Stand Like a Tree

What is zhanzhuang?

Zhanzhuang, also known as standing meditation or standing like a tree, is a unique exercise. Written as 站桩 in Chinese, we may translate it literally as “standing pole”.

It is hard to imagine. What you do during the exercise is nothing more than standing. You just stand there statically – literally doing nothing. You remain in the same posture, and the session can range from ten minutes to an hour. Many practitioners go beyond that.

 What do you think? Can it be an exercise?

To the surprise of many, not only is zhanzhaung an exercise, it brings you  a whole host of benefits.

Zhan zhuang stance benefits

  • Improving vitality
  • Boosting immunity
  • Healing illnesses
  • Achieving clarity of mind
  • Helping in one’s spiritual pursuit

Originated from ancient China, the practice has been around for thousands of years. The Yellow Emperor’s Scripture of Internal Medicine, the authority of traditional Chinese medicine written more than 2,000 years ago, presents a vivid description of how it is conducted. 

The exercise is so profound that, for centuries, the various forms of martial arts, from tai chi, xingyi and bagua to Shaolin, resort to it as a foundation training for the nurturing of focus and internal strength. 

Many people regard Zhan zhuang as an antidote to counter the challenges. The practice is getting popular. More and more people are taking it up, especially with the onslaught of afflictions, from stress and anxiety to depression.

Still, the question lingers. How can one achieve so many things by just standing, seemingly doing nothing?

We have to go deeper than what we see to answer the question.  

In contrast to popular exercises such as jogging and swimming that focus on building muscular strength and stamina, zhan zhuang is an internal exercise that builds inner strength. Much of the activities occur in your body, and you can’t see them externally.       

At the same time, when the popular exercises work on our body, zhan zhuang gets our body to work on us. Instead of exerting energy, we refrain from interfering so that the body can do its work. 

We position our body to become an excellent conduit for the life energy, also known as qi or life force, to flow freely. Although we’re as if doing nothing during the exercise, we stay away from interfering with the body so that it can do its work.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the root cause of illnesses is an unhealthy flow of life energy. Its stagnation can result in the development of lumps, leading to conditions such as cancer. 

With the calmness of mind and proper body alignment, zhanzhuang stimulates a healthy flow of life energy in our body. One of the benefits the flow brings is to help clear stagnation of the qi energy and repair qi deficiency. At the same time, it balances the allocation of life energy at various parts of the body, including the internal organs.

Starting Zhanzhuang

Zhanzhuang is easy. You can do it any time and at any place so long as your energy allows and the air is fresh and circulates well, indoor or outdoor.

Assume the posture. Ensure the alignment. Vertically connect your crown with your perineum and shoulder with your feet. Calm your mind, relax your body, breathe naturally, and go!

Remain in a state that is “relaxed but not slack, contracted but not rigid,” and you will immediately enjoy a healthy flow of energy in you and many of the benefits that the exercise brings to you.

About the Author

Tekson Teo has practiced qigong for more than four decades and is a disciple of an ancient tai chi lineage. His passion for Tao’s philosophy, for which he has written three books, allows him to dive deep into the qigong and tai chi practices. Being a management consultant for a substantial time, he is familiar with the modern world’s challenges, making his teaching practical and relevant. Tekson graduated from the University of London with BSc (Econ) Hon and Imperial College London with MBA and DIC.

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