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Zhan Zhuang

 

Chinese traditional medicine postulates that “the heart/mind (xin) is lord of the body.” This xin is best seen as encompassing the cerebral cortex and central nervous system, which are indeed the “dictators” of the organism. All of the organism’s thinking processes, vital organs and whole physical frame are controlled and regulated by it. Clearly, the cerebral cortex and central nervous

system perform a wide variety of complex functions, putting them under considerable strain. If, due to excess physical, emotional or mental strain, they become overexcited or exhausted, they begin to function inefficiently, giving inadequate guidance, leading to mental and physical disorders.

When practicing the Zhan Zhuang exercises it is first necessary to lead the activity of the cerebral cortex into a state of relaxed concentration and quiet. This enables it and the central nervous system to achieve a degree of rest and recuperation, while inducing a nourishing and rehabilitating effect through beneficial stimulus and an appropriate measure of activity. This is what is known as “entering a quiet (fixed) state” (ru jing/ding).

The free and unobstructed flow of blood around the body is recognized as one of the most important elements in the development and maintenance of health. During practice the whole body should be as relaxed as possible, all joints slightly bent, and the whole body comfortably coordinated. With the maintenance of a static posture, this ensures a reasonable rise in heart rate, removes the obstructions to blood caused by tense muscles, and brings greatly improved circulation.

“Zhan Zhuang” is an exercise of the whole body. As the outer form of the body is not moved, all the internal organs settle, while all metabolic functions increase. This develops “movement within non-movement,” that is, unhindered internal activity and movement within external stillness. It is a nonviolent and non-overburdening exercise, simultaneously providing rest and exercise, easily adaptable to any condition and encouraging development of the body’s innate strengths and abilities in a natural way.

These factors make it uniquely important as a method for treating severe illness, where other more familiar forms of exercise are unsuitable. It also has a unique potential as a method for diagnosis and investigation under “exercise” conditions of heightened metabolic activity.