Last night after about 20 minutes of zhan zhuang standing meditation, I do as I normally do, that is go into the Yang long form. However, this time, I mixed things up a bit and did “zhan zhuang taiji”. This is basically, taking the form but then holding movements for an extended amount of time.
For me, I have gotten into the habit of holding each posture for about 6 breaths. The amount of time can vary depending on how deep my breathing has gotten. Additionally, instead of just holding the end postures of the movement, I decided to hold each transition posture. The simplest example to illustrate this would be to hold the “step forward” transition in between 2 consecutive brush knee and push steps.
In this type of practice, I can really feel all the tension held in my body. As such, I have changed things a bit to have a higher and narrower stance. One interesting tidbit was to notice at what point I began to feel tension in my rear supporting leg when stepping forward. This exercise really impacted the length of my step!
One of the harder postures to hold was the ‘raise hand’ posture in Yang style. This was causing quite a bit of strain in my left leg. I guess I have been neglecting this type of posture or just merely glossing over it in my practice.
I remember the first time I did this kind of training was under the TT Liang Yang style camp. Normally, the TT Liang form is done to music with Master Liang counting the beats in the background. Each posture has a set number of beats. For example, Raise Hands would be done to 2 beats, while Single Whip was done to 6 beats and brush knee was done to 4 beats. Sometimes the teacher would mix things up and have us hold the end posture for 6 beats of a metronome. While appearing simple, if we really try it and not try to make it an endurance exercise, it can really shed lot of light about the tension in our bodies.
I vividly remember a class in which I asked the instructor “how high should we kick in the form”. He said you should kick about as high as you can easily do 6 repetitions of the kick on one leg. The instructor then lined us up, put bean bags on our heads and had us do about 6 sets of 6 repetition kicks on each side. Since I had come from a wushu taiji background, my kick was done slowly and with the heel about nose height, but after doing the above exercise, it slowly moved down to about solar plexus height. Now, I do heel kicks about abdomen height and toe kicks about chest height.
On a side note, I called the event organizer of an upcoming Fong Ha workshop and he basically said to be prepared to do about 1.5 – 2 hrs worth of meditation a day! I am still around the 20-25 min mark in my zhan zhuang training, hopefully by the seminar I’ll be around the 40 min mark.