Now lets take a look at some of the most common sensations that we may experience during our Zhan Zhuang training sessions, ranging from the merely odd to outright pain. Please note that this is only a partial list in which there are almost enumerable variations.
SENSATIONS EXPERIENCED DURING STANDING MEDITATION PRACTICE
SWEAT – a sign that the body is overheated. Not unusual during physical exercise. Also indicates a possible Internal Organ problem depending on where the sweat is. For instance, sweat mainly on the forehead may indicate a Heart problem. Sweat over the entire body may indicate a general Yang or even Yin deficiency. Another way to identify the specific organ is to notice if the sweating is most profuse along the meridian of a particular organ.
HEAT – various Qi imbalances may cause feelings of extreme heat. This is often part of the process of burning out impurities of systemic imbalances or even involving specific organs, although many times in these cases the heat will be predominant in the region of the specific organ. An exception to this is when there are extreme organ imbalances or deficiencies in which case the heat may indeed be systemic. (All over the body) Another aspect of heat is in the musculoskeletal system, particularly the joints. If heat appears at the site of an old injury, this is generally indicative of increased circulation, the body’s way of healing and restoring.
COLD – coldness in most cases is a sign of deficient circulation or a Xu organ condition. Once again this may be systemic or in particular regions of the body. Old injuries to the joints or sinews often create coldness in the region due to being starved of proper circulation and nourishment for some time.
NUMBNESS – is traditionally a sign of dampness in the channel(s.) This also implies reduced circulation which is usually associated with the Spleen. In addition, deficient Spleen Qi may trigger premature tiredness during a Zhan Zhuang session. Numbness may also be present in the regions above, below or within the area of an old injury. This is particularly true of old muscle or joint injuries.
SHAKING – is the body’s way of adjusting misaligned tissues and imbalanced pressures in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and even the bones. (A previously broken bone.) Mild shaking is usually associated with the muscles, whereas the more violent shaking is usually due to the tendons or ligaments. Previously broken bones may also trigger this kind of reaction, although in addition to the shaking there may also be a feeling of extreme pressure building around the site of the actual break.
PAIN – there are a number of different types of pain we may experience at one time or another during practice such as stingy, burning, achy, sharp, stabbing. twisting, oppressive and others. Although each of these are indicative of certain causes, they can generally be divided into two overall categories; Qi stagnation and Blood stagnation. The most basic way to differentiate between the two is that with Blood stagnation the pain is always in the same place, whereas with Qi stagnation the pain seems to move or jump from one location to another and then back again in a particular general region. Also with Blood stagnation the pain is generally more severe. But this is not to say that the pain caused by Qi stagnation cannot trigger quite a lot of soreness as well. Now once again, these two categories can relate to both musculoskeletal problems or Internal Organ problems. Obviously outright pain is not something to be ignored. Prolonged Blood stagnation in any of the internal systems should be treated as a serious ‘wake-up call.’ Prolonged pain anywhere in the musculoskeletal region should likewise be dealt with. Often times this can be a matter of alignment adjustments but when its not, it too should be attended to straight away, before further injury results.
Now that we’ve examined some of the sensations caused by various issues, lets look at the other side of the coin, some of the Confirmatory Signs of correct practice. Again, these are many times experienced in various combinations, often unique to each individual.
CONFIRMATORY SIGNS OF CORRECT PRACTICE
RELAXATION – greater relaxation is usually the first positive sign and leads to a sense of greater ease which generates a greater sense of space inside the body. This leads to a feeling of ‘roundness,’ like there’s no corners or sharp edges in the body’s structure. There’s also a whole other aspect of relaxation that has to do with the calming of the mind, even the slowing or cessation of thought and balancing or neutralizing of the emotions.
WARMTH – (not to be mistaken for excessive Heat) is a sign that the Qi is moving and has become abundant enough to well up. Eventually this abundance will overflow throughout part or all of the body, bringing with it a sense of soothing relaxation wherever it is found.
LIGHTNESS – in Holding the Ball posture for example, the arms feel as though they weigh little or nothing. This form of lightness can also occur in the torso and legs and also be experienced after a standing session and then during various moving exercises.
HEAVINESS – (not to be confused with oppressive sensations) is many times the feeling that accompanies growing a deeper and deeper root. Sometimes the lower body feels like a marble statue and this can occur in the upper body as well. This feeling often indicates the body’s early attempts at unification.
PULSING SENSATION – the feelings of Qi energy pulsing in part or throughout the entire body. Pulsing has a sense of ebb and flow.
SENSE OF POWER – feeling a sudden surging sense of indomitability, or even invincibility in a martial and/or sexual sense. These feelings are generally linked to the low Dantien.
EUPHORIA – stems from extreme calmness, deep relaxation and the abundance of Qi energizing various centers in the brain along with any or all of the power centers below Baihui point GV-20 at the crown of the head.
HOLLOWNESS – usually develops from feelings of lightness, like there’s a very thin outer crust of structure while the inside is virtually empty, without any sense of resistance whatsoever.
EMPTINESS – generally develops from hollowness, as if the edges of the outermost part of our body seem to disappear altogether and we can’t distinguish where our body ends and our environment begins. Leads to entire ‘insubstantiality.’ All bodily feelings and awareness disappears. Entering the’Void.’
Now, with all this under our belt, let’s take a look at a few of the other 5 Elements correspondences that can play an important role in increasing the healing aspects of our Zhan Zhuang sessions. While all the earlier examples can be practiced pretty much at any time of day or at anytime of year, there is another level of refinement which involves the time of year and specific times of day. The first of these are the seasonal aspects: Spring, Summer, Indian Summer, Fall and Winter.
According to 5 Elements theory each of the seasons is ruled by a particular element based on the repeating cycles of nature. Spring, the time of birth is ruled by Wood. Summer, ruled by the Fire Element is a time of growth. The Earth Element while not assigned to any particular season is placed in the category of Indian Summer although its centering or returning to the center for replenishment influence can be found toward the end of each of the four other seasons. The Earth element corresponds to maturity. Fall corresponds to the Metal element and the time of harvest, while Winter and the Water element relates to rest, hibernation and returning to the earth.
So in terms of Zhan Zhuang qigong, once we determine in which Internal Organ our difficulty lies, we may choose to add additional daily practice sessions based on its seasonal correspondence. According to the theory of Zhang Fu, the Liver and its paired Yang organ, the Gall Bladder correspond to the Wood element and Spring. The Heart and Small Intestine are paired with the Fire Element and Summer. The Earth element/late summer rules the Spleen and Stomach. Fall and the Metal element are the province of the Lung and Large Intestine and Winter, the Water element, corresponds to the Kidneys and Bladder. So if we have a Liver problem for example, we would practice more in springtime, the season of Wood which corresponds to the Liver and the time of year when our Liver Qi is naturally at its greatest abundance.
In addition to the Seasonal correspondences, we can further refine our healing efforts based on the time of day. The daily 24 hour period can be divided into 12 two-hour cycles during which time each particular Organ naturally has a greater abundance of Qi available than during the other 11 cycles. So, knowing this we can choose the time of day that can provide extra enhancement to the problem organ. The two-hour cycles and their related organs are as follows: Liver 1:00am-3:00am, Lungs 3:00am-5:00am, Large Intestine 5:00am-7:00am, Stomach 7:00am-9:00am, Spleen 9:00am-11:00am, Heart 11:00am-1:00pm, Small Intestine 1:00pm-3:00pm, Bladder, 3:00pm-5:00pm, Kidneys 5:00pm-7:00pm, Pericardium (Ministerial Fire) 7:00pm-9:00pm, Triple Burner (also Ministerial Fire) 9:00pm-11:00pm, Gall Bladder 11:00pm-1:00am.
Another set of correspondences that is useful to be aware of is the relationship between each set of paired Yin-Yang Organs and their particular ‘Child’ sense orifice. The Eyes are considered the ‘Child’ of the Liver/Gall Bladder Wood element. The Tongue is related to the Fire element and the Heart/Small Intestine. The Mouth corresponds to the Spleen/Stomach Earth element. The Metal element Lungs/Large Intestine rule the Nose and the Kidneys/Bladder Water element corresponds to the Ears. So let’s say our problem is a hearing difficulty. In that case we can choose to practice during the hours of 5:00pm-7:00pm, the time of the greatest Kidney Qi circulation and even utilize a Kidney Zhan Zhuang posture as well.
And we can even take this a step further by facing in a specific direction based on 5 Elements theory. It is well known that the Earth gives off an electro-magnetic field and so it is with the human body as well. By aligning our Zhan Zhuang posture in a particular direction, we can draw upon the Earth’s magnetic energy and use it to augment and amplify our own. Wood Liver/Gall Bladder relates to the Easterly direction. The Fire element Heart/Small Intestine corresponds to South. The Spleen/Stomach Earth element is considered the Center, which again is not an actual direction but the place from which all the other directions emanate or are calculated from, the center of ourselves. To enhance the Metal element Lungs/Large Intestine and/or any of its ‘Children,’ we can face West. And finally we can face North to help boost the Kidney/Bladder Water Element.
In addition to the ‘Mother-Child relationships between the various Organs and our senses, there is also a similar relationship we can consider regarding the body’s tissues. The Liver, Wood element rules our Sinews; Tendons, Ligaments and the Nerves. The Blood and Blood Vessels naturally correspond to the Heart, Fire element. The Muscles/Flesh are the ‘Children’ of the Earth element or Spleen. The Lungs Metal element rule over the Skin and Fascia while our Bones, Bone Marrow and Teeth correspond to Kidneys and the Water element.
From all the above discussions it is easy to see that there are a great many ways to augment and enhance one’s basic Zhan Zhuang healing practices. I invite you to try out any or all of the techniques and prove their efficacy for yourself. With a little creative application you may find your Zhan Zhuang practice growing by leaps and bounds and many of the health issues that may have formally plagued you, improving, or in time, disappearing altogether.