You might be able to do these one-legged Taiji standing postures in the set successfully for a period of time but struggle another time. Or you may find that on your right side you're capable but the other side you aren't. Small musculoskeletal differences between both legs, hips, knees and feet can play a role in the ability to assume these postures equally as well on both legs. Not to mention changes in weight (particularly weight gain and the resulting changes in body shape) affect the ease in which we can successfully transition into, balance and maintain stability on a single leg. Unless you're one of the lucky ones who already has a great sense of balance, we need to do some (or lots of repeated) additional practice to better master these challenging postures.
There are also some surprising health benefits to practising these one-legged postures. Mimi Low & Sachin Kate (Source 1 & 2) cite Zhong Li Ba Ren's advice from his Chinese book: "Self Help is Better than Seeking Doctors' Help" (see Amazon link below), that regularly practicing even a simple one-legged standing exercise (with eyes closed) can have a host of beneficial age-related health outcomes. Zhong believes that this is because this exercise tunes and direct qi to the 6 important meridians that pass through the legs. The health benefits Zhong cites include: improving hypertension, diabetes, neck and spinal diseases, gout and dementia. Nathan Zassman also says that Chinese specialists believe that practicing the Golden Rooster can also help with memory loss, headaches, sleep, tinnitus, veritigo or gout (4).
Some of these benefits appear to be gaining support from Western medical studies. A study by Dr. Yasuharu Tabara of the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University (3) found that the postural inability to stand on one leg for 20 seconds might be related to age-related brain abnormalities such as stroke, small blood vessel damage in the brain and possibly reduced cognitive function. The ability to do the Golden Rooster (with eyes open) may be a simple test to see if there are early signs of cognitive decline, cerebral small vessel disease and stroke. Whether you believe all this, at the very least, practicing this posture will be sure to improve the neural networks associated with balance - that is the sensory circuits of the vision, proprioception (sense of body position) and vestibular (inner ear) system. The end result is a lower risk for falls especially for seniors (4).
The Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg in Taiji
Ray Hayward an indoor student of the Taiji Master T.T. Liang wrote a great blog article about "The Golden Rooster stands on one leg to announce the dawn". This posture is both a metaphor for enlightenment (from a Western perspective) and the perfect & relaxed lining up of "three treasures of balance" (head, pelvis and foot) from the Eastern martial arts perspective. From a Taiji perspective, this and other one-legged postures train our "balance, rooting, and ability to relax our muscles as we strengthen our bones." (Ray Hayward: The Inspired Teacher "Golden Rooster Part 1:Benefits") (5)
Ray Hayward in his second blog instalment "Golden Rooster Part 2: The Taoist Yang" (6) recalls how Master T.T. Liang (who was quite a character) saw the "Golden Rooster" posture as the essence of Tai Chi. Ray tells a very amusing & enlightening story about T.T. Liang meeting a Taoist Tai Chi Master living in the mountains outside Taipei who blew his, then already, experienced & knowledgeable Taiji mind with his amazing execution of the Golden Rooster posture. This level of very advanced bubbling well/mind-intent/relax-sink attainment in Taiji is something to aim for if you want to attain "Taiji immortality" (which all of us are...obviously!). And the story is corroborated in Stuart Alve Olsen's (another indoor student of T.T. Liang) book on T.T. Liang "Steal My Art: The life and times of T'ai Chi Master." (see Amazon link below).
In the meantime if you want to methodically practice any of these one-legged stances in the Taiji set click on the youtube video above "Kung fu stance - Jin Ji Du Li" to begin your mastery & your fight against age-related cognitive decline. And when you do, don't just detachedly treat it like just another physical movement (as we do in any Western exercise), keep in mind the rich Taiji tradition, history, and depth of subtle Tai Chi Chuan practice that surrounds it. Let's practice the Golden Rooster everyday shall we?
Here's another, more moving method to practice the Golden Rooster from Javier Mesa's Youtube channel (7).
Authour - Lee Chang Tye
copyright- Relaxed Mind Tai Chi