A ripe old age

As we age we usually begin to suffer all sorts of ailments. Difficulty with walking is common, as are digestion troubles, high blood pressure, brittle bones, incontinence, and low energy.

Even if you take up Zhan Zhuang at an advanced age, you will feel the benefits. Your digestion will improve, as will your bladder control, and your bones will strengthen. You are almost certain to feel that your energy is being restored, that you feel younger in yourself, and that you have an increasing measure of self-control. Many older people also report great improvement in their sleeping patterns.

STARTING TO PRACTISE What is the best way for an elderly person to start practising Zhan Zhuang? You should devote yourself to the warm up exercises and the first five positions described in this book. Practise for a maximum of only 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Just as you are advised to change your eating habits so that you have smaller meals more frequently, so with Zhan Zhuang - you should try standing for 5 to 10 minutes several times in the course of the day.

Depending on your age and level of fitness, you may need to experiment with the sitting or lying positions (see pp. 142 and 167) at first and then move on to standing at a later stage.

COMMON PROBLEMS You may feel pain in your shoulders or knees. Don't be put off by this. It is perfectly natural. If the pain is too great, gently bring your standing session to an end by standing in the Wu Chi position.

Sometimes your breathing can become forced or you may start to feel a little breathless. If this occurs, take it as a signal that you have reached a natural limit and gently bring your Zhan Zhuang session to a close in the Wu Chi position as before.

If you feel dizzy while standing, you should gently stop, walk slowly, and if necessary7 sit down. Don't close your eyes. This sensation can be caused by an unusually strong current of energy in your system. It is not necessarily something to be upset about.

If you feel the need for some support while standing, you can rest your bottom against the edge of a high stool or use the type of walking stick that opens out into a little seat. Holding the arm positions alone will stimulate your energy circulation.


A particularly widespread problem among older people is dry, itchy skin. Especially at night in bed, many older people suffer dreadfully from constant itching of the skin. It can last all night. Even if an older person with this problem has never done any form of Chi Kung, a brief period of regular Zhan Zhuang practice will ease the itching and may help to remove it altogether. One 86-year-old in China said that he had been scratching his skin every night for ten years, but that after only a few days of Zhan Zhuang exercise he had finally started sleeping through a whole night without scratching.

A WORD OF CAUTION Positions 6 to 9 in this book have a strong effect on your circulatory system and. as with all intense exercise, push up your blood pressure during the period of training. Attempt these positions only if your doctor advises that your normal blood pressure level will permit this. This is not a problem for positions 1 to 5, the warm ups, or any of the "mentality exercises" (Chapter 2) — in fact, these will be positively beneficial for any problem in your cardiovascular system.

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