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Zhan Zhuang Qigong exercises: fit and vital without movement

  1. Zhan Zhuang is a Chinese movement form that literally translates as 'standing like a pole' or 'standing like a tree'. The practice is often regarded as a form of qigong, a Chinese teaching for obtaining and balancing qi (life energy). The striking thing about the Zhan Zhuang exercises is that they consist of a few basic postures that are practiced without moving. The basic postures are adopted for a long time. Despite its passive character, Zhan Zuang has been used for centuries to build mental but especially physical fitness and balance in life. In addition, this teaching can be practiced for everyone because the practitioner can never go beyond his own strength. The exercises are easy to learn and well applicable in daily life.


  1. Qi (often referred to as Chi in the West) means freely translated; life energy. Gong (Kung) means; cultivate or work. In short, working on or cultivating Qi. This Chinese form of movement includes gradual movement of the body, movement meditations, breathing exercises and silent meditations. The term as currently used dates back to around 1950 when the exercises were introduced worldwide, but has also been found in texts from 600-900 AD. Most recognizable in the West are the movement exercises in which the body is slowly brought into different positions. This is also often confused with Tai Chi (the large groups of practitioners in the park). Tai Chi, however, is movement with martial aspects (martial arts) and aimed at self-defense and strengthening the body. Qigong is aimed at the health of the body. The cultivation of qi thus forms the basis for Tai Chi, but also almost all other forms of martial art.

Zhan Zhuang

  1. Zhan Zhuang (pronounced: shom shang) is a form of standing miditation. Although Zhan Zhuang may not officially be called qigong, this is often included. Zhan Zhuang loosely translated means to stand like a tree, or stand like a pole. In principle, this is also the essence of the exercises. At Zhan Zhuan, people are in different static positions for a long time. Although there is no movement during the exercises, they provide many health benefits.

Increase in muscle strength

  1. Especially in the beginning you will notice how hard the exercises are for the muscles. After a few minutes, the muscles will acidify. The more you practice, the longer the postures can be assumed. Zhan Zhuang trains the muscles without overloading them. The exercises also provide more balance and a better condition.

Increase mental strength

  1. Zhan Zhuang is primarily a standing meditation and increases mental strength in addition to physical strength. This is mainly done by ignoring the acidifying muscles. It is a normal brain response to stop or change position as soon as discomfort is felt. The theory is that these inconveniences are precisely caused by the brain and thinking of the soured muscles. During the exercises the thought is mainly kept on the breath. If the thoughts turn to an acidifying muscle group, then you can focus on another muscle group. The pain in the muscles will disappear with this. In this way one learns to push his physical and mental boundaries.

Stimulation of blood circulation and energy flow

  1. The positions have been developed in such a way that they provide ideal blood and energy circulation throughout the body. The exercises also put pressure on the bones where the white blood cells are produced and stimulate them to produce more. This in turn provides a boost to the immune system. Zhan Zhuang is thus a training method to cleanse and strengthen the body without overloading it.

The exercise

  1. This article focuses on the first two basic positions of Zhan Zhuang. Although there are several basic positions, it is wise to practice in the first two positions for several months. Only when these are fully mastered can you continue with other positions.

Empty Posture (Wu Ji Zhuang)

  1. The first position is Empty Posture of Wu Ji Zhuang. It is seen as the weakest position in Chinese Martial Arts, as the person in this position is defenseless and unable to attack. It is precisely these aspects that, according to the teaching, lead to an increase in self-knowledge. The position is therefore also referred to as self-knowledge stance. In kinematics it is the basic position for cultivating Qi (life energy). Many forms of kinematics and martial arts return to this position after each exercise.

Embracing Posture (Ping Bu Cheng Bao Zhuang)

  1. The Embracing posture gets its name from the embracing of an invisible object. The posture opens up the energy channels in the body and stimulates free flow. It is again important to relax the muscles. The position is easier to assume and hold by proposing different balloons. A large balloon to be seated on, a small balloon between the knees, a large balloon held against the chest (embraced) and two small balloons under the elbows.

Exercise time

  1. Although there is no movement in the exercise, everyone will be amazed at how heavy the postures are for the muscles. In an untrained person, extreme muscle fatigue and convulsions can occur after no more than 3 minutes. There are different views on this. One sees these sensations as formations of the mind and states that when complete emptiness is reached in thought, these sensations also disappear. Others indicate that in the beginning Zhan Zhuang is a training for the mind and with physical discomfort the mind cannot find rest. It is therefore important to start with short sessions and build them up slowly. Sessions of 10 seconds per stand are recommended. Although this seems very little, the beginning of the training is about getting regularity. These 10 seconds can be built up slowly. Zhan Zhuang masters can often stand in the same position for more than 2 hours!

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