Zhan Zhuang training exercises your muscles and your mind. Nothing moves on the outside. The motion is all internal. Some sensations are immediately apparent. You can, for example, feel the muscles in your arms, shoulders, thighs, and calves rapidly reaching the point of exhaustion. As the muscles work harder to hold the position, you can feel your body heat rising. You may begin to sweat and feel your pulse rate speeding up.
If you continue, and force yourself to stand still by a supreme effort of willpower, you will soon be a knot of tension. That tension will cause your muscles to contract further, restricting your blood circulation, and you will run the risk of fainting.
That is not the Way of Energy. At the very point when you start to feel the pain in your muscles, use your mind to tell them to relax (see Chapter 2). This enables oxygen-rich blood to continue to circulate freely through your system at an enhanced rate, rather than being blocked by tense muscles. It also triggers muscle fibres that have not yet been brought into play, and these help carry the load borne by the fibres that are approaching exhaustion. Until you have mastered the art of using your mind to control the tension in your muscles, you can reduce the tension by moving your mind from the pain (see p. 52). Combining this with the correct breathing and relaxation exercises already described in Chapter 2, enables you to hold any of the Zhan Zhuang positions far longer than you could ever imagine to be possible.
The result of all these changes is a high level of internal motion within your body that makes your Chi course through its myriad channels, just as your blood surges through your veins and arteries. Your mental powers are exercised to the full as you learn to control your muscular and nervous systems. Eventually you grow beyond your normal limits of endurance to a highly energized state of alert tranquillity.
The sensations you will experience as you practise the exercises are described in this chapter.
While practising Zhan Zhuang, you will experience a range of sensations in addition to the pain arising from tension. Because we are all different, the sensations we experience will differ. But if you follow the exercise instructions carefully, the work done by your muscles and the resulting activity inside your body is bound to have a strong physical impact. Some people start to sweat a lot; others find parts of the body go cold. Some people tremble and shake; others feel they are going numb. For more than 40 years, Professor Yu Yong Nian (see right) has carefully studied the reactions of well over a thousand students and monitored sensations experienced by beginners. These are all shown on the chart on page 57. This chart helps you to anticipate the sensations you may experience as you begin practising the Zhan Zhuang exercise system. Use it as an encouragement to continue. Bear in mind as you read the chart that no-one follows the reaction pattern precisely: it represents common sensations.
AT THE BEGINNING Using your mind to relax your muscles may prove very difficult at the beginning. Sometimes the only way you can endure standing for 10 or 20 minutes in the early stages is to take your mind off the pain. You can put on the television or radio, or play some recorded music. This will help to distract you from the pain and thereby reduce the tension that starts to accumulate in your body. You can also talk to anyone who is with you, or sing or daydream, just to take your mind off what you are doing.
TRAINING STAGES The sensations described in Professor Yu's chart are not limited to the first six weeks of training. They can occur at any point in your training whenever you move to a new level of exercise, such as standing for a longer period of time, adopting a new, advanced posture, or reaching a new mental state.
Note: If you experience no sensations at all, it may be that in your case the exercises take longer to produce these effects. Some people may experience them after only five minutes of standing; others need to stand much longer. The absence of reactions may also stem from the fact that your legs are not bent enough. You may not have sunk down low enough to exceed the normal capacity of your legs to sustain the position. To get the maximum physical benefit from Zhan Zhuang, you need to take yourself gradually beyond your own limits of endurance.
PROFESSOR YU YONG NIAN Most mornings in Beijing, you can find Professor Yu Yong Nian in his favourite park teaching Zhan Zhuang. He was born in February 1920 and after completing a training in contemporary Western medicine, and qualifying as a dentist in Japan, he returned to China in 1940. Four years later he started to practise Zhan Zhuang under the personal guidance of Master Wang Xiang Zhai (see p. 58).
In 1953 he began to use aspects of Zhan Zhuang in the treatment of chronic diseases, first at the Beijing Railway Hospital, then in his own health clinic, and later at the Dailin Army Hospital. In 1956, following many successful treatments incorporating the Zhan Zhuang method, he was asked to prepare a report on the medical application of Zhan Zhuang for use in all Chinese hospitals and clinics.
His first book, published (in Chinese) in 1982, has sold about half a million copies. He is an Honorary Member of the Council of the Association of Chi Kung Science of the People's Republic of China and an adviser to the American-Chinese Chi Kung Association.
Professor Yu YongNianpractisingZhan Zhuang.
Professor Yu YongNianpractisingZhan Zhuang.
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Do you treat your body as your soul's best champion or as a monster that plagues you? Is it a sanctuary or a grave? Your body is your avatar (the graphic that represents you) in the physical existence. It's the character you command, and you're the consciousness that commands it.