Phase one of training consists of 5 minutes of Wu Chi, which literally involves standing as still as a tree, followed by Holding the Balloon, also for a 5 minute interval, for a total of 10 minutes of training. While it doesn't sound terrific by martial arts standards, especially if you're used to more dynamic arts, the action of standing completely still AND maintaining a state of physical and mental relaxation is work.
Week 1 was certainly the most difficult and painful of the weeks. It was partially due to the strength training I was doing for my arms prior to starting so when I finally got to the Holding the Balloon position, I could literally feel my muscles clenching under the fatigue. I deducted my arm training out of the equation until my arms were relaxed enough to hold the position without aching and it's working so far. My mind palace was also rather noisy and it's not a condusive environment to stuff your concepts and deductions in. The meditation helped me lower down the voices to a mere whisper. Physically, there was a profound difference.
My joints used to be a symphony of cracks and readjustments. I don't have arthritis or any sports injuries but it used to be annoying to constantly readjust my shoulders, knees, and elbows because of an air pocket or an overnight misalignment. After training, the cracks are down to one to two times a day. My stamina has also gone a long way, especially with my current school days. I usually get numbered when it comes to stairs and the afternoon crash. I have to go up a lot of stairs and hills this semester. For the first time, I had a Rocky moment - I didn't feel winded at all. In fact, I would feel like walking up the stairs over taking an elevator most of the time. And, of course, because of all that activity post-training, the weight's dropping off. I feel more energetic and my family has even noticed the pep in my step - all of these benefits because of standing still like a tree.
I know - I'm sounding like an infomercial at this point but think of it this way - if a set of techniques has been passed down for millennia, you know it's super effective. Why else would we have martial arts dojos all around the world and artists constantly demanding the source material?
Week 2 was hard in a different aspect. This is often where "the wall" hits. Motivation and time were my two biggest factors. My training dropped from everyday to three times last week because I needed to balance my schedule. It's also really hard for me to keep a schedule when I'm stressed so there was a lot of time where I didn't want to do training but that's where I needed to turn to it the most. (10 minutes is not a lot of time when you do it small scale. But if you spread it out across the week, that's almost an hour of training. That hour a week may be the difference of having extra time with an assignment and a trip to the student tutoring center.) Though I could only fit three days, it was beneficial to get through that week. I did it before class and it was much easier to get into the mindset of the class when my mind and body were relaxed.
Now we're coming up to week 3. Three weeks later, I'll introduce the 8 Pieces of Brocade move set into my routine and the Wu Chi and Balloon segments will be 5 minutes longer. 20 minutes of standing is what will be the most beneficial to my system. So if I do come across weeks like #2 again, that short interval will do the job. I also came across some tips at the later chapters of The Way of Energy that discuss ways you can integrate Zhan Zhuang techniques in everyday tasks from answering your cell phone to DIY projects. I've already tried some of them and I'll report the changes as I go along.
Thank you for being so patient for this post. I've been having some tech difficulties but they're fixed now.
A/N - For those who want to follow along, I'm currently using the book the Way of Energy by Master Lam Kam Chuen as well as some personal guidance. Check out his videos on YouTube as well. They're short and easy. :)