To give an update on my Zhan Zhuang practice. I stopped for awhile after I caught a very bad flu that went around in Winter. I heard & witnessed from many that it knocked most people around very seriously for up to two - three weeks. Not bragging but after 4 days I was functional again, but stopped nonetheless cos of the energy etc needed to keep up this discipline - basically I got lazy and opted out.
However, over the last few weeks I've been back into it 30 min/session daily & the postures feel noticeably easier, comfortable, less struggle & strain but yes (as mentioned by Kwai Chee Low) I feel, & am very conscious of my knees rotating outward & so keep adjusting when needed. Like Taiji it's a question of millimeters. So I'm mindful to maintain my bubbling wells' contact with the ground and imagine the roots growing downward from there.
Initially in the practice I feel a very strong drift & pull to my left side & I keep checking to make sure I am still in the middle with my weight distributed evenly - but it feels strong. At this stage I find it very difficult to judge whether I'm in the middle and at times where various parts of my body are in relation to each other. Then there can be another phase where I feel tension in my shoulder blades, back, arms, thighs etc - it varies, and I spend a lot of energy adjusting my body to be in the right position & try to be "soong" in these positions.
After this tension doesn't appear to be an issue & I start to feel the flow of chi appearing as warmth in my hands, pulsating sometimes, sometimes as if the ball I'm holding is warming up, also opening/lengthening of the spine/channel from wherever? to the base of my spine, sometimes appearing in my head/face/behind my eyes (not sure). These feelings can be warm and subtle but sometimes strong like someone has switched on a heating element inside. The chi flow moves and appears of its own free will but I feel that they are isolated to the parts I mentioned. In the end I feel good and any stiffness, sluggishness, back pain etc is gone.
I urge you to try this exercise everyday (try to keep it up for a couple of weeks at least!) - start with 3 minutes in the first three positions and build up to 5, 7 and if you can, 10 minutes. Make the last position quicker.
Here are the basic instructions as outlined by Kwai Chee Low -
i. Stand relaxed with feet parallel and distance between heel to heel same as distance between the shoulders or hips
ii. Slowly bend your knees and lower your body down a few inches as if you are sitting on a chair. Make sure your weight is on the thigh and calf muscles but never on the knees. If you feel the weight is on your knees, stand up and go down again. The knees must not exceed the frontage of your toes.
iii. Your spine should be vertical but retain its natural curve. Your neck should be held relaxed with the head's centre point (Baihui or crown chakra) pointing upwards. Tuck in your chin slightly. Make sure your buttock is not jutting backwards.
iv. Slowly raise your hands until your palms face your lower abdomen (1.5 inches below your navel). The palms are held as if they are supporting a big belly). Ensure the distance between the middle fingers is at least 8 inches.
v. Open your your armpits and your hands from shoulder down to the fingers should be round.
vi. Breathing is natural. If it's comfortable with you, close your eyes. Your body - neck, shoulders, hands to the fingers must be completely "soong" for the energy to flow through your hands to the fingers and back.
vii. If you are sensitive to qi or very relaxed, you will feel tingling, warmth or tightness in your fingers. It's a sign that the qi has reached your fingers and bringing the blood with it. This first posture is called Holding the Belly. Try this for 5 mins.
viii. Continue for another 5mins with the 2nd posture called Holding the Ball.
ix. Slowly raise your hands until your middle fingers are at the level of your sternum (middle of the chest - Tanzhong point). Maintain distance between the middle fingers at minimum of 8 inches.
x. After 5 mins go to the 3rd posture called The Great Circle.
xi. First move your left foot one or two inches from your right foot and lower your body by another one or two inches. This will increase the intensity of the internal energy, also raising the metabolism.
xii. Slowly raise your hands until the middle fingers are at the level of the eyeballs. Maintain distance between the middle fingers at minimum 8 inches. Stay in this posture for 5 mins.
xiii. End the session by sealing the energy into the dantian (1.5 inches below navel). First stand up relaxed with feet together and place your right palm (for ladies) on your dantian and the other palm on the right of palm. For men, opposite palms apply.
For beginners try 5mins for each posture (total 15 mins) for the first week. After that increase to 10 mins for each posture (total half an hour).
What are you waiting for? You can't put a price on its benefits - start NOW!