The All-Round Standing Pole Exercise

Stand with feet apart at shoulder width, toes point forward or slightly outward. Bend the knees and sit down slightly, weight centered firmly on the soles of the feet. Keep the head and spine erect from tip to tail, chest empty (i.e. relaxed and slightly concave, never stuck out) and stomach full and relaxed, not pulled in. Gaze straight ahead, eyelids hanging relaxed over the eyes. Rest the tip of the tongue on the upper palate behind the front teeth, let the lips and the teeth hang slightly open. Arms hang by the sides. The body should feel perfectly poised, relaxed but not slack, breathing completely natural and no joint locked, as if the body is suspended in air, hanging from the top of the head by a string.

This is the basic standing posture. Stand like this for a few moments relaxing the whole body and collecting one’s thoughts before assuming the following posture.

Raise the arms to shoulder level, keeping them curved as if holding a ball in each arm. Keep the fingers apart slightly curved, palms pointing in and slightly down. Hands are at shoulder distance apart, and about three fists distance from the chest. Elbows should be slightly below the level of the wrists. Shoulders must be relaxed, not hunched, with a slight sense of outward stretching, so the chest feels open, neither sticking out nor constricted. Curved arms should also have a slight sense of inward force, as if not letting a ball drop, though no physically manifest in tension.

The posture is most suitable for those without any particular illness to strengthen the constitution, prevent illness and promote health into old age.

Reference:
Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole J.P.C. Moffett, Wang Xuanjie
Foreign Languages Press May 1994
ISBN: 7119006967

Pages: 49-52

(Red. Caveat: If the standing pole exercises are not done naturally with composure, correct posture and body alignment, and with the necessary lightness and full relaxation of all parts of the body without collapsing, there is a potential health risk. It is recommendable to consult an experienced Zhan Zhuang teacher. The Way of Energy by Master Lam Kuen Chun is an excellent beginners tutorial.)

Links:
Zhan Zhuang  Michael P. Garofalo’ extensive bibliography and reference

18 Replies to “The All-Round Standing Pole Exercise”

  1. Notes from Sam Tam’s Summer Seminar in Copenhagen June 2006 on Standing Pole Exercises

    Caveat: The below comments is my personal notes taken from the Ichuan and Zhan Zhuang seminar held in June 2006 in Copenhagen with the renowned Master Sam Tam. These notes are not approved or should in anyway be considered the exact teaching of Master Sam Tam. Corrections and comments to these notes are more than welcome.

    The 2 most important points: Central Equilibrium and Sung (relaxation).

    Lift the head. Straightening the back. In positioning of the head imagine a rod going straight through the ears in such a manner that the head is able to rotate freely around the rod. Lift up the head slightly from the bone over the ear towards the niwan point (the crown of the head is kept flat). This is done without creating tension in the neck.

    Relax the shoulders. Raise the back. Round the shoulders and relax the chest. Expand shoulders to the side and relax them slightly forward, widening the upper back into a natural position. All done with poise to increase the relaxation and fine tune body alignment.

    Holding the ball. In generel hands are always kept between the eyebrows and navel in the all-round standing pole exercises. In high positions the wrists are never lower than than the elbows. Palms facing the shoulders. Between 90 and 120 degrees between the upper and lower arm of the inside of the elbows. Each hand holding a small paper ball holding a big balloon of air towards the body so it cannot escape. Amble space to the armpits as if holding a small ball of air. The index finger and the middle finger is kept just above shoulder hight. Both thumbs pointing relaxed up as if a string in the first joint to the heavens where holding them up (releasing the shoulders even more). The two middle fingers pointing straight towards each other. The index fingers lifting a small bird. The two pinkies extend down (helping both the elbows). Fingers held together as if holding cigarettes in-between them. Adjusting the position to find perfect alignment and releasing all tension. Pressure in the back can sometimes be relieved by decreasing the angle between the arms within the range and holding the ball closer to the body. All done with poise to increase the relaxation and fine tune body alignment.

    In order to find your own natural and perfect middle-way position of the arms stand in “wuji” position with arms by side, with only the middle finger barely touching the accupunture pressure point on the outside thigh. Stand a moment sinking the energy. Release the middle finger and let the hands float forward naturally so palms ends up in front facing towards your body. Turn the hands outward the edge of the pinkie finger finger facing forward like sticking the hands in somebody’s else pocket. Extend the middle fingers of each hand to the ground as if resting on the ground, lift ever so slightly from the root of the arms as if just lifting a small weight attached by a line to the ground off ground. Not physically but only mentally imagine standing in doorway pressing against the sides of the doorway when exhaling and relaxing when breathing. Maintain this pulse to the sides for awhile, then keep the pressure to sides for a moment. Then release the arms and let them effortlessly raise to the All-Round Standing Position of holding the ball like a blooming flower spread its leaves in the morning sun. This is your perfect middle-way position holding the ball.

    Do not bend the knees purposely in order the avoid a common problem of “hanging in the knees”. But release the hip and waist area and shoot the knees forward slightly, as if pushing something, in to a natural position. Relax the whole abdomen area (dantien). Women have v shaped hips and men H shaped. Women benefits from holding a ball between the knees.

    Do not tuck in the tailbone purposely (this is only done sometimes when expanding and releasing the energy in the internal martial arts). Release the tension in the lowerback by imaging you have to keep your nose over the water surface.

    Keep the feet in shoulder wide position with the outside parallel. Advanced practitioners can lift the heel slightly, but no more than a piece of paper can slide under the heel. Release tension in the feet by imaging your mind that your just about to jump off in to the air.

    Relax, sinking the chi to refine and store it up in the dantien area. Search for a feeling of joy, comfort and complete relaxation not wanting to take the arms down.

    Body alignment should be perfect. Keep your composure. Stir into the far distant. The eyes half closed half open (If closing the eyes, do not drop the eyes but keep horizontal view from within). Keep a soft focus (360 degrees around). Release your body and mind. Connect the earth and the heavens. Blend with the atmosphere. Smile – give up all tension! 🙂

    Maintain a feeling of lightness as if the body is suspended in the air like a hawk flying in the sky effortlessly.

    Background reference:
    The Tao of Yiquan: Warriors of Stillness: The Method of Awareness in the Martial Arts v. 2 Jan Diepersloot Center for Healing & the Arts Jan 1999
    ISBN: 0964997614

    Pages: 211-240

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  3. I attended Sam Tam’s June seminar in L.A. I intended to write up some notes on zhan zhuang, but I see you’ve already done a fine job here.

    I do not think it is necessary to consult with an experienced teacher before starting practice. What exactly are the health risks of doing zhan zhuang, compared to the health risks of not doing it?

  4. Taming the Playful Monkey

    The Chinese refer to the mind as the playful monkey always jumping from one thing to another.

    Zhan Zhuang Standing is about being mindful. Mindfulness of your presence in the present moment. Mindfulness of your body. Mindfulness of your relation to your surroundings. Awareness on the waves of energy that ripples through you and the universe. Awareness of the field of energy that unites everything into one great being. Simpley being mindfull of the way (tao).

    If your mind start to wander off, while standing there are quite a few remedies to tame the playful monkey and enter into the present moment.

    Open your eyes and glare into the far distant horizon with a soft focus on everything without any specific attachment (to avoid daydreaming)

    Start watching your own thinking without any attachment to the different thought patterns that naturally arises in your mind.

    Accept the present moment what ever it brings and you will release the mind.

    Try becoming intensely aware of all sensory input to the finest detail in the far background.

    Enter into your body with your mind and listen to the myriad of changes that constantly takes place.

    Seek out tensions in your body and then release the tensions with your mind by softly blowing hot hair into the areas of tension, and then tensions will dissolve themselves.

    Glare into the far distant imaging your are on beautiful island in the Caribbean standing on the beach looking at the sunset.

    See your self standing out on the face of the earth as a single hair follicle.

    Imagine your are standing in water to your nose (if you wobble).

    Imagine your are rocket about to take off into the far space (if your feet feels numb or your lower part feels heavy).

    Imagine your whole body as light as a feather. Or a balloon that can blow away in an instant with the wind ( if you feel heavy ).

    Rest the mind on the center of the body (dan tian) and feel the raise and fall of the waves of energy. Expanding the energy to the skin of the body and beyond. Contracting and storing up the energy. Feel the energy bouncing to the center of the earth and back.

    Circulate the energy in the micro-cosmic orbit.

    Just barely notice your own breath through the nostrils when you breathe in and out.

    Articulate the sound “heng” as a long soft in-breath with your center (dan tian) when breathing in and articulate the sound “ha” as a deep bass humming in your center when breathing out.

    Say “I am here or just here” breathing in, say “now” breathing out.

    Say “I have arrived” breathing in, breathing out say “I am home”.

    Smile to your self. Smile to your body. Smile to your heart, liver, lungs, spleen and kidneys in appreciation. Smile to the world. Release your mind. Be happy and full of joy.

  5. Continue to refine the process of releasing tensions.

    Relax the internal organs (lungs, heart, liver, spleen, kindneys and stomach) one by one when sinking the chi to dantian.

    Notes from Sam Tam’s sommer seminar in Copenhagen 2007

  6. [quote comment=””]Song of Central Equilibrium…

    Find center!
    Relax the chest.
    Raise the back.
    Enclose the solar plexus.
    Protect the cheekbones.
    Lift the head.
    Suspend solar plexus.
    Loosen the shoulders.
    Sink the elbows.
    Be evasive.
    Avoid conflict.
    ( Wu-Yü-hisiang )
    Many qigon practitioners and mast…[/quote]

  7. Emne: About standing meditation – and the hands and fingers

    Hallo Thomas,

    I hope it is ok to address you. And thanks for a very informative webpage, which I was happy to find.

    I appreciated very much reading some notes about a course that you participated in, led by Sam Tam last year, I believe.

    I was particularly interested in the comments of the hands, that you posted:

    ” Each hand holding a small paper ball holding a big balloon of air towards the body so it cannot escape. Amble space to the armpits as if holding a small ball of air. The index finger and the middle finger is kept just above shoulder hight. Both thumbs pointing relaxed up as if a string in the first joint to the heavens where holding them up (releasing the shoulders even more). The two middle fingers pointing straight towards each other. The index fingers lifting a small bird. The two pinkies extend down (helping both the elbows). Fingers held together as if holding cigarettes in-between them. Adjusting the position to find perfect alignment and releasing all tension. Pressure in the back can sometimes be relieved by decreasing the angle between the arms within the range and holding the ball closer to the body. All done with poise to increase the relaxation and fine tune body alignment.”

    Some other person also write:

    “palms pointing in and slightly down”

    A few question, I also have seen a few pictures of people doing this, and there seems to be some degree of variability.

    I would very much like to get a little better grip on:

    – should the palms be more like facing the shoulders the body- flat/parallel to the body, or should they be facing down a bit towards the ground, with a small tilt of say 20-30 % -like in this picture (also attached)

    – but then the thumbs will tend point a bit towards you, or how much should the be pointing towards the sky/uppwards

    – and the two middle fingers should they pointing straiht towards each other in a straight line.

    When I look at this picture:

    The palms face a bit domn, but the middle fingers are not pointing towards each other, at least not more than any other fingers, thumbs are not really pointing up, and the index fingers are not holding a bird?

    What is your take on this,?

    Would be very happy if you provide some guiding tips, and you are most welcome if you so wishes to post it on your web (but then only in my first name). Also do you have anything good suggestions to read about hand/fingers positions, in a book, article, blog etc.

    Many thanks

    Sincerely and best regads

    Thomas M

    Stockholm

  8. There is really no position that are right or wrong as long as you adhere to the principles. You can stand with the hands facing your shoulders, wider, or more narrow. Some people open up the thumbs so that they point straight up, believing its more beneficial to the lungs. Some believe that the index finger is closing the circle of energy. Some give the hands away in gesture and squeeze the big paper ball. Some but emphasis in hollowing the hands as if holding small vacuum balls at each of the laogong points in the center of the hands. Some regulate the hands with the breathing, making minute changes through in and out breath and around the bones; making a small shili exercise. Some use yet other visualizations to guide the mind and body.

    Different positions cultivate different aspects of your standing practice.

    What do you want from your standing practice?

    Of main importance is structural equilibrium and relaxing (sung) both the body and mind. But do not slump or collaps the body. The body structure is finely threaded together without any breaks, with no deficiency or excess. Apply the all the structural principles: “Keep bones all over the body well balanced,
    Bending of joints is kept with a limit.” Central equilibrium. The shoulder to the hip. The knees to elbows. The hands to the feet. There no place where the energy does not reach. Leave out excess tensions. An expression often used in qigong is: “bathing”. Look for the feeling as if your whole body was submerged in body warm bathtub

    Bathing your body in the midst of the air,
    standing on a mountain top.

    Connecting the heaven and earth.
    The primordial energy returns to dantien.

    Smiling,
    I disappear.

    (Forget about right and wrong and strive towards natural perfection).

  9. Constantly search for the center of gravity and release tension where ever you find it. Absorb the Qi from all directions to the furnace in your center, Radiate and fill the Universe to the brim with your compassionate Qi. Do not hold on to anything. Unite with the great Tao. 🙂

  10. Many taoist including Wang Liping consider long time post standing as dangerous for the body and and the mind ! Never force yourself to stay a certain fixed time (whats is time ?). Especialyty minimum 20 minutes seem far too hight for a beginner. Da chenQuan or Yi Quan is an exception, but the longevity of the masters of this art is not remarquable…

  11. In the end it should feel as doing nothing. Just being in the midst of the Universe as happy as ever for no reason what so ever.

  12. Light, even and connected. Relax. Not heavy, not floating. Use the force of gravity to stack your bones and balance your structure. Use the life-force to equal the force of gravity. Unify the whole body. Release all tension. From the gross to the subtle and back. Having roots like a tree, connecting with the sky. Standing like its nothing, you feel like kind of crazy, happy for no reasons. No thoughts is achieved effortlessly. Your mind and body is spotless. Ride the wind. Rest like a mountain. Give up your self and enter Tao.