Martial arts - Zhan Zhuang

Clemence
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Martial arts - Zhan Zhuang

Hello,

I have discovered all the research made by Esther Gokhale with a great interest.

I practice the Zhan Zhuang posture which is an old Qi gong exercise that Chinese martial artists do to build legs' strength, develop body proprioception, etc. You would stand still "like a tree" every day up to an hour. 

In Zhan Zhuang posture*, the back should be flat while the knees are bent - cf picture. The feet are parallel (sometimes turned inwards), hip-width appart. The body is totally relaxed and as a consequence, the pelvis is expected to retrovert naturally (not through a contraction of the abs). The kua (or groins) should be soft. The glutts are relaxed. In addition, the breath should settle down in the abdomen (dan tian).

I thoroughly read the Lesson 6 - Tallstanding from 8 steps to a pain-free back and it appeared to me that the Zhan Zhuang posture doesn't quite fit the proper way of standing still. According to my understanding, the torso should bend a little bit forward (parallel to the lower legs), feet should be turned 10 to 15 degrees outwards, the gluteus should be actively engaged and the breathing should mainly take place in the ribcage while the inner corset is engaged.

I would be very happy to get a feedback on this topic so that I could adjust my Zhan Zhuang practice. 

I would also like to know if you would be in favor of a standing meditation like Zhan Zhuang (or mountain pose in yoga or any other standing still posture) with the Gokhale principles of tall standing, or slightly modified.

Thank you in advance for sharing your opinion on this topic.

Kind regards,

Clémence 

*Note : there are dozens of blogs and books written on the Zhan Zhuang topic with many more details and precision than my summary. 

Kathleen Marie's picture
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Thank you for your question. You were able to glean quite a bit about tall standing from the book. There are a few additions I'd like to make.

* In tall standing, the skeleton is balanced with the weight of the body carried mostly in the heels. Therefore, the muscles are strong and firm, but not necessarily actively engaged. Oftentimes readers will thrust their bottoms out behind them in an attempt to antevert the pelvis. This causes the glutes to activate and will also strain the lower back. This is not a balanced position and may put undue strain on the lumbar spine. When we teach the course, we teach the proper techniques for tall standing in lesson 3 so students attain anteversion of the pelvis in a natural and relaxed manner. 

* The feet do have 10 to 15 degrees of external rotation, however this comes about by kidney bean shaping the feet, not from turning the feet outwards.

* The inner corset is meant to be engaged whenever we do something that may challenge the spine, such as running or lifting heavy bags of groceries, etc. It's not meant to be constantly engaged. On the other hand, the rib anchor many need to be engaged if one has a sway in the spine.

* Breathing does take place in the chest.

Standing meditation with tall standing via Gokhale Method is a good practice. If there is a teacher in your area I would recommend that you take the course. My concern is that you have a good tall standing posture which you will learn during a course. Additionally, you will find that it will enhance your Zhan Zhuang practice greatly.

Clemence
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Dear Kathleen,

A big thank you for your answer, I will take all your remarks into account to integrate them in my practice.

I would love to follow the Foundation Course but I live in Switzerland - Geneva and there is no teacher close to my place yet. 

Kind regards,

Clemence 

Kathleen Marie's picture
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11/02/2010 - 7:05am

We have teachers in the following countries:

* Germany (9 hours away)

* Bristol, UK (11 hours away)

* Slovenia (8 hours away)

If you find yourself traveling to Canada, the US, Singapore, India, Chile, we also have teachers in these countries too!

For now, best wishes for integrating good posture into your practice.

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