How to stand as a pole for internal power
Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that focuses on balance, flexibility, and mindfulness. It is often referred to as a form of moving meditation and has countless physical and mental health benefits. One of the key principles of tai chi is the concept of “standing as a pole” or “zhan zhuang”, which is a foundational exercise that helps to cultivate internal power and strength. In this blog post, we will explore what it means to “stand as a pole” and provide helpful tips on how to integrate this powerful exercise into your tai chi practice.
What does it mean to stand as a pole?
To “stand as a pole” means to stand still in a relaxed and upright posture with your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. This position may seem simple, but it is incredibly important in tai chi because it helps to cultivate internal energy or “qi”.
When standing as a pole, you should focus on breathing deeply and slowly, relaxing your body, and being mindful of your surroundings. Just to mention, when you breathe, you should be breathing through your Dan Tian in either Reverse Abdominal Breathing (RAB) or Normal Abdominal Breathing (NAB). For someone who wants faster internal sensation, we recommend RAB.
This exercise is meant to be done for extended periods of time (up to 30 minutes or more) to fully allow your body to feel the effects of the exercise. Some people describe standing as a pole as feeling like a “tree rooting themselves into the earth” or “feeling a current of energy flowing through their body”.
To perform the Standing Pole exercise, there are a few key things you need to follow.
- First stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your heels should be facing slightly inside, with your knees slightly bent.
- Your Quay should be open, your pelvis tucked, your hips back, making your heel on the same line as your butt.
- Your spine should be straight, aligned on both your skull and the tail bone.
- Tuck your chin inwards, with your head being straight up and down. Then let it relax in the position, you should not be using any muscles.
- Lift your arms in front of you, in a circular motion. Imagine you’re holding a balloon in between your arms. Your fingers should be together, palms facing each other.
When practicing standing as a pole, there are several things to keep in mind. First, be sure to maintain a relaxed posture. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your spine straight, but not stiff. Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your weight is balanced equally between both feet. Second, focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Try to breathe deeply into your lower belly to help calm your body and mind. Third, be patient and persistent. Standing as a pole may not feel immediately comfortable or natural, but with practice, it can become a powerful tool for cultivating inner strength and balance.
At first glance, standing still for an extended period of time may seem like an insignificant exercise, but in reality, it has tremendous benefits for both physical health and mental wellbeing. Standing as a pole can help to improve balance, increase flexibility, and reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help to strengthen the legs and core muscles, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Additionally, standing as a pole can provide an opportunity for meditation and reflection, helping to improve mental clarity and focus.
Why does this cultivate internal power?
The Standing Pole technique involves standing still in one position for an extended period of time. While this may seem easy, it’s actually a very challenging exercise that requires great focus. By standing as a pole, you’re able to connect with the energy of the earth and draw that energy up into your body.
This powerful connection helps to harness Qi, or the vital energy within you, and circulate it throughout your body. This practice can strengthen your muscles, bones, tendons, and even your immune system, helping you feel more energized and balanced throughout the day. It’s amazing how such a simple exercise can have such a profound impact on your well-being.
By standing still, you create space for energy to flow freely. As you become more adept at standing like a pole, you will naturally relax. This relaxation allows Qi to circulate throughout your body, often accompanied by a pleasant tingling sensation in your hands. To deepen your practice, we recommend guiding your hands down from your middle Dan Tian to your lower Dan Tian, effectively directing your Qi downwards. Embrace this process of sinking and let the energy flow within you.
How this affects internal martial arts
There are numerous traditional internal martial arts styles with unique principles and practices. These arts emphasize the utilization of Qi, as well as the coordination of skeletal and fascia systems, rather than relying solely on muscular strength. By harnessing Qi at advanced levels, practitioners can deliver devastating strikes by combining three distinct forces. One of them being the cornerstone of internal martial arts, Qi.
Several internal martial arts mention that can expect huge benefits from standing like a pole:
- Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan)
- Bagua Zhang
- Ono-ha Ittoryu
- Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu
- Liu He Ba Fa
Recommendations for Health and Martial Practitioners
Begin your practice with a calming and invigorating routine that prioritizes Qigong exercises for your tendons. Focus on gentle movements to nurture the tendons in your neck, shoulders, and wrists in the upper half of your body. For the lower half, concentrate on opening up your hips, improving knee mobility, and enhancing leg flexibility. This guide is designed for individuals juggling work and other responsibilities, ensuring accessibility for busy lives.
During this exercise, prioritize your stance, then incorporate relaxation into it. For health practitioners, aim for about 15-20 minutes at the start of your day. The optimal time is during sunrise, surrounded by abundant greenery or by the ocean. If you can’t find such an environment, the effectiveness may be compromised. This practice will energize your morning and potentially bolster your immune system.
For practitioners of internal martial arts, it is recommended to follow a similar schedule as health practitioners. Begin with a few minutes of the standing pole exercise and gradually increase the duration to 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, and eventually aim for an hour every two to three days. Consistent practice is crucial. However, through our experience, we have found that practicing in intervals over time can expedite the development of your internal structure and power.
Do Nots of Standing as a Pole
- If you stand as a pole, do not lean back or lean forward. You will engage muscles and it will cause you to not feel Qi. This exercise will lose it’s purpose if you move your body incorrectly for long periods of time.
- You absolutely must have a straight spine. If your spine is shaped in anyway, your feeling of Qi will not be as strong as someone who does the exercise correctly. It’s necessary to be relaxed and be with a straight spine so it opens your channels for Qi.
- Same thing goes for your lower half or your base. The most important thing is having your knees over your feet because without the knees being over your feet, you will constrict channels.
While it may take time and patience to fully appreciate the effects of this exercise, incorporating it into your daily tai chi practice can help to improve balance, flexibility, and wellbeing. So next time you practice tai chi, try standing as a pole for a few minutes and feel the power of this simple but powerful exercise.