Friday, June 28, 2013

Standing meditation produced superior results (Part 2).

Ti Bao Zhuang (Lifting - Embracing Post)

Tibao Zhuang is done whenever you feel too much muscular tension in your arms from doing the Chengbao Zhuang posture described in Part One

As you will gather from the following section, you just lower your arms to change to Tibao Zhuang. When your arms feel comfortable again, you can return to Chengbao Zhuang by raising the arms again. One of my classmates spends more time with Tibao Zhuang than Chengbao Zhuang and he can relax his muscles extremely well.

Tibao Zhuang is also an important posture in Yang Sheng Zhuang
When you practice this or any of the standing postures, the state of mental and physical relaxation and comfort is gradually deepening. Following, your health is also improving.

Basic requirements of Tibao Zhuang are the same as of Chengbao Zhuang. While in Chengbao Zhuang your arms are at shoulder level, in Tibao Zhuang you keep them at both sides of your belly about 30 cm (1 foot) in front of you. The distance between your hands is about 3 fists wide.

 Note: It's recommended to open your eyes when practicing all postures and all exercises.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with toes slightly outwards. Knees bent slightly. Arms hanging loosely. Head should be kept straight. Look into space far in front of you, or slightly above the line of eyesight (it helps concentration). But eyes can also be slightly closed. Mouth slightly opened, but breathe through your nose. Tranquilize your mind and relax your body. A slight smile should appear on your face ("si xiao fei xiao" - "like smile not smile"). 

Under your armpits pretend that there are 2 small balloons lightly supporting your upper arms. Your elbows have the intention of pushing outwards like the feeling of a round inflated balloon. Elbows, forearms, and wrists are resting on imaginary wooden boards floating on the surface of water, or as if resting on a table. Direct the palms of your hands upwards and toward your body. Curve your fingers slightly. 

Imagine embracing a balloon between your arms, chest, and belly just like in Chengbao Zhuang except that your arms and hands are lower. The balloon is supported gently with your hands, the section of your palms closest to the wrists, and the middle section of your arms. Feel the balloon as if it was there and at the same time as if it wasn't. Use no force here too. Imagine holding the balloon so that it doesn't fly away if the wind should blow.

You can use the same mental visualizations as in Chengbao Zhuang. Tibao Zhuang can be used as a supplemental exercise to Chengbao Zhuang. You can use it to lower the intensity of training when you feel pain in your arms, shoulders or back while doing Chengbao Zhuang. It is also suitable for beginners or weak practitioners or people with poor health.  

When you get tired of doing Chengbao Zhuang or are feeling uncomfortable, you can change to doing Tibao Zhuang. A beginner should practice these two exercises twice a day, 10-15 minutes each time is acceptable. You can practice longer according to your condition. You should feel comfortable and gradual improvement will occur over time.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Standing Qigong/Meditation produced superior results

In 1939, Wang Xiangzhai issued a public challenge through a Beijing newspaper. His objective: to test and prove the new martial arts training system of Yiquan, a system that placed Standing meditation (zhan zhuang) at its core.

Expert fighters from across China, Japan and even Europe traveled to answer Wang’s challenge. None could beat him or his senior students. His standing meditation training produced superior results in a shorter time period, when compared to methods used in boxing, Judo, and other styles of Kung Fu.

Considering the proven value of standing meditation, surprisingly few people undertake the practice today. Why is this? As Wang himself noted, the exercise is plagued by logical contradictions. Understandably, but unfortunately, martial artists reject the exercise because it cannot possibly work.

Standing still is good exercise. Wang Xiangzhai explained the unique health benefits of standing meditation in his essay, The Gain From Practicing Martial Art:

Appropriate exercises can positively affect every cell and every organ in the human body, improve the functioning of respiratory and vascular systems, and also improve metabolism. In other words, they activate the whole human organism.
In typical forms of exercise, before the body is tired, there are already problems with breathing and the heart is overburdened. So the exercise must be halted prematurely in order to let one’s heart rest, to catch one’s breath and return to a normal state.
Chinese combat science uses the opposite method. This is exercise of the muscular and vascular systems, exercise for all cells of the body. The principle is to stimulate every organ at the same time. Even if during exercise your muscles become tired, your pulse stays in the normal range, and breathing is natural. After the exercise, you feel that your breath is freer and more comfortable than before.
Because there are no complex sets of movements, the nervous system is not greatly stressed; you eliminate internal tension, achieving mental calm. This is one of the elements that make combat science different from typical forms of exercise.
Read more on Standing Qigong in my other posts:
Zhan Zhuang - Foundation of Internal Martial Arts
What is stronger Qigong or Coffee for an instant “hit”?
The Key to Longevity - The kidneys
Eight Exercises for Fitness, Healing, and Longevity
QIGONG WALK to increase Qi (vital energy) quickly
How to build up Chi (Qi) to fight off Illness

Great books on standing Qigong:

There are many variations of standing meditation. Below is one of the systems I found very helpful.

Cheng Bao Zhuang (Supporting Embracing Post) - “Embrace a Balloon” posture

(This is Part 1, I will follow up with Part 2 describing Ti Bao Zhuang) Standing Qigong/Meditation - Part 2

Five minutes is all you need in the beginning.

Even an exercise as simple as 'Embrace a Balloon" has its subtle points, the ignorance of which may hinder your progress. I wanted to share this post with you to describe all the points in details.

Chengbao Zhuang is one of the most important postures in the Yangsheng Zhuang (Nourishing Life Post) postures. "Zhuang" means standing like a wooden post planted in the ground. Yang Sheng Zhuang postures are basic post standing exercises with feet evenly spaced apart.

In Yiquan, while practicing Yangsheng Zhuang, you should imagine any type of beautiful nature scenes that you may have experienced, such as standing on top of a mountain (feeling the wind), wading slowly in a flowing river or shallow sea (feeling the resistance of the water), or walking in a beautiful forest or grassland.

Gradually you develop a feeling of being naturally relaxed and very comfortable as if you are really standing in those beautiful natural surroundings (you might even want to sometimes imagine that you are not exercising, but are out enjoying a vacation!).

Initially, your muscles will probably not be able to relax for long periods while holding these static poses. You need your imagination to help you achieve this and also to learn how to control your mental activities. Step by step, learn how to use your mental activities to control your strength. Gradually you learn to adjust and harmonize the aspects of tension and relaxation in your mental activities and muscles.

Any muscular activity is controlled by the neural system and the neural system is affected by mental activity. That's why mental training is most important.

The requirements of Chengbao Zhuang are as follows:

1. Start with both feet shoulder width apart. The centers of the soles of your feet are “hollow” (just stand naturally). Your toes feel as if they are slightly grasping the ground. Your whole body is standing erect, not inclining forward or backward. It is comfortable and naturally expanded.

Your head is as if suspended and lifted by a wire connected to the top of the head. Your head, at the same time, is as if it is slightly supporting something and yet is not.

Your knees are slightly bent and as if they are being slightly lifted upward. Your backbone is naturally straightened. Your shoulders must not be lifted. Your buttocks feel as if they are sitting on the edge of a table. Your back, waist, and backs of legs all feel as if they are slightly pressing against a tree or wall behind you.

Slowly raise your hands in front of your chest. You should imagine as if there were small cotton balls between your fingers. Your fingers will expand a little; the thumbs are at the same height as your index fingers. In “gong fu” terminology, it is said that the “tiger mouth” should be round. The distance between both hands should be about 2-3 fist widths (fingers to fingers). Both hands are about 30 cm (1 foot) away from your chest.

Imagine holding a paper ball or balloon between your hands, arms, and chest. The balloon touches lightly against your arms, chest, belly, hands and fingers. Feel its roundness and inflation. In Yiquan, even though the imagination is subjective, it is still helpful. If you use force while embracing the balloon, it will become flattened. Do not lose your intention of embracing the balloon or it will escape. Keep testing for the feeling of the balloon with your arms, chest, and belly. Please note that you should only use the mind to imagine everything that was described above and you must not use force. It's the same with the visualizations described below.

2. Relax your shoulders and open your armpits a little (as if they were each holding a cotton ball). The angle formed by elbows and hands is about 45 degrees. Imagine that wooden boards support your elbows and hands or that you are standing in water, waist high. The balloon floats on the water and supports your elbows and hands. You could also imagine wooden boards floating on the water support your hands. You might ask yourself, what do these floating boards feel like? Do they bob up and down? Do they drift slightly? Relax your arms as much as possible. Do not use “clumsy force” (i.e. unnecessary force). Just use the amount of strength needed to keep your arms lifted in front of you.

3. Part your lips a little, smiling slightly ("as if smiling, but not smiling"). Relax your face and neck muscles. Breathe naturally, evenly, and delicately. Eyes gaze in front of you and slightly upward (“as if gazing, but not gazing”). Don't tilt your head forward or backward. [It's best to stand in an open area such as a park with the distance between you and the trees at more than 8 meters (26 feet). Don't face the sun or strong wind.] Imagine looking beyond a mist where objects seem indistinct. Be calm and listen attentively as if you are able to hear the very indistinct sound of raindrops falling on the ground or on tree branches. You should try to accomplish all the above requirements, but in a gradual and natural way without undue effort.

4. You can keep your eyes open or closed. Keeping the eyes open is recommended for the healthy, while closing them is suitable for those who are sick.

To enable the beginner to better understand the use of visualization during “standing post”, I give the following examples:

a) Imagine that your body is standing in a shallow sea or in a lake and you are a giant standing tall as a mountain. How do you think you would feel? The water is billowing and pushing your body from the front. Carefully feel the pressure from the water. What would you feel if the water were flowing through your body, arms and fingers? Imagine that your toes are grasping the ground so that the water doesn’t carry you away. Feel the water pressing against your back, waist, and the back of your arms and legs due to your body slightly moving backward. Now in converse, also feel the water pushing you from behind. It pushes your body slightly forward so that your chest, belly, and arms also feel the resistance of water against your body's movement. Imagine both situations happening again and again, slowly, naturally, calmly and comfortably. You can also imagine shifting your body forward and backward slightly to feel the resistance of the water. Or you can imagine walking in the water, first moving forward slowly, then after a while, going backward slowly. Again, in general, you want to feel the resistance of the water with your body’s imaginary forward and backward movements. Feel this resistance on your whole body and in particular, the shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, chest, waist and legs. Please note that it is still only about using the mind and not force.

b) Imagine that you are on board of a ship. The ship is sailing on the ocean, moving up and down pleasantly. The sun gently warms your body. A gentle breeze ripples through your clothes. You feel very comfortable.

c) You stand on the top of a big mountain and imagine yourself as a giant admiring the other beautiful high mountains, streams, rivers and lakes. You feel pleased, bright, and serene with no concerns.

d) Imagine that you are standing in a beautiful paradise garden with green trees and colorful blossoms. Water is flowing and there are high mountains in the distance. Listen to the birds sing and smell the fragrant flowers. The air is very crisp. The sun is rising and half of the sky is red. In such beautiful surroundings you feel very comfortable.

Above are only some examples of mental activity in Yiquan Yang sheng Zhuang. There are also many others you could use. Remember, you should do them naturally without undue effort.

[Note: Please try to learn step by step, one thing at a time. Carefully examine your experiences again and again. To learn too hurriedly is useless for training and may result in gaining nothing.]

I recommend finding a good teacher if you are serious about this type of practice.

Tips for healthy Digestion:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Heal your heart and mind

This heart-opening exercise/visualization is about opening your heart to Love, and can heal your heart and mind, which is truly the most important healing of all.

You can do this anywhere, just find a few minutes where you won't be interrupted. Read through the details first, and then give it a try. It is always good to start by taking a deep breath.

When you are ready, you can close your eyes, take a deep breath and do the following:

Imagine you are in a room that you really love, a room that makes you feel safe and peaceful, maybe the room from your childhood that you loved the most, or maybe just a room that shows up in your mind right now. 

You are resting in bed, just resting quietly and feeling very good and comfortable. Look around the room, notice the windows, the curtains, the furniture, and the light. Take a deep breath. Look and see where the door is.

The door is open. Now watch the doorway as someone comes in to tell you they love you. Let them come. Just see who it is and what they do as they tell you "I love you!" And then another person comes in, and tells you "I love you!" And another, and another. Let them come. There are so many people in your life who love you! You may be amazed at who shows up! Stay quiet in your bed, and just let them come. Allow the love to enter your heart. No need to think or make any effort in any way. Just stay quiet and watch.

Whenever you feel complete, you can open your eyes. This gift of love will stay in your heart, if you cherish it as the treasure it truly is.

I often do this visualization when I feel a little stressed, or upset. It always fills my heart with love, light and gratitude and everything looks better from here!

Wishing you the peace and joy of a heart filled with Love, Light and Gratitude