And for our Zhan Zhuang practice, this is a gem!
Instead of seeing individual muscles connected to individual bones and joints, we can now begin to see whole-body patterns. The Anatomy Trains show us that through the fascia surrounding and intertwining every muscle, the whole body is interconnected. One muscle never acts individually. Actually there is a whole-body activity whenever we do any small movement. But this distribution of force is especially obvious through the lines described in Anatomy Trains connecting toes to head and head to fingers in both superficial and deep levels.
This is not some subtle energy system (even though it corresponds very nicely to the meridian system). This is a new anatomical discovery based on including the fascial web in dissections.
But what does this have to do with Zhan Zhuang? Well, I have two concepts I want to share that have deepened my understanding of ZZ and eased my practice. And I have never seen it presented anywhere else with regards to qigong and Zhan Zhuang. Though I suspect this will be something all kinds of bodyworkers will start to implement in their practice sooner or later.
First of all it is the concept of fascial tensegrity. The body is not a compression model where gravity acts on the body which builds one bony structure on top of another, and the muscles fight to keep the body upright. It is not that simple. The body is in reality a tensegrity (Buckminister Fuller, NOT Castaneda) structure where all forces are evenly distributed through connective tissue. If one single part of the structure is weak, the whole structure collapses. The body is a tensegrity structure, but instead of collapsing it works very hard to compensate for the weak links, i.e. bad posture.
The fact that our body is a tensegrity structure means that the bones are actually floating within the web of fascia. They are not compressed on top of each other. They are floating! Check out www.floatingbones.com. Now, just this realization eases the Zhan Zhuang very much.
Try this experiment. When you do Zhan Zhuang and start to become tired, try imagining your bones are floating inside your body. It is not the bones that are holding you up. Its fascia! And fascia is not any individual structure that holds all the bodyweight in one limited area. It is a structural network that distributes the force of the gravitational pull evenly throughout all the body. Just let go and let fascia do the job. And the bones are floating inside this web of fascia.
When I do this I enter whole new levels of relaxation.
The second concept that this model of understanding brings is more of the same but specifically directed at the spine. The spine is a tensegrity model and the vertebraes are floating inside a web of force-distributing myofascia.
Apply this concept to your Zhan Zhuang aswell. Imagine that the vertebraes are no longer placed on top of eachother and compressed by gravity. They are instead floating on top of each other being held up by fascial tensegrity structures. Go through each vertebra from lumbar to cervical and let them align naturally within their tensegrity structure. When you do this you will probably feel how each vertebra really moves and corrects its position and aligns the whole spine. The space between each vertebra expands and you grow 1-2 cm taller within just a few minutes.
With a relaxed and corrected spine in Zhan Zhuang you are on your way! Even deeper levels of relaxation and ease in your Zhan Zhuang will be revealed.
Check out the researcher Stephen M. Levins work - www.biotensegrity.com for more on tensegrity and the spine.
When the body fails to align to the gravitational field it needs to spend a tremendous amount of energy to compensate. But we all know Zhan Zhuang is the perfect alignment to gravity. So we can say that Zhan Zhuang is the active transformation of the body from a failed (compensatory) structure to a healthy (tensegrity) structure where we no longer need compensatory muscular force to stay upright in our life.
To me and my Zhan Zhuang practice, these simple changes in how I understand the body has done wonders.
Notice how none of the poles are touching eachother in the picture below. They are held up by evenly distributed forces throughout the whole structure: tensegrity. They are floating in a gravity-free environment. Pretty much like the bones in our body is when we have good posture.
(Edited so noone is misquoted)
Edited by sheng zhen, 24 September 2009 - 12:38 AM.