The process of healing and rejuvenation is a constant one, involving the repair of old injuries, recent injuries and a repeated rebalancing of the activity stemming from our normal everyday lives.
The majority of injuries to the sinews (muscle, tendon, ligament) involve some form of contraction, tightening or even shortening over time. The one main exception to this can occur from very severe injuries in which the sinews are stretched beyond their limit or even tear. The result of such events is flaccidity where the tissue becomes very weak and without any springiness.
Proper springiness is necessary for the healthy functioning of all the sinews. And this is where Standing Meditation is of great value. Standing Meditation has the innate ability to repair, regenerate and even amplify this springiness. And not only that, it also creates a stronger connection within all the body’s network of ‘springs,’ both individually and in relation to one another. Eventually this manifests as the whole-body spring necessary for the various forms of Fa Jin.
Some people think that Zhan Zhuang is a matter of standing still without any movement. Some call this the ‘Static’ state. But the fact is, the body is constantly in a state of flux or change. These changes are expressed as micro-movements both inside the body and without.
Seasoned practitioners can take advantage of these nano-movements and even add some of their own as needed. This has been termed the ‘Active’ state. And it is this state that we shall use to make adjustments in order to relieve tension and pain, and gain a deeper and deeper sense of relaxation.
The truth is, in the ‘stillness’ of postural meditation, inside the body there are constant forms of activity. The blood is flowing, the nerves and synapses are continually firing and transmitting information. The brain is analyzing transmissions, computing and sending out instructions or data throughout the entire organism.
Most of the discomforts we first encounter in Standing Meditation are generally quite exterior, having to do with the level of the muscles, like fairly recent muscular injuries for example, a sore back, shoulder or arm. The common theme with most of these is a sense of contraction. The muscle(s) tighten or contract, generally in an upward direction such as the attachments of the Deltoid tightening or being jammed up into the shoulder.
In terms of Zhan Zhuang, muscles essentially have three basic parts; the origin point, the belly and the end point. Both the end and origin points have to do with where the muscle attaches to the tendon or bone, fascia or other muscles. The belly is that part of the muscle which does most of the ‘heavy lifting.’ This tightening or contraction, along with its concomitant reduction in range of motion, pain, and/or loss of strength can occur anywhere along the entire length of a muscle, but is especially damaging at the origin and end point attachments (like with a hyper-extension) and in the center of the muscle belly itself.
When the belly of a muscle is struck, say while sparring or during a self-defense situation, another form of contraction occurs. This usually results in a raised bruise, while within the muscle itself there quickly develops severe blood stagnation as evidenced by a ‘black-and-blue’ mark at the site of the damage. This sort of ‘hit’ injury also causes muscle contraction where the fibers are unnaturally paralyzed and/or drawn inward toward the focal-point of the blow. If deep enough, this quickly debilitates the limb.
When we are dealing with one of the above mentioned injuries during Zhan Zhuang practice, we can make use of the descending Heaven energy (or gravity for the scientific types.) For problems in the upper limbs, Wuji posture is often best. That way our arms hanging freely can use relaxation to take advantage of gravity and help re-lengthen the contracted segments. One of the best ways to do this is with the “Station Method.”
Say your injury is in the biceps or triceps, the idea with the Station Method is to release the ‘station’ above or in this case the shoulder (deltoid) and let that relaxation and lengthening percolate down through the area of the injury. For more details see the book “Inside Zhan Zhuang,” Pages 242-244.
There is also another type of contraction injury which manifests as horizontal in nature. Muscles become pinched or stuck together or temporarily ‘fused’ to various fascia. These difficulties are addressed by relaxing and opening the tissue laterally, ‘widening’ by releasing from the center of the injury outward, both to the left and to the right.
Injuries to the lower limbs can be more problematic in that we necessarily must use our legs to pass our body’s weight through to the bottoms of our feet. The first approach involves very subtly shifting our weight. Say we took a roundhouse kick to the thigh while sparring. In this case we would carefully shift our Central Equilibrium back of our centerpoint toward the heel, taking more of our weight through our hamstrings which allows our thigh muscles to relax and take advantage of gravity/Station Method.
For actual ‘damage’ to a lower limb it is often necessary to employ other means, such as certain variations of a ‘Single-Weighted Stance.’ We’ll address these more severe types of injury and internal (organ) difficulties in the next segment.
Basic diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. By Anatomography (en:Anatomography (setting page of this image)) [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp] Additions and Text: by Mark Cohen