This posture is Tai Chi. It is considered to be the most powerful of all the tai chi (taiji) and qigong (chi kung) postures, and is often used as a separate exercise to increase leg strength, concentration, deep breathing and chi (qi) flow.
Zhan Zhuang means “standing like a tree” and is roughly pronounced “Jan Juang”, or, in southern China, “Jam Jong”. For most people, training in Zhan Zhuang is a complete surprise in the beginning. There are no recognizable external movements, although it is a highly energetic exercise system. In contrast to many other methods, Zhan Zhuang develops our internal energy in a very efficient way, instead of consuming it.
Zhan Zhuang is practiced in well-balanced standing positions which increase the flow of energy and build up internal strength. The Zhan Zhuang system is based on a unique combination of exertion and relaxation which stimulates, cleanses and internally massages the whole organism.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width, and parallel. Bend your knees just slightly (feeling the backs of the knees as soft and hollow), allowing your weight to sink fully into your feet at the bubbling well – the hollow spot center and just below the upper pad area, legs and pelvis are relaxed. Gently roll the knees out a bit without moving the feet. This will tend to lift the arch. Don’t allow the big toes to lose contact with the floor. Then float your hands and elbows up to the level of your heart – elbows lower than wrists, palms facing your torso, creating a circle with your arms, with four or five inches between the gently extended fingers of your right & left hands – just as though you were indeed hugging a tree. Sink the shoulders down. And then imagine that you are hugging that tree, and as you hug the tree you’re also becoming a tree: feel your roots descending, sap being drawn upward through the center of your torso, your arms & legs lengthening, your crown of your head softening to receive sunlight and the energy of the sky from above you. Use inhalation to expand body and exhalation to release unnecessary tension down into the ground using the bones as conduits. Continue to feel your limbs energize, your spine elongate and your muscles relax into the position. Hold for some time.
Slowly, with practice over time, work toward sinking lower, widening the distance between the feet (still kept parallel), and holding for longer periods of time. The body will relax into the pose, your mind will cease wandering and your muscles and tendons will become more flexible and supple. This should not hurt your knees or lower back if done correctly. If it hurts the front of the thighs (quadriceps), that is a good sign. 😉
These are great (and not uncommon) questions!
1. I suggest using a visualization of a puff of air, or a helium balloon blowing or floating air under the armpits. Feel expanded and inflated rather than using muscle or force to open the armpits.
2. Using breath can be a very personal experience. It is said that the Chi (Qi) follows the intent. If your intent is sinking and grounding, Qi will sink. If your intent is floating, Qi will float. If your intent is cleansing, healing, or clearing, it will follow the intent. I suggest to my students to play with both inhaling and exhaling to feel different sensations of sinking and expanding. Also, one might consider sharing Qi with the universe!
Thanks for your questions!
Just wondered-1)if I make a gap at the armpits holding my arms out a bit there is a tension there and 2)does one use the out-breath to help sink the chi or help unblock areas by directing breath into the area- Thanks
Jo, If you are feeling pain then please listen to your body and lower your arms a bit and stand a bit higher. If you are feeling that it is a challenging workout, then keep practicing the challenge. Strenght and relaxation will develop over time. The magic is in the practice!
It’s a bit tough on the arms and shoulders, I find.
in case you want more info. unsure of the arm position but figure any type rooting is better than nothing. o)
This is really relaxing to me and is helping with me inner being and strength
I have long adopted this stance into my meditation and it is my top choice of meditation poses.