Breathing And Relaxing

Think of a baby in the womb. The gently curved positions of Zhan Zhuang are based on that original state. They enable your energy to redirect itself properly through the curves of your major joints. But there are two other elements that are vital to the rediscovery of your original, natural energy. These are your breath, and the condition of your mental and nervous systems.

The state of your mental and nervous systems has a profound effect on your breathing and the functioning of your entire being. Thoughts and feelings have obvious effects on your respiration and your heartbeat. They have a powerful influence on the chemicals released into your bloodstream and on the tension in your muscles. A classic example of this is the effect of worry on the heartbeat, the breathing rate, and the digestive system. These same effects can be detrimental to your Chi system, blocking the flow of energy through your body, and restricting your ability to absorb and utilize the universal Chi that surrounds you every moment of your life.

Over the centuries various techniques have been developed to help people calm their minds. Some methods advise you to concentrate your mind on one point or to follow the rise and fall of your breathing without allowing yourself to be distracted. Other meditational systems are based on repeating a word or phrase so that your mind comes to focus solely on that activity and slowly lets go of other preoccupations.

Because of the tremendous mental effort they require, these systems often increase the level of tension in both the body and the mind. Many of them focus exclusively on the mental aspect and neglect the rest of the human organism. In Zhan Zhuang training, the aim is to train your mind and body at the same time. The training includes what the Chinese call "mentality exercises" - using the efforts of your mind to relax the muscles in your body. Like other systems, this takes a lot of care initially; but in the end, your Chi will flow through a relaxed body that is synchronized with a relaxed mind.

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