;

They inhaled the vital essence of life;

They remained unmoving in their spirit;

Their muscles and flesh were as one —

This is the Tao, the Way you are looking for.

Illustration from the title page of The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine.

Zhan Zhuang

This poetic passage refers to "standing still without changing", which we now call Zhan Zhuang. You stand aligned between the ground and the sky, connecting the two great forces of heaven and earth. You are able to understand the fundamental forces of energy in your body. When you practise in this way, with the full force of your spirit, not only will your whole body and mind be synchronized, but you will have the feeling that heaven and earth are fused together through you.

YING AND YANG Yin and Yang are opposite and complementary forces such as day and night, female and male, in our ever-changing universe. The theory of Yin and Yang, fundamental to Chinese medicine, is described in the Yellow Emperor's classic work.

LEARNING TO STAXD

Adjusting your position

When you become comfortable in this position. think about the points below. (Quietly adjust your body to correct your balance and position.

Your whole frame is suspended from the top of your head. You bangfrom it like a puppet, or a garment on a coat hanger.

Your whole frame is suspended from the top of your head. You bangfrom it like a puppet, or a garment on a coat hanger.

The Tan Tien lies 3cm (1.25in) belowyour navel, one-third of the way into your body (seep. 42). It is in line with the si4Spe?isionpointat the top of your head.

Your weight is evenly distributed betuven your left and right feet.. These roots sink deep into the earth, like those of a tree.

Fom below your kneecaps. your roots extend downwards. From your knees upward you rise like a tree, resting calmly between the earth and the sky.

Your weight is evenly distributed betuven your left and right feet.. These roots sink deep into the earth, like those of a tree.

The point from which you are suspended is in line with the tips of your ears.

The Tan Tien lies 3cm (1.25in) belowyour navel, one-third of the way into your body (seep. 42). It is in line with the si4Spe?isionpointat the top of your head.

The weight of your body rests in the middle of the soles of your feet.

A FIELD OF ENERGY The Chinese like to exercise in the presence of trees, whose Chi is wonderful. Trees are totally exposed to the elements and draw their power from everything around them. They reach deep into the soil with their roots. They reach upward toward the light. Their fibrous trunks are filled with the flow of life. They take strength from the earth, from water and rain, from the sun, from the air, and from the space that surrounds them. This is what we have in mind when we say "stand like a tree". You are a field of energy. You are nourished by everything around you, like a tree standing in the midst of all the elements.

The Tree in Winter

This is the time ofhidden regeneration. Mist hangs above the ground. Frost forms on open fields.

Tloe tree is still. It stands alone and quiet. In the darkness of the early morning, nature is asleep. There is no movement in the air, no hint oftremblingin the branches. The tree « silent in the darkness like a stone — a pillar in the courtyard ofan empty temple.

A distant sound breaks through the stillness. The day's first light advances on the earth. The shadoivofthe tree moves with the daivn, but the tree is motionless.

The ground beneath the tree is frozen hard. Above the ground, the bark is cold, the limbs are stiff. Apasser-bymight wonder if the tree will live in spring.

But underneath the ground the earth is warm. The weight of all the tree sinks to its roots. Tloey are indifferent to the frozen soil, they grow toward the centre ofthe earth.

Tloe tree is not afraid. It was a seed: it knows the earth is holding it. Within its core, a vital ring is being formed. Around its spine, new life is rising from the earth, while flakes of snow are settling on the silent and unmoving tree.

LEARNING TO STAND

Hun Yuan Zhuang Postures

Holding the balloon -the second position

The next step in Zhan Zhuang training is to start "Holding the Balloon". This position forms the basis for many of the more advanced exercises, and speeds the inner circulation of energy through your feet, up through your entire body, and to your hands and head.

Try holding the second position for up to five minutes. You will probably experience considerable pain from the tension in your shoulders, arms, and knees. This is partly muscle fatigue, partly the reaction of your nervous system. Be patient. Nothing you are doing is harmful. You are returning to an original state of being. Your journey will take discipline and diligence.

As you hold this position, imagine that you are resting on a series of other balloons that take your full weight (see right).

To begin with, as you stand quietly holding the imaginary balloon, review all the guidelines for this position (see right).

MOVING INTO THE POSITION

From the first position, the Wu Chi position (see p. 29), sink down slightly. Your knees bend as you sink downward. Your head, torso, and pelvic girdle remain gently aligned, exactly as they were in the first position. Your spine unfolds downward and straightens naturally. Do not bend forward. Imagine you are simply resting your bottom on the edge of a high stool. Your weight rests equally on both feet.

palms face your chest.

1. Slowly bring both your arms upward and fonvard to form an open circle in front of your chest at about shoulder level. Your open

The distance between the fingertips of your hands is the equivalent ofone to three fists, your shoulders. Your elbows

7-21cm (3-9in). The tops of your thumbs are no higher than your shoulders. Your wrists are as wide apart as are slightly lower thanyour urists and shoulders. Tlx inner angle between your upper arm and forearm is slightly more than 90 degrees.

palms face your chest.

1. Slowly bring both your arms upward and fonvard to form an open circle in front of your chest at about shoulder level. Your open

The distance between the fingertips of your hands is the equivalent ofone to three fists, your shoulders. Your elbows

7-21cm (3-9in). The tops of your thumbs are no higher than your shoulders. Your wrists are as wide apart as are slightly lower thanyour urists and shoulders. Tlx inner angle between your upper arm and forearm is slightly more than 90 degrees.

Your armpits and upper arms rest on two small balloons.

Your thighs gently hold one balloon in place

A huge balloon takes your weight behind you. like a beacb bail on the sand. The weight on your feet remains slightly forward.

2. Imagine that you are holding a large inflated balloon between your hands, forearms, and chest. You are gently keeping it in place without tension. It is resting naturally on the inner surface ofthe circle formed by your fingers, palms, arms, and chest.

Your armpits and upper arms rest on two small balloons.

Your thighs gently hold one balloon in place

A huge balloon takes your weight behind you. like a beacb bail on the sand. The weight on your feet remains slightly forward.

Your elbows rest on two large balloons that float on the surface ofa pond.

Like a tree you reach upward to the sky.

Like a tree you are rooted from below

Your elbows rest on two large balloons that float on the surface ofa pond.

Like a tree you reach upward to the sky.

Like a tree you are rooted from below

RESTING ON IMAGINARY BALLOONS

VISUALIZING THE BALLOONS The balloons are an indispensable clement of this remarkable system. You must visualize them clearly in your mind. By holding the imaginary balloon in your arms you release any pressure constricting the sides of your chest and abdomen. Maintaining the position builds up both your physical and mental stamina. You begin to place carefully balanced, but increasing, demands on your energy and blood systems that step up the circulation in both. The other imaginary balloons are a powerful aid to relaxation; learn to sink fully into them.

Zhan Zhuang Qigong

Master Lam in the second position.

The Tree in Blossom

The season changes imperceptibly. The early morning light is pale. Clouds drifton the horizon. In the distance nothing moves. The dawn is still.

The tree remains unmoving, but is changed.

The morning air is warm, the grass is moist. The tiny creatures of the soil are moving in the ground.

The trees roots stretch their new growth in the earth - alii >e to countless changes in theirdark and humid world. Their slender filaments draw in the silent dew that glistens in the soil.

The earth is rising through the tree. Inside its mightytrunk, life trembles and awakens.

Immense, alone, the tree is giving birth. New shoots are opening in the air. Curled leaves emerge in miniature - the work ofwinter's still and solitary months.

The tree is utterlyconsumed in growth. Its bark is stretched. Innumerable cells are giving birth.

Tloe morning winds sweep through the spreading tree. On every branch the buds and blossoms tremble in the breeze. The growing leaves reach out to every sunbeam. The leaves 'open pores are breathing and their veins are full.

The tree is wreathed in silence like a waterfall. It stands transfixed: poised motionless between the mighty pull ofall its tiny root hairs and the fragrant, evanescent petals on its boughs.

Yin Yang Balance

Yin Yang Balance

Achieve Health, Wealth And Body Balance Through Yin Yang Mastery. Cut up on the old stone drums of Republic of China, inscribed in books handed down through thousands of years, traced on ancient saucers and on saucers made today, is a sign and a symbol. It is woven into textiles, stitched into embroideries, emblazoned over house gates, wrought into shop emblems, a circle, locked together inside it yang and yin yang, light, yin, dark, each carrying inside itself the essence of the other, each shaped to the other

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