As with all exercise routines, the warm up is essential. It helps your body become flexible and helps open up the internal channels along which your energy flows. The two largest and most important joints are the knees and shoulders. So by loosening these up first you are most likely to get the rich benefits of the later Zhan Zhuang exercises.
As a beginner, it is important to do these warm up exercises every time you start your Zhan Zhuang practice. They will take you about six or seven minutes.
Regularly practised, they give long-term protection against arthritis and other painful ailments that reduce the original flexibility of the body. If you are an advanced student (for example, if you have practised Tai Chi Chuan for several years), you can warm up instead with the Ba Duan Jin system described in Chapter 4.
WHEN AND WHERE TO PRACTISE
First thing in the morning before eating is the best time to begin. At other times, allow half an hour after meals before starting the exercise.
Try to do the exercises where the air is fresh — outside is ideal, but a well-ventilated, quiet room is next best.
Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. Wear loose clothing while training. Otherwise, loosen your collar and belt, and remove your wristwatch. Don't train in tight trousers or jeans, or wearing high-heeled shoes.
WARMING UP YOUR KNEES The first warm up is for your knees. During the exercise, try to remain relaxed from your waist up. To avoid tension in your neck, look slightly down to a point about 2m (6ft) in front of you. For added benefit from this exercise, double the number of circles.
Stand with your feet together. Bend your knees and stoop over so that yon can just touch them with your fingers. With your hands on your knees, rotate your knees 30 times to the left I see left) and 30 times to the right.
The second warm up is for your shoulders. Make 30 to 40 complete circles with your arms. You should start very slowly, then speed up slightly, and then slow down again toward the end. Do 60 circles for greater benefit.
Breathe in as your arms come up. Breathe out as they come down. If you are short of breath, breathe in and out as your arms come up, and in and out as they come down.
1. Stand with your feet a shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward. Slowly raise your arms as ifyou u 'ere holding a large beach ball between your palms. When your hands are aboi 'e the top of your head, turn them outward.
2. Then lower your arms in an arc down toward your sides. As your hands move slowly down, imagine that each is gentlypressinga smaller beach ball downward. Be careful not to hunch your shoulders. As your arms reach hip level, bring them forward gently so that they can hold the imaginary beach ball again before they start to move slowly upward.
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