On Guard

ON GUARD

You have learned how to root your power in both feet. You now advance to develop the same strength on one leg. This improves your balance and increases your ability to control subtle adjustments in your muscles and tendons. It is the essential foundation for the movements you will learn later in this book.

The preparation for working on one leg is to hold each of the foundation postures with your weight shifted first to one side, then the other. You need to be accomplished in this practice so that you can hold any position with the weight on one side for as long as you normally stand with your weight evenly spread.

To advance to the position shown here, begin in the posture, Holding the Ball (page 13). Shift your weight on to your right foot. Turn your hips and torso slowly to the left diagonal. At the same time, swivel your left foot on the heel to point to the same diagonal. Let your head and eyes turn with your body.

After the swivel, lift your left heel slightly off the ground, as if allowing a little pencil to roll under it. Keep the toes and ball of the foot in contact with the ground.

Lower your right hand until it is level with your navel. Your palm is facing downwards. Turn your left hand so that it extends towards the left diagonal in line with your left toes. This palm also faces downwards.

Relax your neck and your shoulders. Imagine there are balloons supporting you under your armpits and elbows, and a large one on which you rest your bottom.

Train with your body oriented to the right diagonal as well as to the left. As you become familiar with standing in this posture, extend your front foot forwards and sink lower on the back leg to deepen your stance.

Dragon Mouth

This exercise takes its name from the expressive power of the extended thumb and forefinger on each hand. As the thumb and forefinger stretch apart, they create an energy field like the fully opened jaws of a dragon.

First move into the On Guard position (pages 36-37) and hold it for several minutes to stabilize yourself.

Then slowly sink lower on your rear leg. As you sink, raise both your hands in front of you until they are level with your eyes. Both your arms now extend forwards from your shoulders in the same direction as your front foot. Remember to keep the heel of your front foot slightly off the ground.

Spread the thumbs and forefingers of both hands as far apart as possible. Feel the stretch along their entire length, and the curved web of skin between them. Imagine that the central point between the thumb and forefinger on each hand is directed straight ahead. From this central point, the coiled power of the dragon's tongue is preparing to strike.

Open your eyes and stare intently forwards - in the direction of the dragon's energy.

Once you are able to hold this position for several minutes, slide your front foot forwards on the ball as far as you can until you are as low as possible. Keep your arms in position with the drag-on mouth fully open on both hands. Slightly extend your front knee forwards, while sinking a little deeper on your rear leg. You feel the stretch along the tendons of your inner thighs, known in Chinese as the Kwa.

Hold the position for as long as you can, beginning with very short periods and slowly developing your practice.

THE INNER DEPTHS HS

Your Natural Strength: Stress Management

Stress is affecting the lives of an ever-increasing number of people. We carry tension with us in our nervous systems and lock it into the cellular memories of our muscles. This strain is the greatest single cause of the headaches, muscle pains, illnesses and medical traumas that people suffer day after day.

In Chinese medicine, health depends on the smooth flow of Chi. Anything which blocks the flow of our energy leads to pain, deterioration and disease. The most common causes of blocked energy are mental and emotional tension.

The foundation postures of Da Cheng Chuan (pages 11-15) develop your capacity to remain calm and relaxed under pressure, and you can use this power to release the effects of stress.

Daily training gives you a high degree of physical and mental stamina. You learn to hold the stationary positions even when your nervous system is rebelling at the lack of movement. You quietly persist despite bouts of impatience, irritation, boredom, panic, fear and anxiety. You develop the physical endurance to hold positions that are often uncomfortable and can be painful, even disorienting. You learn to release the tension through powerful relaxation rather than increase it by fighting back.

Your nervous system develops a new strength. Not the rigid strength of unyielding determination, but the deeper power of inner resilience. You notice a spontaneous equilibrium that persists in the face of difficulties, intense emotions, disturbing environments and discomfort. The advanced levels of Da Cheng Chuan training, which include the martial aspect of this art, further strengthen the field of your psychic energy, increase your endurance and develop fearlessness.

You can use your training to counteract the effects of stressful situations. When you feel stressed, sit up or stand for a few minutes, gently straightening your spine. Let your center of gravity sink downwards. Relax your shoulders. If you are sitting in a meeting, imperceptibly rest your hands a fraction of an inch above your thighs, thus doing a little secret, impromptu Zhan Zhuang practice. If you work at a computer, take a break on the spot: sit up, eyes slightly downwards, hands resting just above your desk.

In difficult encounters with people or in pressured environments, adopt a stable, correctly aligned posture. Use your mind to practice inner relaxation, releasing tension in your shoulders, back and belly. Visualize your body as being like a large tree, mountain or pyramid, with a firm, heavy base - enduringly unshaken through all conditions. The winds of impatience, anger or fear blow across you like passing storms. The power of your inner work will not only protect you in the midst of stress, it will also subtly generate positive energy that changes

YOUR NATURAL STRENGTH: STRESS MANAGEMENT

the atmosphere around you. The calming Dower of Zhan Zhuang seems to radiate even from the photograph above, which shows my own master, Professor Yu Yong Nian, practicing while on a visit to an English woodland.

.When you feel the need to calm down, ' recharge your batteries or deal with intense emotions, practice Sealing your

Energy (page 15) with your hands folded over your belly. Your training subtly transforms your spirit, giving you the inner strength to preserve your vital energy even amidst chaos and conflict.

It is helpful to recall the ancient origins of this art and the extraordinary beings who inspired it. In the words of the great Chinese sage Lao Tse:

THE GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT LINEAGE

rT"lhe practice of cultivating human energy has been passed from master to student in a lineage that stretches over some 27 centuries. The Chinese Philosopher Guan Tse perceived the fundamental nature of energy and saw it as the precondition for all else in the

The Seal Lao Tzu

Silk scroll of Lao Tse, with 42 imperial seals.

universe. In his writings on the "Natural Way of Life," which he referred to as Tao, he brought together the natural sciences, agriculture, geography, economics, law and astrology. He stressed the fundamental importance of vital power (Jing) as the precondition for all human activity. He wrote: "In order to do anything in this life, we must first have energy."

The great sage Lao Tse (whose name means literally Old Master) is said to have been the author of the Tao Teh Ching, one of the most widely read and influential books in the course of human civilization. It says: "By standing alone and unchanging, you will find that everything comes to you and the energy of the cosmos will never be exhausted." " Standing alone and unchanging" was his way of describing the practice through which we come to understand the full power of the universe.

The world's most influential medical text, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Ti Nei Ching), appeared some 2,400 years ago. It is filled with references to the essential spirit of this tradition. The court physician tells the Emperor: "The sages were tranquilly content with nothingness and the true vital force accompanied them always. Their vital spirit was preserved within... "

In the works of the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tse there is a chapter on "The Great and Most Honored Master," which expresses many of the essential qualities inherent in the practice of Zhan Zhuang. Chuang Tse tells us that the sages of

THE GREAT-ACOM PLISHMENT LINEAGE I

The cover of The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine old were "still and unmoved." "Their breathing came deep and silent" and their "minds were free from all disturbance," "forgetting everything." They were "open to everything and forgot all fear of death."

A disciple tells his master, "I am making progress." "What do you mean?" asks the master. "I sit and forget everything... becoming one with the great void in which there is no obstruction."

In the 1st century CE, exercises for the cultivation of internal energy (Chi) were developed as part of Taoism and included the practice of remaining completely still in fixed positions. Emphasis was then placed on using the mind to control the movement of internal energy within the body and then to project it outwards.

Buddhist thought and practice also had an influence on the development of the tradition. When the Buddhist practice of " one-pointedness" of mind (the ability to focus the mind clearly) was incorporated into Chi Kung training, mental concentration could be used to help cultivate Chi energy throughout the body and direct its movement.

From the 12th century CE onwards this understanding of energy and the intimate body/mind relationship was employed in the progressive deepening of the internal martial arts.

A martial arts academy in 1911 is presided over by Master Guo Yun Sin (seated in white), under whom Wang Xiang Zhai studied. 43

PART TWO

Easing Your Stress With Yoga

Easing Your Stress With Yoga

Have You Ever Wanted To Achieve A State Of Total Relaxation But Never Believed That Yoga Was For You? Has the stress of daily life made you tense, uptight and too wound up to be able to think clearly? If so, then you are not alone. 40 of Americans feel that their lives are too stressful and over 60 of Americans say that they find themselves in situations where they feel lost at least once a week.

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