Copyright © by Andrzej Kalisz, 2005
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I would like to express gratitude to: My parents.
Thanks to their help I could enter the path of studying Chinese culture, martial arts and exercises for cultivating health.
He helps me to research the principles of studying and experiencing, and is generously sharing his own experience gained by over 40 years of practice.
They appreciate my efforts and their progress makes me sure that what I'm studying and passing to them is valuable.
This is because health, well-being, seeking beauty, balance and harmony are important in human life, that such forms of exercises like yoga, tai chi and chi kung have became very popular all over the world. But until recently yiquan and zhan zhuang were not widely known. Now they are rapidly becoming popular.
Some people say that zhan zhuang is a Chinese yoga. Wide use of positional exercises resembles use of asana in Indian yoga.
Zhan zhuang is often classified as a method of qigong (in broad meaning). It has been used as a supplemental means of therapy in hospitals in China since 1950s.
Tai chi of 20th century - this is another term used in relation to zhan zhuang and yiquan. Presently many taijiquan instructors are including zhan zhuang method in their curriculum or are switching from taijiquan to yiquan.
Chapter I RELAX FIRST - 6 -
Zhan zhuang and yiquan - 9 -
Chapter II USING IMAGINATION - 11 -
Chapter III FOCUSING MIND - 19 -
On meditation - 21 -
Chapter IV BODY AWARENESS - 22 -
Sensations and body reactions - 26 -
Chapter V RELAX AND EFFORT - 28 -
In search of harmony - 31 -
Chapter VI DIRECTING STRENGTH - 32 -
Chapter VII TESTING STRENGHT - 39 -
Chapter VIII MORE ON TESTING STRENGTH - 45 -
Chapter IX FRICTION STEPS - 54 -
Philosophy - 61 -
Chapter X THERAPY - 63 -
Chapter XI BEYOND BASICS - 68 -
SUGGESTED LITERATURE ON ZHAN ZHUANG - 71 -
YIQUAN TRAINING WORLDWIDE SUPPORT - 72 -
Relaxation is what most people interested in starting study of qigong, taijiquan (tai chi) or yoga are looking for. Relaxation is also one of the most important issues in practice of zhan zhuang method.
Many adult people have developed excessive habitual tension of some muscles. This is in big part a result of accumulating stresses which are part of life of modern people. Sometimes it can be very difficult to get rid of tension and stiffness. Excessive tension will make doing various actions in work or in everyday life more difficult, will exhaust you physically and mentally. Even when you are trying to relax, sitting in an armchair, very often you are still too tense. In many cases your shoulders are raised, neck and face stiff.
Now stand in natural, relaxed position, with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly pointing outward. You can do some slight, free movements. This will help you to check whether you are not too tense, because too much tension of muscles is reflected in stiffness, in limitation of free movement of your joints. You can repeat it many times in this or some other position or while walking. Don't try too hard, don't concentrate too much. Do it in a bit casual, careless manner. This way you will gradually learn how to eliminate tension and you will be more conscious of whether you are relaxed or tense. You can use this method before doing next exercises.
You could also use a method of careful observing the level of tension and of conscious relaxing your body part by part. First think about your head. If you will notice some feeling of tension there, slowly remove it. Then shift your attention to neck, observing the level of tension and slowly, without haste or trying too hard, relax it. Keep shifting attention gradually lower and lower, toward your chest, upper back and upper arms, then waist, abdomen, elbows and forearms, then lower abdomen, buttocks, wrists, palms, thighs, shanks, feet, all the time observing the level of tension and gradually relaxing your body. You can repeat this cycle many times.
This way you are gradually relaxing your body, eliminating tension. And because your mind is engaged in this process, you become more focused, all disturbing thoughts are becoming weaker, you are becoming more relaxed both physically and mentally.
Zhan zhuang method is based on using intention, working on co-ordination between mind and body. This aspect will be included in all further described exercises.
Sometimes even realizing the tension can be difficult. In such case you can first try to make some parts of your body very tense, and only then relax them, all the time carefully observing sensations which you experience. This will help you to develop better perception and ability of distinguishing the states or relax and tension.
Also when you are aware that some part of your body is too tense, but you are not able to relax it, you can try first to tense it even more and only then to relax. If you will not achieve good effects immediately, don't worry, just repeat it regularly, without trying too hard, a bit casually. Progress will come with time, and results will become deeper gradually. And if you try to hard, it could make you more tense.
One of the aspects of relax is a natural, freely flowing breath. If there appears some tension in the area of your chest and abdomen, it will disturb breathing. If you notice this kind of problems, take care to check if it is not related to such tension. Then try to relax the tense area, so you chest and abdomen will be able to move freely again, and you will notice that your breathing becomes more free. Don't try to hard. Don't concentrate on controlling breathing. Just let the natural mechanisms work.
When you practice zhan zhuang, there is no need for special place, time or clothes. You can do the exercises in various situations: standing, sitting, lying on bed, walking, doing various actions. But if you have chance, try to practice in a park, in woods, in natural surroundings with free air. This is not advised to practice when your are very hungry or very full. Before starting practice, you should go to toilet. Unfasten some buttons, make your belt loose, so you can feel comfortable while practicing.
Gradually you will find more and more pleasure in doing exercises and the practice sessions will naturally become longer, there will be no need to force yourself to practice. But at beginning you can start from just a few minutes, practicing everyday, several times per day if it's possible, for example during breaks in work or any other times. It is better to make practice session shorter and more frequent, keeping the pleasant feeling of comfort while doing exercise, not trying to make the practice sessions very long at beginning. But don't stop doing exercise immediately when feel like it - first think for a moment if you are really tired or if it is just kind of impatience (in such case try to keep practice with calm mind).
After finishing practice session start moving slowly and have a look around. You can make a few deeper breaths, exhaling in a way as if sighing out. You can shake your body slightly or do some self-massage.
When you will already have some experience with zhan zhuang, and you will be able to adjust time and intensity of practice properly, you will feel relaxed and full of energy after doing exercises and you will wake up fresh next morning.
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