Sunday, March 20, 2016

Zhan Zhuang Cooling & Clearing Exercises Pt. 1

After a long Zhan Zhuang session such as holding one posture for more than an hour or going through a particularly grueling set of individual postures, once in a while it happens that there can be some sense of discomfort, pressure or pain that manifests somewhere in the body. There are two basic causes for this. One is external, relating to muscle pain and the like. The other is internal, having to do with the movement of Qi and blood or the lack thereof. These sensations may occur either during or after a session.

Normally this sort of reaction tends to occur within the first few years of training, but it can occasionally happen even after many years of practice. For those experienced hands with 10, 20 or more years of Zhan Zhuang training under their belt, dispersing unwanted accumulation or rebellious Qi is usually a simple matter of changing point of focus. This can be as easy as moving one’s intention and focal point from the low Dan Tien to the palms and the soles of the feet for a few minutes at the end of a session.  This is possible because after extensive Zhan Zhuang training, the Qi can be guided solely with one’s intention. A basic Wuji posture with palms parallel to the ground is often used for this method.

However, for those with less experience who have not yet gained this achievement, additional physical methods will prove most helpful. The first of these is called the Pounding, Patting or Tapping Method. This technique involves using different parts of one’s fist to hit along certain meridians from the torso out to the extremities. This helps to ‘order’ and guide the Qi in a very concrete way. Before you start, rest both palms, one on top of the other - on the low Dan Tien/Navel area for a minute or two to transfer energy to your hands. After that, rub your palms together vigorously for a few moments and then begin.

For the neck, first press the tongue to the roof of the mouth and close the jaws firmly. This is to protect the brain. Now, using the flat part of your right fist, pat down the left side of the neck from just below the skull through the Sternocleidomastoid muscle to the top of the shoulder. Do this 3 times then switch sides and repeat. Use moderate to light hits only. When in doubt, better to err on the side of caution and keep things rather light ‘till you know how you’ll react. 

Pain or some other form of discomfort can often be experienced in these areas both during and/or after a Zhan Zhuang session. To help move out the lactic acid that can accumulate in the muscles and unblock the Qi, use the bottom of your right fist to pat your left side from the top of the shoulder, down along the upper arm, elbow area and forearm, down to the wrist. (Hold your forearm roughly parallel to the ground for these patterns.) Do this pattern 3 times, then switch sides and repeat. Note: If you like, you can change from the bottom of the fist to the knuckles of your fingers for the forearm area only. This will provide stronger stimulation.

Next, using the top part of your right fist (Tiger’s Mouth) pat from your left armpit down along the underside of the upper arm, elbow area and forearm, down to the wrist. Do this 3 times, then switch sides and repeat.

For this area use the flat part of your right fist to pat down your left chest to the abdomen. Do this three times and then repeat on the other side. Sometimes you may which to use 2 lines on each side instead of just one. In that case, the first line starts just below the center of the clavicle (Stomach Meridian) and the second in the hollow of the shoulder’s nest. (Lung/Spleen Meridian) Next, using either one hand or both, pat down your centerline (Ren meridian) from just below the throat notch, down past the diaphragm and onto the abdomen. Note: You can also start with the centerline and then progress outward to the Stomach and Spleen meridians - and each of these three patterns may also be extended all the way down to the level of the low Dan Tien.

We can divide the abdominal region into 5 lines. Two on the left, two on the right and one in the center. The two sets of left and right lines fall (1) about 2 inches from the centerline and (2) about 3 1/2 inches from the centerline. (where the Rectus Abdominus meets the Obliques.) Start with the centerline - pat with the flat part of the fist from the Solar Plexus down to just above the pubic bone. Note: You may also choose to utilize both fists in an alternating manner. Next, use the line two inches from your centerline (Stomach Meridian) and repeat the same procedure. Lastly, use the outermost line (Spleen Meridian) and follow the same procedure.

The lower body procedure requires a fair degree of flexibility. (If you have issues with your lower back or lower extremities, it is best to skip this section.) The basic procedure is simple. Pat down from the side of the hips, down to the ankles. (Gall Bladder Meridian) Next, pat down from the top of the thighs (Biguan point St-31) to Jiexi point (St-41) at the front of the ankle. (Stomach Meridian) Next, hit down the inside line from just below the inguinal crease down to the ankle.(Spleen and Liver Meridians) A final option is to also hit down the back line, from the sitting bones, down through the hamstrings and calves. (Bladder Meridian)

To finish out the Pounding-Patting-Tapping method return your focus to the Dan Tien/Navel area. Then, pat this area 36 times. Finally, use your palms to rub the same area 36 times in a circular manner. After that, walk around slowly for a couple of minutes. All this helps the body to smoothly transition back to the normal activities of daily life.

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