-_sometimes

Is it safe to practice static exercises like Zhan zhuang without a teacher?

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Several months ago I posted on here regarding some issues I was having, and I was recommended to stop all internal work for some time to get things in order. Much has been resolved, and aside from some physical misalignments (which I hope to resolve through ZZ) all has improved greatly, and I would like to start working with the energy arts to improve my physical health, vitality and hopefully, longevity.

 

I am not interested in spiritual accomplishments, I simply wish to take care of my body. I have what seems to be structural misalignments of my neck, shoulder and facial muscles, and having been to various doctors, seen a neurologist and taken care of my mental health, the issues still remain. 

 

I hear Zhan zhuang is very useful when practiced with care and attention over the long term at rectifying physical imbalances within the body, and as such would like to take it up. Is this a good idea, can it be done effectively without a teacher, and are there any warning signs I should take note of, to prevent such things as qi deviation?

 

I would appreciate any advice, thanks :)

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Generally speaking, no, but some people have done okay with it like @NATURE BEEING who tend to be the exception not the rule, and @freeform can explain the risks of doing so on your own.

 

Mind you this is a conversation that is repeated many times here with the same answer, so you may want to search for the older threads.

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For those curious as to what exactly these physical imbalances are, I often have a build up of tension around furthest sides of the face, close to the ears. I can consciously relax it, but when I do, it often results in contraction of various muscles in the face, causing involuntary twitches of the head this way and that.

 

Likewise, if I completely relax as much as I can the muscles in my face and arms, my upper body tries to move on its own; fingers and arms raise up, head moves back or to the side and shoulders will lock into or out of positions. If I allow the movements to occur, I might end up in weird positions. I've done this aplenty and as long as I avoid making fast movements and try to 'move' things along, it seems perfectly natural, but honestly I'm a little tired of it. It's like my body is trying to correct some sort of structural imbalance possibly brought about through years of poor posture, and I was hoping Zhan Zhang might help identify what exactly is misaligned, allowing faster resolution of these issues.

 

Thanks for reading!

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4 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:

Generally speaking, no, but some people have done okay with it like @NATURE BEEING who tend to be the exception not the rule, and @freeform can explain the risks of doing so on your own.

 

Mind you this is a conversation that is repeated many times here with the same answer, so you may want to search for the older threads.

I have searched through older threads, but responses are varied, some say yes, others no, then are horror stories of people who fucked themselves over rather insanely, but I was hoping specifying static exercises that don't require any active moving of qi wouldn't be as problematic. Then again, if there are varied responses, it really might be best just to stay away

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Just now, -_sometimes said:

I have searched through older threads, but responses are varied, some say yes, others no, then are horror stories of people who fucked themselves over rather insanely, but I was hoping specifying static exercises that don't require any active moving of qi wouldn't be as problematic. Then again, if there are varied responses, it really might be best just to stay away


Pretty much the good ZZ you can do can still cause problems for the spine, but not necessarily immediately. One student of mine did it wrong for a decade and we spent a while correcting it first so that he wouldn’t he in constant pain all the time.

 

Again, some people do well from LKC’s book like @NATURE BEEING above, others used the book but injured themselves, and some who used his book came to our school and had to start over from the beginning because they did it wrong.

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6 minutes ago, -_sometimes said:

For those curious as to what exactly these physical imbalances are, I often have a build up of tension around furthest sides of the face, close to the ears. I can consciously relax it, but when I do, it often results in contraction of various muscles in the face, causing involuntary twitches of the head this way and that.

 

Likewise, if I completely relax as much as I can the muscles in my face and arms, my upper body tries to move on its own; fingers and arms raise up, head moves back or to the side and shoulders will lock into or out of positions. If I allow the movements to occur, I might end up in weird positions. I've done this aplenty and as long as I avoid making fast movements and try to 'move' things along, it seems perfectly natural, but honestly I'm a little tired of it. It's like my body is trying to correct some sort of structural imbalance possibly brought about through years of poor posture, and I was hoping Zhan Zhang might help identify what exactly is misaligned, allowing faster resolution of these issues.

 

Thanks for reading!


Yeah even if you find a teacher, you may have to hope he or she know what they’re doing, as the wrong teachers can make it worse.

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43 minutes ago, -_sometimes said:

 

I am not interested in spiritual accomplishments, I simply wish to take care of my body. I have what seems to be structural misalignments of my neck, shoulder and facial muscles, 

There are several physical therapies that work on structural alignments without doing the internal work associated with proper zz. 

Depending on where you live, there might be a handful to choose from. 

Are you in a western country? 

 

Feldenkrais, Alexander, Mensendieck, Rolfing, ...... 

 

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Chi Kung styles that require very specific structure can be hit or miss as very few people have good posture starting out. There are easier forms that focus on movement and there is less of a need for in person adjustments. 

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Posted (edited)

"Is it safe to practice static exercises like Zhan zhuang without a teacher?" 

 

The answer is, it depends. It can depend on a person's prior experience in related practices,

and whether a person is able to practice naturally or not without letting their mind interfere. 

 

Given what you stated in your comments above, it sounds like you might have problems

just standing and relaxing as much as possible, and not paying too much attention to any

specific tensions or sensations or anything else related to zhan zhuang practice. 

 

The proper way to practice zhan zhuang is to relax as much as you are able to, 

and just stand as naturally as you can, and not pay any much attention to any sensations

or tensions or anything else related to your body or sensations. You will of course likely be aware 

of such things, but you should not pay such things any attention. 

The practice must be relaxed and natural. Let whatever happens happen without any interference 

or specific attention from you. 

 

If you don't think you can look at a picture or video of a demonstrated stance and imitate that 

reasonably closely, then you probably should go see an experienced  teacher. If anyone tells you that 

you should be focusing your mind in a certain way, or trying to breathe in a certain way, 

run away screaming with your hands over your ears. :lol:

 

Zhan zhuang practice should always be relaxed and natural. As long as you are 

standing reasonably close to what the stance is supposed to look like, 

and you are relaxed and natural, in my own experience you will be fine. 

The most important thing is to be relaxed and natural as much as you can manage. 

You will automatically adjust your stance to be more natural and relaxed as you progress. 

If you don't think you can practice that way on your own, then try to find an experienced teacher. 

 

If you are natural and relaxed, which includes your breathing just being natural and relaxed, 

and with your mind not focusing on anything in particular beyond just being aware that you are 

standing in zhan zhuang, then you should be fine. People can potentially cause problems for them self 

when they try to add things like special concentrations and special breathing, or trying to 

bend the knees too much and causing unnecessary strain, or if they focus on and try to control sensations

and tensions, etc. 

 

 

Edited by Iskote
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Posted (edited)

@Iskote so what's the goal, to just feel without exacerbating ACTIONs of any kind, including impulses which can feed into bad postures or chi deviation, mental habits which are artificial, etc etc? didn't tao te ching say something like that? they see but they do not look, they sense but they do not feel, they hear but they do not listen, etc.

Edited by EmeraldHead

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2 hours ago, Iskote said:

If anyone tells you that 

you should be focusing your mind in a certain way, or trying to breathe in a certain way, 

run away screaming with your hands over your ears. :lol:

 

100% true, especially coming from strangers on the Internet who don't even see how he's standing without a picture to reference, and even with it, who else here is actually qualified so critique and instruct?

 

 

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Posted (edited)
56 minutes ago, EmeraldHead said:

@Iskote so what's the goal, to just feel without exacerbating ACTIONs of any kind, including impulses which can feed into bad postures or chi deviation, mental habits which are artificial, etc etc? didn't tao te ching say something like that? they see but they do not look, they sense but they do not feel, they hear but they do not listen, etc.

 

The goal is to improve health and longevity, and to 'cultivate dao'. 

The Dao De Jing outlines the principles, yes. 

Practices like zhan zhuang and taiji quan put those principles into practice. 

Naturalness and relaxing as much as one is able is the key. 

Nothing should be forced or controlled beyond comfortably maintaining the form, either physically or mentally. 

It is putting 'wu wei' into practice. 

 

What many people (especially in the West) can't seem to wrap their head around is that by doing 'nothing', much can be achieved. You just stand naturally and relax as much as you are able, and do not focus on anything in particular with your mind beyond maintaining a casual awareness that you are standing in zhan zhuang (i.e., don't fall into day dreaming), and there is no limit to the results that can be achieved. 

 

Anyone who practices the basic wuji zhan zhuang stance (or embracing the tree stance) at least once a day

('basic' is really a misnomer, as it includes everything), as I have outlined above, for three months, increasing standing duration time slowly and gradually in such a way that you are never straining to continue standing, should see very tangible and beneficial results by that time. Then you will know from direct personal experience whether those principles have real practical value or not.

 

The principles outlined in the Dao De Jing are actually a practical guideline for self cultivation. 

It is not just a collection of flowery words and phrases for one's mental amusement. :lol:

 

 

 

Edited by Iskote
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Allowing the body to adjust naturally is often the best option. 

 

Sometimes though, that might not be enough. 

 

One of these cases is when there is/has been a mental health issue. 

 

Some of these (depression, trauma and psychotic episodes comes to mind) leave a really deep imprint in posture and movement patterns, that is, the reaction is the new "natural". 

 

If one has any of these issues in ones history, one might be better of in the long run to see a therapist who is competent in this area (and yes, finding one is hard, at least in most western countries where psychopharmaca and verbal based therapies are the norm). 

 

There are methods popping up, and I include qualified instructors in internal arts in the term therapist, so it is not hopeless. 

 

In the case of having a history of mental health issues, there are a slight problem with proper zz. 

 

All the instructions above, while being useful for the average person, MIGHT trigger negative reactions. 

 

The main triggers:

 

Standing still 

Relaxing 

Being present in how that feels 

 

There are other ways to work with these emotional leftovers through the body, but usually one need to have repeated contact with a therapist to build up a personal practice. 

 

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knowing a little bit of @-_sometimes history, I would suggest to avoid ZZ and any internal practice for a while longer... it's tempting when things are improving to jump back into practices - but often that's a really bad idea.

 

As @Cleansox suggested, I'd seek other, more physical, postural routes to try and improve the alignment of your neck, shoulders etc. You need a reasonable degree of physical openness before jumping into ZZ practice.

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17 hours ago, Cleansox said:

There are several physical therapies that work on structural alignments without doing the internal work associated with proper zz. 

Depending on where you live, there might be a handful to choose from. 

Are you in a western country? 

 

Feldenkrais, Alexander, Mensendieck, Rolfing, ...... 

 

Based in the UK.. I do recall my doctor offered physical therapy several months ago, but I put it on hold, not being entirely certain how useful it would actually be. It might be a wise idea to follow up on that, perhaps. It's just a little difficult because the issue is very personal, and really.. a lil weird lol

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1 hour ago, -_sometimes said:

 

Based in the UK.. I do recall my doctor offered physical therapy several months ago, but I put it on hold, not being entirely certain how useful it would actually be. 

Probably only useful if your therapist-to-be knows the mental health aspect, although that is only my opinion. 

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Start with Wuji posture. It‚Äôs basic and will help develop things correctly and safely. Maintain a few structural alignments and off you can go. Initially it will require mindful adjustment and micro adjustments of your structure. Eventually you stand and everything ‚Äėclicks‚Äô.¬†

 

But just standing needs to be augmented with movement too. So stand as long as you feel comfortable. Then move, some basic taijiquan will be good for that. Best to build it up little by little. 

 

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ZZ is the easiest and safest Taoist exercise to be self-learned.  If ZZ cannot be learned on the internet, then practically all Taoist trainings including Taichi are not available to most people, because finding a good enough teacher is not easy in the western world (eastern world not much better).   Some of the members here are real experts in ZZ, practising many hours a day.  But for ordinary people, a duration of 20 to 30 minutes a day wouldn't be more dangerous than most outdoor sports.

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1 hour ago, Master Logray said:

ZZ is the easiest and safest Taoist exercise to be self-learned.  If ZZ cannot be learned on the internet, then practically all Taoist trainings including Taichi are not available to most people, because finding a good enough teacher is not easy in the western world (eastern world not much better).   Some of the members here are real experts in ZZ, practising many hours a day.  But for ordinary people, a duration of 20 to 30 minutes a day wouldn't be more dangerous than most outdoor sports.


‚ÄúEasy to learn‚ÄĚ but the quality of practice is dependent on the quality of understanding. ūüėú¬†
 

‚ÄúBy the fruits, ye shall be known‚ÄĚ and sadly many people who encourage self-learning don‚Äôt know the many people with knee and spinal problems both before and after attempting to learn Zhan Zhuang without a good guide.

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1 hour ago, Earl Grey said:


‚ÄúEasy to learn‚ÄĚ but the quality of practice is dependent on the quality of understanding. ūüėú¬†
 

‚ÄúBy the fruits, ye shall be known‚ÄĚ and sadly many people who encourage self-learning don‚Äôt know the many people with knee and spinal problems both before and after attempting to learn Zhan Zhuang without a good guide.

 

You are right.  But there are millions of middle aged or old people doing all sorts of more complicated Chikung exercises everyday, with minimal or questionable guidance.   There are no complaints of chi deviation.  For knee and spinal problems,

may be, but many of them are already having neck, spine and knee problems anyway.  The trainings don't seem to make their situation much worse to warrant seeing doctors.   A diligent self-learner might know more about the intricacies than those people.  

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Master Logray said:

 

You are right.  But there are millions of middle aged or old people doing all sorts of more complicated Chikung exercises everyday, with minimal or questionable guidance.   There are no complaints of chi deviation.  For knee and spinal problems,

may be, but many of them are already having neck, spine and knee problems anyway.  The trainings don't seem to make their situation much worse to warrant seeing doctors.   A diligent self-learner might know more about the intricacies than those people.  


Platitudes endorsing self-learning‚ÄĒokay. It isn‚Äôt a hard rule that you CAN‚ÄôT self-learn, but from technical and statistical perspectives, the likelihood of ANY benefit is quite low and the risks are high. It‚Äôs better doing a safer qigong practice than going into standing.

 

You are talking about qigong now but that is not Zhan Zhuang nor is it predicated on whether they were practicing complicated forms with good guidance or not, and the ‚Äúmillions‚ÄĚ statistic is already questionable if not hyperbole. A poor redirection argument tactic.

 

As for not making it worse enough to see a doctor, often a doctor won’t know what to look for as someone trained in TCM or Ayurveda and even chiropractors will see things that are affected by improper practice.

 

Understand the risks and ignore the platitudes while looking at the skill and structure, health and achievement of those advocating self-learning versus those who advice caution (but don’t outright say DO NOT).

Edited by Earl Grey
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42 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:


Platitudes endorsing self-learning‚ÄĒokay. It isn‚Äôt a hard rule that you CAN‚ÄôT self-learn, but from technical and statistical perspectives, the likelihood of ANY benefit is quite low and the risks are high. It‚Äôs better doing a safer qigong practice than going into standing.

 

You are talking about qigong now but that is not Zhan Zhuang nor is it predicated on whether they were practicing complicated forms with good guidance or not, and the ‚Äúmillions‚ÄĚ statistic is already questionable if not hyperbole. A poor redirection argument tactic.

 

As for not making it worse enough to see a doctor, often a doctor won’t know what to look for as someone trained in TCM or Ayurveda and even chiropractors will see things that are affected by improper practice.

 

Understand the risks and ignore the platitudes while looking at the skill and structure, health and achievement of those advocating self-learning versus those who advice caution (but don’t outright say DO NOT).

 

Millions is not overstatement, it is understatement.  China mainland alone has 1.4 billion people.   If 10% of them ever doing exercises in the Chikung/Taoist/Buddhist family in their lives, it is 140 millions people.   Even 5% is 70 millions.  It is much more than "millions".     ZZ is generally regarded as basic exercises of Chikung.  In fact China authorities group everything directly or indirectly involve Chi or meditation under Chikung, including Yoga too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Master Logray said:

 

Millions is not overstatement, it is understatement.  China mainland alone has 1.4 billion people.   If 10% of them ever doing exercises in the Chikung/Taoist/Buddhist family in their lives, it is 140 millions people.   Even 5% is 70 millions.  It is much more than "millions".     ZZ is generally regarded as basic exercises of Chikung.  In fact China authorities group everything directly or indirectly involve Chi or meditation under Chikung, including Yoga too.

 

 

 

 

 


Still an overstatement. A person who stood for one class is registered in that statistic‚ÄĒI am talking about people who practice regularly. You need to provide numbers rather than conjecture and understand that of those millions, you have to consider Inner Mongolia and Tibet, Xinjiang, and other remote areas or if there are even adequate programs. The statistics in China are horribly inaccurate in everything from education to health‚ÄĒtake for example how a hospital that former member Walker worked in and he explains doctors are inclined to convince patients to leave and if they die after discharge, they don‚Äôt fall under the fatalities recorded in hospital deaths. A trick to make the numbers look good.

 

Focus on quality, not on quantity. You are basically saying someone can stand regularly while your stats refer to any range of people standing from a one-off workshop to high school kids standing ten minutes for a class one semester, and this isn’t even looking at quality.
 

Going by weird numbers is also ridiculously anti-TCM because they treat INDIVIDUALS, not numbers or symptoms. A good guide is necessary to help a practitioner in their own body. Otherwise, go tell people to learn rocket science (a far easier skill than the intricacies of proper Zhan Zhuang and cultivation) since there are both books and sites on Google and baidu to learn. You could even replace Zhan Zhuang with any sport like shooting guns at the firing range or skateboarding and assume no danger because of high numbers!

 

Otherwise, if not physical health, remember that mental health is also at risk!

Edited by Earl Grey
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16 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:

 

 

Otherwise, if not physical health, remember that mental health is also at risk!

I think mental health is the bigger risk. At least from my experience and observation, glad you brought that up.

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2 hours ago, Master Logray said:

There are no complaints of chi deviation.

 

OP already had some issues with qi deviation that he's just starting to correct.

 

ZZ (when done at least somewhat properly) adds a lot of extra qi to the system. This is bad news if you have deviation issues.

 

@-_sometimes you should focus on physical approaches to work on your spine, shoulders and neck... I would also recommend working on your core muscles - with stuff like planks and all the many plank variations - this helps immensely with posture.

 

For working on joints you could have a look as intu flow by scott sonnon - I think it's available for free on youtube.

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