Archive for the ‘Standing Meditation’ Category

Standing Meditation On An Airplane

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

I’ve just come off a flight from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur. In total it took about 7 hours, and for those 7 hours I spent 5 of them sitting down either trying to sleep or trying to watch Rock’n’Rolla (Good film, very British humour). Now those 5 hours were interspersed with about 20 minutes of standing practise, during which a pretty Korean stewardess asked if I was praying, which all things considered, was a pretty good guess. When I said I was doing Taiji, I got an even more puzzled look but I digress.

Now that I’m off the plane and able to move around again, I remember once again that the human body wasn’t built to sit down, immobile for such a long period of time. My shoulders are tight, and my back is aching from having to sit down on a seat that didn’t fit me properly. I just think of how much worse I’d probably feel if I hadn’t had the chance to do a bit of standing!

The purpose of this post is not to gripe about the flight, but to remind myself that the human body wasn’t made to sit still for that length of time. Remember the whole habit thing that’s the theme of the recent weeks, standing re-programs the body to hold itself in a good posture.

Equally if you sit in a bad posture, such as on a plane, scrunched up in a seat for too long your body will start to remember that, so getting up and moving around to remind your body what’s the right posture is something really worth doing, especially on really long-haul fights.

I try to do some standing meditation, and if there’s enough room, I even do a bit of silk-reeling. You might get really strange looks from people but I think I’m getting too old to care. To be honest, I don’t go 5 hours straight whilst I’m at home without getting up and moving. Movement is all part of my routine and my habit so I’m not really going to sacrifice that whilst I’m on an airplane.

As Greeny says, “be large”, just go ahead and do that standing or movement.

Standing Meditation #3 – Your Experience Is Unique

Monday, June 1st, 2009

One of the great difficulties of teaching standing meditation or (Zhan Zhuang) is that there is no clear progression, no clear path that the student will follow.  This is because everyone is unique, and everyone’s different.  The things you experience when you do standing meditation are mostly feelings, and human language has never, ever been able to master the description of a feeling.

You can take a group of 10 people and teach them standing and all of them will have broadly similar, but still very different stories about their practise.  Everyone has different levels of tension to let go of, and therefore their experience will all be different.

So, when you do your zhan zhuang practise, remember that what happens is unique to you and nobody else.  There is no real danger of “doing it wrong”, so long as you’re feeling new things you are doing it right.  Progress is non-linear, there is no clear sequence of stages you will go through because we’re all so different.

The important thing to do, as we’ve said before is just do it.  You might literally feel like you’re standing like a post when you start (That’s what Zhan Zhuang actually means), a lot of us do the first time we do it, but keep at it, do a little bit often and you’ll feel the goodies before long.

Go to the previous lesson: Things You Might Experience

Standing Meditation #2 – Things You Might Experience

Friday, May 29th, 2009

If you’ve started doing some standing meditation as part of your taijiquan practise, you might be finding that there are some interesting, and possibly alarming things happening to you.  Hot and cold flushes, shaking, all manner of weird things can happen.

We’re here to tell you that, weird though they may be, they’re all completely normal.  It’s just stuff the body does to deal with tension and it’s all part of the process of relaxation and more importantly, healing, both things that we’re trying to get out of our taijiquan practise.

One of the things that standing meditation gives your body is a chance to be itself.  We’re always telling the body to do this or that, be this or that.  When you just stand and be still, the body gets a chance to do its own thing, and, like one of those stressed out personal assistants, starts to get down to all the things that it should be doing, like healing that bad back that it’s not had a chance to do in years, let more blood circulate in those aching shoulders.

The thing is, we’re not typically used to feeling our body do this, mainly because when it is trying to do it, we’re probably doing something else like watching TV or playing World of Warcraft.  So, when it starts happening and our attention has nowhere else to go, it feels really, really weird.

But it’s totally normal.

Go back to the previous lesson: How To Do It Standing Like A Tree
Go to the next lesson: Your Experience is Unique.

Tension is Your Enemy And MUST Be Defeated!

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

First, an apology.. this was supposed to head up the video log posts on This Week’s Big Idea (It’s relaxation) and I got my knickers in a bit of a twist and posted the standing meditation one first.

No matter, tension is an ongoing problem in the practise of Taijiquan, and will probably continue to be so for your entire Taijiquan career.  If you’d like to know why, check out part 2 of why relaxation is an infinite onion.

In this post, we’ll give you some tips on ideas you can use for standing practise beyond the very simple (but still very effective) exercise that we’re going through in the Standing Meditation lessons.

Standing Meditation #1 – How To Do It Standing Like A Tree

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

As This Week’s Big Idea is relaxation, we thought we’d post a video on one of the most simple (yet powerful) relaxation exercises, standing meditation.  It’s also known by a few other names, Zhan Zhuang, Wuji, Tadasana, Standing Post.  They’re all names that describe the principle of standing in a fixed position and relaxing into the posture.

The posture demonstrated, this “Standing like a tree” is named as such because someone thought that standing upright with your hands in front of you either made you resemble a tree or because you looked like you were hugging one.

If you’ve not done much standing before, start with 2-3 minutes, and gradually work it up to 10.  When you begin Standing Like A Tree, you’re really going to feel like a tree as the tension starts to come out of your body.

Try not to judge the process, all the time you spend doing standing meditation is time well spent, there is no such thing as a “good” session or a “bad” session.  The standing practise sessions are just different, as the myriad of things you experience will vary from day to day.  It’s perhaps the only practise where you get immediate benefit from (even if you may not be aware of it straight away) as there is practically no learning curve.  You just have to GOYA* and do it.

Standing meditation is beneficial to your Taiji practise because it starts off the process of relaxation.  You may be Standing Like A Tree, but you’re actually more like an onion. There’s layers and layers to it.  As you let go of tension and reach one layer of relaxation, another one awaits you beneath it.  As your practise progresses, you’ll peel away more and more layers, and standing meditation is the most effective way to kickstart the process.

This is the one single exercise that made the most difference to Tannage’s back and Greeny’s knee.  It was standing meditation that allowed our joints to relax, and start healing themselves, so if you have joint problems or a bad back, you might do well to do this practise, 5-10 minutes a day, every day.  Regular practise is far more effective than sporadic long practise sessions.  Think of rolling a snowball, the longer you roll it, the bigger it gets, but you can’t stop or it’ll stop rolling, and you’ll have to put all that effort into getting it going again. Tannage did standing like a tree for years, just 5-10 minutes a day, every day almost without fail.

Don’t worry if you’re not as um.. militant about it as Tannage is, he’s got a back to keep in good shape and wants to avoid middle-age agony. Try to do standing menditation every day but if you hit maybe every other day you’re doing pretty well and it’ll give you a lot of benefit.

Although there are lots of other postures, Standing Like A Tree is a good one to start with. If you never learnt any other standing postures, then this posture will serve you very well. It’ll build internal power, and also strengthen you (did I mention it can fix your back and also heal bad knees?)

The next lesson is all about things you might experience when doing standing meditation.

* Get Off Your Ass – I credit Naomi Dunford of for coining this phrase.