Standing meditation is easily the most powerful and thoroughly effective form of internal energy cultivation. Believe it or not, standing still is one of the most challenging and transformative experiences that you may ever have. The Chinese term Zhan Zhuang describes standing as if your legs were buried in the ground –like the trunk and roots of a tree or the deep piles that are used to stabilize bridges and docks. The stability and inherent immobility of the trunk and roots of a tree demonstrates a quality of natural vitality, a quality of activity and growth within stillness.
The practice of Zhan Zhuang takes considerable dedication but it offers you a place to explore relaxation,stillness, alignment, presence, spaciousness, spontaneous growth and self-realization. The most constant erosive force in life is gravity. You live under a constant waterfall of energy, you can either make room for this current to move through you or you can try and strugglevagainst it. If your posture is unaligned or you work in a way that constantly puts you in conflict with gravity, you may become gradually more stiff, sore and tired. Being in conflict with gravity can make you feel like you are in conflict all of the time, even in situations that are potentially joyous. Being comfortable in your body requires being comfortable with gravity, and being comfortable is the best thing you could ever do for your self, or for anyone that you influence in any way.
The basic elements of Zhan Zhuang practice are focused on developing a sense of structural alignment. By going with the flow of energy, or getting out of Gravity’s way, it is possible to recover a great deal of wasted energy. Experiments have shown that a poor posture requires up to 20% more muscular effort than a balanced posture. This increase in available energy will allow you to practice with much more enthusiasm, attention, patience and curiosity. It may even add 20% to your “life”.
The Basic Elements of Zhan Zhuang Alignment
The basic posture for Zhan Zhuang practice is to stand with your feet about shoulder width apart with your knees slightly bent. Your arms can be in various positions, but at first it is best that
they remain at your sides. Your feet should be facing either straight forward or turned, just slightly, to the outside. As you bend your knees, they should be over the space between your big toe and second toe. This position may take some time to develop, so please consider it a direction more than a set position. Your pelvis should feel relaxed and open. Ideally your pelvis should be level, not tilting forwards or backwards. This position also takes some time to develop, it is important to feel for which way your pelvis is tilting and gradually explore ways to bring it into a balanced position. If you are unsure where to start please ask during or after class. As your practice evolves and you become more familiar with the subtleties of standing, your whole posture as well as your pelvis will naturally “fall” into place.
Your upper body should be both erect and settled, something like balancing a book on your head. There should be enough movement in your chest and abdomen to breath in and out, both
completely and comfortably. Your shoulders should be relaxed and slightly rounded –but not collapsed or held back. As a general rule your ears, shoulders, hips, and heels should all be in a
straight line. Also, you should feel balanced left to right, front to back, and up and down. It is recommended to check in, evaluate and adjust each of these conditions every few minutes during
The above description of the basics of alignment is very rudimentary but it will give you a good starting point. When you are comfortable with the above elements of practice you can begin
working on the more subtle practices described below. Ideally a practice session takes between 20 and 40 minutes. If you are new to Zhan Zhuang practice, start with 5 minutes for five days in a row, then add 2 –3 minutes every third day after that. This way you will have a consistent and thorough practice after one month.
The first three videos are a step-by-step demonstration of the fundamental skills and details of a good standing meditation practice.