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Zhan Zhuang alignment "rule"

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I noticed that for the Wuji posture I find simple rules that captures the basic idea of alignment (three points in a line). When e.g. holding the balloon in front of my face, my body needs to be aligned differently. Does anyone have similarly simple rules for the alignment in postures other than  Wuji?

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In my practice, the different postures follow the same basic guidelines.

The basic "rule" is to feel the proper alignment in the body with practice.

Everything else needs to have some flexibility.

Basic guidelines include:

- lift the crown

- tuck the chin

- relax the shoulders

- pluck up the back

- sink the chest

- tuck the tailbone

- loosen the knees and ankles

- connect through the bubbling well

This should become completely stable, effortless, and something we can feel in the body.

I was taught to practice wuji for months before considering other postures.

Truth is, if you practice wuji long enough, the other postures will naturally and spontaneously manifest from there.

 

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+1 to everything @steve posted. One thing I found was very critical in standing, was to "release the muscles in the upper chest region". By release, I mean relaxing that region (pectoralis major). It takes a little bit of conscious effort, but then it should be instantaneous. This allows the Qi to drop to the LDT region more effectively. Many people mistake the "sink the chest" and "pluck up the back" to mean rounding the back (make more convex) so the chest becomes more concave. However, the "sink the chest" I found is really a relaxation of the upper chest region. It should feel like the chest is sliding down the front of the body (a few millimeters only) towards the ground. That will make a huge difference in sinking the qi. Sinking the chest will result in the back being "plucked up". 

 

Edited by dwai
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2 hours ago, marko said:

I noticed that for the Wuji posture I find simple rules that captures the basic idea of alignment (three points in a line). When e.g. holding the balloon in front of my face, my body needs to be aligned differently. Does anyone have similarly simple rules for the alignment in postures other than  Wuji?

 

It's strange, when I started I out I was really conscious of this change in alignment between these two postures. But now I don't notice the difference at all. It could either be that my muscles are stronger and so I no longer need to change my posture in order to hold my arms in a raised position. Or, I'm so used the change in posture as I rise my arms that my mind has stopped noticing it.

 

Either way - your noticing it is a good thing as it means that you're increasing your awareness of your body. But in time, it becomes such a small thing that you no longer think about. Well, that was the case for me anyway.

 

 

 

 

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50 minutes ago, dwai said:

Many people mistake the "sink the chest" and "pluck up the back" to mean rounding the back (make more convex) so the chest becomes more concave. However, the "sink the chest" I found is really a relaxation of the upper chest region. It should feel like the chest is sliding down the front of the body (a few millimeters only) towards the ground. That will make a huge difference in sinking the qi. Sinking the chest will result in the back being "plucked up". 

 

 

I share your opinion and experience on this. It was the last piece in the puzzle to fall into place for me in the posture.

I'll also echo the point that ALL of the adjustments in posture are subtle - think in millimeters, not inches...

It's also helpful to over-correct at times, then under-correct, and allow those over- and under- adjustments to slowly settle into a feeling of relaxed yet stable equilibrium.

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2 hours ago, steve said:

tuck the tailbone

 

This is a tricky one. Most people that actively tuck the tailbone create major errors down the line.

 

What works best is to hang the pelvis. Your Ding (not crown) pulls up and your pelvis just hangs off. Over time the lower back will open naturally and the pelvis will tuck slightly on its own. 

 

The other part of this is having your feet facing forward like you’re standing on rails. Trace an imaginary line from your middle toe to the centre of your heel on both feet and place them shoulder width apart with these lines runnng parallel to one another - middle toes facing forward. This will also help to open your Ming Men area. (It feels strange at first)

 

The most important part of standing initially is sinking into your Kwa. This is the first thing I check when I check out teachers - whether they’re sunk in the kwa. Most aren’t.

 

One also needs to stretch thoroughly and open up their body prior to standing. Paying particular attention to hips and kwa areas. Some strengthening of the core and the legs may also be needed.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that the idea is not to put yourself into the ‘perfect posture’, but to build in these principles. At first your posture will not look correct (eg bum sticks out) but over time your tissues will reshape and the ‘perfect posture’ will happen effortlessly by itself.

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Another alignment thing we do in temple style is suspending the crown, instead of lifting the crown. Like the crown is suspended from a point higher above the body. When it clicks there is a sensation of a mini tornado whirling above the crown. If done correctly the chin will tuck on its own. 

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1 hour ago, freeform said:

One also needs to stretch thoroughly and open up their body prior to standing. Paying particular attention to hips and kwa areas. Some strengthening of the core and the legs may also be needed.

from an old fart,  if one has not let the pelvis drop naturally, opening up the  lower back along the way, one might experience some ligaments in the lower back getting sore, and maybe even seizing up .   this also happens with the shoulders when they start to drop and connect,  we are so use to carrying ourselves with tense lower backs and shoulders, that the connective tissue is not use to being relaxed and stretched.  so yes,  i to would suggest taking it in small steps.  

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A lot of what is mentioned is kind of culturally dependent.  In most Asian countries they still use the squat toilets. 

Kids are carried on the back or front at an early age...all of this goes into loosening and opening up the hip joints and making the low back very flexible. 

 

As many have mentioned all things should be done in moderation according to ones own body, not an ideal that should be reached. 

 

"small steps"   yep  found out the hard way many yrs back trying to do something that looked easy, thinking that all my time in CMA would allow me to do it.....While I was able to do the movement the way in which I did it,  injured my legs took a while for them to recover.

 

something that might help  in loosening the back and gua 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, dwai said:

Another alignment thing we do in temple style is suspending the crown, instead of lifting the crown. Like the crown is suspended from a point higher above the body. When it clicks there is a sensation of a mini tornado whirling above the crown. If done correctly the chin will tuck on its own. 

 

 

Yes you're right - suspended and everything else hangs off. The small change that I found helpful is using the “ding” which is a little further back on the head than the bai hui (crown) point. Which also allows the “neck to brush the collar” - same as ‘tucking chin’.

 

Neck alignment is tricky for most modern people. I used to hold a little bean bag on my ding point as I worked on my computer. Any moment of inattention and misalignment made the bag drop. This quickly changed my habitual “computer posture” within two weeks.

 

31 minutes ago, windwalker said:

In most Asian countries they still use the squat toilets. 

Kids are carried on the back or front at an early age...all of this goes into loosening and opening up the hip joints and making the low back very flexible.

 

Yes very true. I grew up in a ‘non western’ country and we’d often sit in a “third world squat” when chatting with friends outdoors. This squat is important to unlock if the leg channels are to open.

 

The other difficulty with most westerners is in opening the feet - having the bones and connective tissues spread open. It’s normal to have a lot of pain in the feet when you first start dropping weight through the posture.

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4 hours ago, dwai said:

It should feel like the chest is sliding down the front of the body (a few millimeters only) towards the ground.

I experience this as a plane sloping downward to the front on which the upper chest slides a little forward and down of course. But as you said without a rounding of the upper back.

Edited by marko
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58 minutes ago, marko said:

I experience this as a plane sloping downward to the front on which the upper chest slides a little forward and down of course. But as you said without a rounding of the upper back.

 

As your tissues unwind, the release will be on the inside moving down from Tian Tu point (the dip between the clavicles) down to Hui Yin point (the perineum).

 

The movement on the outside will only be a few millimetres as Dwai says, but inside the tissues will move quite a bit (not so smoothly at first) and eventually be followed by the unmistakeable feeling of the Qi sinking (if all other principles are in place and your mind is relatively quiet).

 

Best to get this working before pressurising the system with Zhan zhuang.

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Another small variation in stance we do in temple style is to angle the big toes inward slightly,  such that if you drew straight lines from the toes, they would converge eventually at a distance. This is needed to open up the lower back. However if someone doesn’t have the flexibility, toes should at least point straight ahead (such that they are mutually parallel). 

 

While standing, we should not be crashing our weight into the ground, but rather feel like we are suspended from the crown. This will develop a feeling of our central equilibrium. So intially it is a good idea to keep maintaining awareness on the crown point suspension. Once the suspension is lost, we will end up feeling more weight on the feet. If suspension is going well, it will feel light. 

 

Often we do standing meditation like this for an hour or more. But we build it up slowly. 

Edited by dwai
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3 minutes ago, dwai said:

angle the big toes inward slightly

 

Yup - exactly. When the middle toes point forwards, the big toes will point slightly inwards.

 

by middle toes I mean second toes :)

Edited by freeform
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On 1/30/2019 at 4:27 PM, freeform said:

 

by middle toes I mean second toes :)

 

The little piggy that stayed home?

Edited by Fa Xin
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10 hours ago, Fa Xin said:

 

The little piggy that stayed home?

 

You know your anatomy! 

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53 minutes ago, freeform said:

 

You know your anatomy! 

aye he does...quite by the hair of his Chiny-chin-chin :) 

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I think it is important to remember that the verbal guidlines ... like "lift the crown", "tuck the chin", "relax the shoulders", etc. ... are just that ... verbal reminders, that point to genuine experiential aspects of good posture. Actually achieving these qualities is often very subtle. To adequately explain often takes quite lengthy descriptions and often ends relating these qualities to familiar activities. A good set of explanations have been given for "sink the chest" and "lift the crown".

 

I would share a description of "tuck the tailbone". 

 

This one is particularly difficult for new practitioners and most always results in over-accentuating the description. If one stands in roughly the wuji posture ... feet apart, parallel and aligned under the shoulders and hips ... and imagines they are about to sit on a stool ... and initiates that action ... you can notice a very slight movement of the tailbone as the body prepares to accept the seated position and redistribution of the weight. That very slight movement ... that hanging change in the tailbone ... is the quality being sought.

 

That hs been my experience with "tuck the tailbone".

 

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30 minutes ago, OldDog said:

and imagines they are about to sit on a stool ... and initiates that action ... you can notice a very slight movement of the tailbone as the body prepares to accept the seated position and redistribution of the weight.

 

Yes, you're right - that's a great 'mental model' for this. For several reasons actually...

 

One is the tail bone, another is the fold in the kwa. Yet another is how your leg muscles engage as you do this...

 

Some people try to 'squat' down - but that engages the bum and all the muscles in the back of the thighs. If you go to 'sit on a stool' - the back of the legs and the buttocks won't engage - but the front of the thighs will - quite a bit at first.

 

As you Song (release) these thigh muscles over time, you'll start to engage and then train the much smaller 'stabiliser muscles' in the legs (rather than the big 'movement muscles'... this is an aspect of 'separating yin and yang). This is where 'the shakes' start...

 

Then eventually, after a few years, you'll develop a 'connected web of elasticity' in the body... then settling into wuji feels like settling into a hammock made of rubber bands. Except the hammock is actually on the inside your body (now that's a creepy mental image!)

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29 minutes ago, freeform said:

 

Yes, you're right - that's a great 'mental model' for this. For several reasons actually...

 

One is the tail bone, another is the fold in the kwa. Yet another is how your leg muscles engage as you do this...

 

Some people try to 'squat' down - but that engages the bum and all the muscles in the back of the thighs. If you go to 'sit on a stool' - the back of the legs and the buttocks won't engage - but the front of the thighs will - quite a bit at first.

 

As you Song (release) these thigh muscles over time, you'll start to engage and then train the much smaller 'stabiliser muscles' in the legs (rather than the big 'movement muscles'... this is an aspect of 'separating yin and yang). This is where 'the shakes' start...

 

Then eventually, after a few years, you'll develop a 'connected web of elasticity' in the body... then settling into wuji feels like settling into a hammock made of rubber bands. Except the hammock is actually on the inside your body (now that's a creepy mental image!)

The image method that worked for me was resting my butt on a giant beach ball :) 

Our (Temple style) approach is slightly different from other schools of IMA i've encountered. We actually work from outside in. And once we go in, then we work our way back out again, in an integrated fashion.

 

For instance, our focus is on generating and activating "taiji balls". These are energetic in nature (expanding on the sensation of an energetic attraction/repulsion we get when we relax our hands and bring our palms together or pull them apart from each other). This sensation is extended to outside (sitting on a large ball of energy), rolling the ball (each taijiquan form practiced in a method called dan tsou, or single form method), splitting the ball, etc etc.  This works a good way to get some of the obsessive thinking about internal alignments, etc etc out of the way and have a way to inculcate the right structure by the way of "feeling".  Part of this is also a transmission that happens from teacher to student.

 

After the basics are known, then the internal work begins, by cultivating the LDT and the MCO (small and large waterwheels). Around the intermediate level, we start working on what is called the 'indirect method', wherein, the student, having developed to ability to generate a tangible taiji ball, is then flowing with and following that ball. So upward and downward form, is following this taiji ball, which emerges from the LDT and is for all intents and purposes a copy of the LDT. 

 

What this does further is to take the awareness from changes "inside" the body (which is still really not what I would consider real "internal") to expanding the awareness to the energy field around us (some call it the energy bubble, some call it the weiqi field, macrocosmic orbit, etc etc).  This field has a surface, which has surface-tension -- which really is our "Jin". Depending on our level of awareness and cultivation. The "real internal" comes when the inside and outside separation doesn't matter any more. 

 

Edited by dwai
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It's amazing how much doing people can invent.
That voice just never ends.

That voice is happy only when it has introduced enough of its own ideas to completely prevent the original purpose of the practice.

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46 minutes ago, rideforever said:

It's amazing how much doing people can invent.

 

"The Tao is clear, yet this clarity requires you to sweep away all your clutter. At all times watch out for your own stupidity, be careful of how your mind jumps around. When nothing occurs to involve your mind, you return to true awareness. When unified mindfulness is purely real, you comprehend the great restoration. The ridiculous ones are those who try to cultivate quietude - as long as body and mind are unstable, it is madness to go into the mountains."

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Yes Freeform .... with regards your endless lists of technical points .... perhaps you have the idea that first you will go through your technical checklist and then after your mind will be quiet, then you will go to the mountain.

I suggest that it is your checklist that ... is ... your mind.

 

Checklists are fine for 5 minutes, after that do be silent, and feel the intention of the thing.   

And the quietness grows until it swallows you up.

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