A Highly Adaptable Form, of Mental and Physical Education
Zhan Zhuang exercises can be practiced almost at anytime, anywhere, without the need of aids, apparatus, large spaces, etc. Any of the many lying, sitting or standing postures can be combined with appropriate mental activity to give the desired amount of exercise according to the needs and characteristics of the practitioner. Standing postures are most effective, since they combine conditions for the development of a beneficial inhibitory state in the C.C. with the steady increase in metabolic and cardiovascular activities. It is a thorough form of rest and exercise. Furthermore, for the healthy and those with a sound basis in the “treatment” exercises, a slight adjustment of posture and mental activity produces much greater exercise value, putting the C.C. into a highly concentrated state and the body into a state of hair-trigger sensitivity and free-flowing strength.
A Non Oxygen-Debt Exercise
Many forms of exercise involve concentrated bursts of mental and physical effort during which the breathing is restricted, or suppressed. During such exercise, insufficient oxygen is provided for the body’s needs, resulting in laboured or forced breathing. This oxygen debt is accompanied by the inefficient dispersal of waste products such as lactic acid. The strain put on the organism by such phenomena is considerable. The Zhan Zhuang exercises, however, cause the practitioner’s pulse to maintain a certain increase (though never more than twice the normal rate), while the respiration remains unrestricted, indeed deepens and improves, oxygen intake keeping pace with oxygen consumption.
The Effects on Blood Circulation
During the practice of the Zhan Zhuang exercises, while the muscles maintain a certain degree of contraction, breathing is not restricted. Hence, thoracic and abdominal pressure does not suddenly increase and the phenomena of excessive expansion of the right atrium cordis does not occur after practice. Rather, the pulse rate rises and drops gradually during and after practice, making it very suitable for practice by those with heart trouble or the very frail. In addition, maintaining the posture for a period without moving means that, once blood circulation has speeded up and is flowing freely, it will not be disturbed or obstructed by sudden movements, bending, twisting, locking joints, etc.
Many of the unconscious tensions and resulting aches and pains in the body are the result of posture defects. The Zhan Zhuang exercises give the practitioner the chance to become aware of such tensions and defects, providing an excellent method for gently and naturally eliminating them over time.
A Form of Diagnosis and Treatment Combined
Zhan Zhuang exercises are an excellent method to investigate the physiological changes undergone from the rest levels to the exercise state. These changes occur and can he observed while the body is static, employing fixed standards of form and time according to the limits of the individual. Under these conditions each physiological function is raised within reasonable and stable levels, and so it is a scientific method of diagnosing the objective norms of each organ’s condition in the active state.
This is important because the objective norms governing the development of disease are not limited solely to affirming the anatomical structure changes of the various organs, or to changes of objective norms in the passive state. There are certain chronic illnesses which do not exhibit functional changes while in the passive state, only becoming apparent during the exercise state.
Zhan Zhuang exercises are a viable and effective method of self treatment, as a non-strenuous but thorough mental and physical exercise they can be practiced by almost everyone, combating and treating illness, changing the constitution and strengthening the body without the side effects of certain medicines or other forms of treatment. This is effected by the practitioners own efforts, a very important psychological factor in combating and recovering from illness.
They are a way to potentially resolve, partially at least, the basic issues of frailty due to illness, treating chronic diseases which do not respond to treatment and depression and psychological problems during illness, combining diagnosis and treatment and strengthening the constitution in the most natural and beneficial fashion. It can be seen that they have a certain potential for providing new material in the study of geriatrics, chronic disease, sports physiology, sports bio-mechanics, sports bio-chemistry, sports medicine and in the combining of Chinese and Western medical traditions.