When you perform standing qigong, you develop acute physical awareness, get access to internal space, and make subtle physical connections that you would never otherwise make if you only did moving practices.
According to my teacher Bruce Frantzis, the Taoists developed over 200 different standing postures, so how do you know which one to practice?
Guidelines for Holding Qigong Postures
As we've discussed in the past, whenever you settle in to standing qigong, you need to follow these three principles:
- Align yourself with gravity so nothing is getting stuck inside you
- Release and relax your nerves
- Look for warmth throughout the body, the sign that blood flow is strong and active
Beyond these three principles, though, there are many different variables to play with and qualities to express. In this post, I'd like to remind you of a couple.
Key Variables in Your Standing Posture
It all starts from a neutral posture. Eyes closed, arms by your sides, and weight evenly distributed between your legs in a simple stance.
However, each one of these variables can be tweaked, depending on your practice goals, and the physical and energetic challenge your are seeking. A qigong master can even assign you particular standing postures to heal your body by creating the right energetic configuration in your system.
One year, at a workshop in Portland, Oregon, I watched my teacher Bruce Frantzis assign some crazy arm postures to students. Some people had both arms in the air over their heads, others we making beak hands, some pressed their palms back and out to open the kidney area.
In that seminar, he also taught us more standard variations. We played with holding the arms at different heights and experienced the effects of twisting the arms in versus out. Each time you changed a variable and held it for five minutes or more, you began to feel the effects on your posture and energy.
A basic rule of thumb for arm postures: the height of the arms tends to draw the energy up to the corresponding level in your body. The direction of twist, inward or outward, tends to facilitate absorption or projection of energy.
You can also vary the stance of your posture. While we normally start with the feet parallel, hip-width apart, and the weight evenly distributed, all of these variables can be tweaked. Think of all the different stances you end up in in a Tai Chi form. Each one of these is a rich with insights into standing qigong.
- Alternate between weight on the left leg and right leg
- Turn the waist to one side
- Alternate between front and back weighted stances
- Balance with one foot in the air
- Play with the weight distribution: 100/0, 60/40, 50/50
Perhaps my favorite example of a training method that captures many different standing postures and variables all in one neat package is the "9 Breath" posture holding method of Xingyi.
In the video above, Master Luo De Xiu of Taipei, Taiwan, demonstrates Xingyi's five elements. Watch the first minute. The "9 Breath" practice involves taking each of the postures he transitions through, and holding them for 9 breaths each. This cycle teaches you to become connected in postures with arms high and low, twisted in and out, and in a variety of single leg stances. It is a fast, powerful way to train all of the variables we have been discussing.
Now, Tai Chi and Xingyi are certainly special cases when it comes to training standing qigong, but the internal methods are in the same family as standing qigong postures done purely for cultivation.
As you practice standing qigong, pay attention to the way different postures influence your energy and your body. If you do explore postures beyond the neutral stance, it's always a good idea to return to neutral, at least for a minute or two, at the end of your practice, to get quiet, grounded, and to feel the effects of your work.
Be sure to read my Guide to Standing Qigong for more information.