Reader Question: Sinking Lower in Zhan Zhuang

From time to time, I get people contacting me and asking me taiji related questions. Instead of answering them one by one, I figure it would be good to just answer via the blog.  This way, other readers can chime in and give some insight that I may miss.

Below is a question I received:

I've recently started with Zhan Zhuang following the book The Way of Energy. But I still can't figure out how to sink down and have my back straight at the same time.

I suppose that the final pose should look like this picture from the book:

However, when I try to do it, I keep falling backward. I know I can sink lower (as long as muscles are concerned) but I'm not able to maintain the balance.

Do you have any tips?



First off, the Way of Energy by Kam Lam Chuen is a great book and one that I often recommend. In fact, it's listed as one of my "Life Changing Books"

Regarding the "sinking down", I've asked may teachers over the years about their thoughts on the topic. At first, I just muscled my way and sank down in a deep wushu (kung fu) style horse stance. However, over time I've begun to realize that maybe the goal isn't necessarily to see how low one can go in zhan zhuang, but to try and maintain good alignment.

Regarding alignment in zhan zhuang, I will refer you to what I consider one of the best articles written on the topic. The post is from Rick of Wujifa and he wrote an EXCELLENT article on Zhan Zhuang Alignment.  In fact, I have visited Rick and felt FIRST-HAND what correct alignment feels like and TRUST ME, you don't have to be in a low stance to get it. In fact, Rick adjusted my posture while I was in a very high stance (maybe 20 degree bend in knees) and I felt the BURN in my legs and almost began shaking. This type of correction can only be experienced through the transmission of touch with a good teacher. If you don't have regular access to a good teacher, check out a Chen Xiao Wang workshop and ask for Pizza 😉

I'm reminded of a comment made by Rick of Wujifa: "You are where you are, and that's where you start."  If you feel yourself falling backwards, then don't go that low. Go to where you feel stable and aligned.

Good luck.

ps. For other readers out there, feel free to chime in 😉


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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3 Responses to Reader Question: Sinking Lower in Zhan Zhuang

  1. Deef says:

    If the goal is just to get lower stances, he could try qigong wall squats. That’s a common practice with chi-lel qigong.

    It’s simply a wall squat with the body facing a wall directly. Goal is to keep the nose right near the wall the whole way down and also the feet (including heels) flat on the ground all the way down too.

    Or… there’s the static wall sit, where your back is leaning flat against a wall, and then you lower your legs into seated position, and see how long you can last.

    And probably other squat type exercises might help, like exercises that help for training to be able to do single leg squats.

  2. wujimon says:

    Deef, great advice on doing the wall squat as an exercise. I think there’s a big misconception out in the taiji world that is adverse to any type of physical conditioning. To me, they can compliment each other 😉

    Here’s a link to a video that demonstrates the wall squat you describe. It’s definitely harder than it looks/seems!

  3. Michal says:

    After some ZZ practice it seems to me that the position on the picture can be achieved by letting energy hold you in a place (without falling backward). More stuff in the book appears to be for pretty advanced practitioners. (:

    Deef: If you think ZZ isn’t (partly) about putting greater and greater demands on your body you’re deluding yourself. Of course one has to put relaxation first so that the position doesn’t become all tensed up but that is a different issue.

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