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Energizing Routine 2: Zhan Zhuang
Like Yi Jin Jing (YJJ), Zhan Zhuang (ZZ) is a Chinese qigong exercise that is usually translated to mean standing post, or stand like tree. Qigong, very simply defined, is a series of Chinese physical movement exercises that emphasize breath control, vital energy, movement, and improved health*. But, unlike YJJ, in ZZ there is very little, or ideally, no external movement at all–you just stand still.
Having read that previous sentence, you might be thinking, “Well…that’s pretty easy, I do that every day…” No, not like this you don’t.
Yes, stand still. Don’t move. Don’t fidget. Don’t squirm. Don’t…move. That’s it, but there is much more to it. When you follow the method, you’ll begin to learn to relax your muscles on a deeper level and rely on proper structure and not tension to hold you up. At the same time, as you begin to connect with and manage the subtle energy inside, believe it or not, if you stick with it, new strength will emerge.
But don’t under estimate the seemingly simple exercise. You will sweat, you will tremble, you will ache, and you will get a good workout. With diligent effort, one might experience increased strength, greater awareness of self, and improved grounding, and calming centeredness. Along with this, various internal organs and systems may also be strengthened. These benefits are not instant, to be sure, but are cultivated slowly through correct and consistent practice and patience.
I’d heard of “standing post” training a from a fellow martial artist, a former instructor, and through various online articles on martial arts, but I didn’t really give it much thought. It wasn’t until I entered winter training mode a few years ago that I, quite by accident, began exploring ZZ. That year, one of my winter training goals was to learn more about internal energy methods, so in mid December I ordered this book, The Way of Energy (see below), not realizing fully what it was about. I’m pretty sure I read the description and reviews, but when the book arrived, I was more than a little surprised that it was a deeper exploration of something I’d only heard about in passing.
As I flipped through and scanned the what, how, and why of ZZ, I became intrigued and excited to give it a try. The author does a great job explaining the finer details and emphasizes the need to take your time and not rush development. Some may find the need to practice certain exercises for several months if not a full year before moving to the next level off-putting or unnecessary. And, of course they’d be wrong. Following the prescribed training plan is the only way to reap the benefits; there are no shortcuts.
Almost immediately upon experiencing my first time “standing like a tree”, I was hooked. I recognized something simple yet powerful in this exercise. As I continued to train, I hit the milestones the author described and eventually began to notice positive changes. One of the most important for me personally is greater sense of muscle control, as in which are being used and how efficiently are they being used for the tasks at hand. Along with that, I feel stronger internal body connection and energetic flow. And, standing in an unnecessarily long line at the grocery store, or airport is now much less of an annoyance and more of an opportunity to train!
While the author recommends practicing outside under a tree, one can practice indoors and still make great progress. The few times I have stood like a tree while standing by a tree have been amazing. Whether indoors or out, this is a vital part of my morning routine.
The Next Step
You don’t have to be martial arts to practice ZZ. If you’re curious, just click the link above, take a look at the book, or if you’re fortunate to find a good teacher, contact them and give it a go. If you stay with it, you will be glad you did!
You can also find other ZZ books and resources on our Zhan Zhuang page.
Wishing you the good, better, best of what’s possible!
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