Mindful Recovery: How to Add Meditation to Your RoutineJon Haas
Zhan zhuang, or standing meditation exercise, has been used as a method of relaxation and health cultivation for thousands of years. The earliest known reference to standing appears inThe Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Chinese Medicine. Martial arts master Wang Xiangzhai wrote the following in his book on zhan zhuang:
It is said that already 2000 years ago there existed the book Internal Canon, the gem of Chinese medicine, which even today is a guide for medical practice. The chapter Simple questions concentrates on cultivating health. For example we can read there: “In ancient times great masters stood on earth, supporting heaven, controlling yin and yang, breathing with essence of qi, standing alone, guarding spirit, with body being as one.”… Before the eastern Han dynasty many scholars and warriors knew the methods of “tranquil cultivating.” The exercises could be done walking, standing, sitting, lying. It was popular form of cultivating health. Later, during reign of Liang dynasty’s emperor Wu, Damo came to China to teach. He transmitted methods of “washing marrow” and “changing tendons.”
The health preserving and sustaining effects of zhan zhuang have been documented in hospitals and medical clinics across China. The reason this practice has such a profound impact on health and recovery from exercise is that the standing meditation acts like a system-wide reboot for the whole body. It stimulates the nervous system, increases circulation, and raises energy levels, while providing deep relaxation for both mind and body.
Aches, pains, old injuries, muscular tensions, and imbalances are highlighted and brought to the forefront by this method and then slowly dissolved over time and completely released. The practice provides a way of completely relaxing and letting go of the muscular tensions in the body, while the correct alignment of the bones delivers support, creating a profound neutral and relaxed, almost buoyant state. As the whole body and mind are exercised, both relax and stimulate the nervous system, increase circulation, open the joints, and raise energy level for a feeling of overall well-being.
This exercise looks easy from the outside. After all, you’re just standing there and not moving. However, inside, there is a lot going on - the breath and the qi (energy) are moving. This exercise is a challenging, sometimes frustrating, yet highly beneficial and rewarding practice. The only way to truly appreciate it is to experience it for yourself.
How Do We Stand?In practical terms, how should we stand? Let’s start with the head and work our way down.
All of the above points must be maintained to have a truly “natural” standing posture.
Maintaining a relaxed posture is key to beginning your standing meditation.
Supercharge Your Standing PracticeNow that you have the external mechanics down, let’s talk about how to supercharge your relaxation process.
A New Way to RecoverIn teaching this method to both my fitness clients and martial arts students I find that in addition to our usual compliment of recovery drills (consisting of mobility exercises, yoga asana, and compensatory movement), the addition of this simple practice of standing meditation has consistently accelerated our recovery process, allowed us to reach new levels of relaxation, and strengthened the mind-body connection beyond any other work we have done. Additionally, it has managed to increase energy levels while fortifying our bodies against the daily rigors of life, work, and family stresses.
While this method is elegantly simple to practice, requires little space and no special equipment, and can be done at virtually any time of day, it also is startlingly deep.
Check out these related articles:
1. Wang Xiangzhai, Zhan Zhuang , trans. Andrezej Kalisz (Warsaw, Poland: Yiquan Academy, 2005).
Photo 1 courtesy of Breaking Muscle.
Photo 2 courtesy of Jon Haas.
Photo 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Topic: Mind & Body
See more about: Recovery, sports psychology, mindfulness, mindset, meditation
Jon Haas is a certified Underground Strength Coach - Level 2, as well as an ACE and FMS certified Personal Trainer. He has been involved in the martial arts for over thirty years. He has been training in the Budo Taijutsu warrior arts of the Bujinkan for more than 25 years and is currently ranked as a Kudan (ninth degree black belt) under Jack Hoban Shidoshi. Since 2009, he has been studying Aiki and internal power training with Dan Harden, as well as training in Yiquan, an internal Chinese... Read More