1. STANDING DISSOLVING
The first practice to learn is the Yin form of standing, what can be called the embodiment of the Water element. Dissolving means using your mind to feel where your physical body is tense and constricted and then allowing it to unravel and dissipate like ice melting and water evaporating. Not only does this make your body very relaxed, it also removes restrictions in your energy flow enabling it to increase and come into balance.
Basic elements of the standing posture are as follows: Feet are relaxed and parallel to each other as are the leg bones. Weight is in the arches, evenly balanced forward and back, left and right. Knees are slightly bent with their centers over the feet centers. Sacrum is dropped & vertical, belly is soft and dropped and there is a sense of space between the top of the legs. Chest is neutral, neither lifted nor collapsed. Face is level or tilted slightly down. Shoulders are relaxed downward and allowed to spread laterally. Neck is lifted where it meets the head. The sense of lift continues out the top of the head. The tongue is placed on the roof of the mouth as though pronouncing “L”. Mainly, this closes an energy circuit known as the microcosmic orbit, or in acupuncture terms, the governing and conception vessels. A secondary function is to help raise the head and neck, gently lengthening the entire spine. Virtually everything else should feel as though it hangs off the spine.
Once you have the basics alignments of standing you then begin to mentally scan through the body from top to bottom, feeling for any areas of tension, constriction, strength (which is often tension) and whatever doesn’t seem quite right, especially if you don’t know what it is. This can easily take at least several minutes. Try to determine sizes and shapes, but do not be concerned with whys and wherefores.
The next step is to select any one congested area and allow it to melt and soften like a solid turning to liquid (downward) and a liquid turning to vapor (outward). Stay focused and persistent but always relaxed. Stick with any one area until you feel you’ve dissolved all you can and then drop down to the next place, eventually finishing at your feet and down into the earth. Alternatively, instead of selecting a problem area, you might choose to dissolve a meridian line or an energy center. The Conception Vessel which runs down the front centerline of the head and torso would be a good place to start. You could choose an acupuncture point such as Lung 1, the “Shoulder’s Nest”, the indentation just under the collar bone. It would be especially productive to dissolve one of the three tan tiens (the brain center, the heart center, or the hara) since the effects will travel out from these “grand central stations” along the major arterials into the rest of the body.
Finding the problem areas and getting them to relax are both skills that improve with practice. With practice your perception skills will proceed from the obvious to the subtle and the external to the internal, e.g. from the eyes to the brain. It is safe to say you will never exhaust the depths of this exercise. It is theoretically possible to dissolve issues in the energy fields (e.g. psychic and karmic) but the physical body is a rather sizable task by itself. Fortunately, changes in the body reverberate upward and people often find that say, emotional issues are spontaneously resolved.
As with any discipline you will have breakthroughs, plateaus and setbacks. Persistence is your best strategy. But also be aware that even dissolving can be overdone and that nothing should be done to exhaustion.
2. SAN TI
This is the Yang standing practice which gives you a more tangible energy boost and helps you get things accomplished. Here you develop strength without fatigue and the ability to move forward through obstacles. Before taking up this practice you should be aware that since there is a human tendency to over do, especially in Western cultures, negative side effects such as irritability and aggression can arise, quite literally. The antidote is always to cut back on the Yang practice and do Yin Dissolving instead.
The internal feeling here is that of expanding outward and forward while maintaining a root in the earth. It is something like a balloon expanding or light radiating, especially in a forward direction. At minimum two things must occur: 1. Dropping the sacrum out of the lumbar spine and getting it to feel connected to the feet. Curling it under a little will help. 2. Pressing the tongue up lightly on the hard palate to create a lift in the neck and head. (Really you need to get this action to be felt down the central channel into the perineum.) This is called “ding” (“press”, but not push) and will activate a series of natural lifts and drops in the body, e.g. the cervical spine lifts while the shoulder blades and sacrum drop. With “ding” you also flood the whole body with energy so that the hands press against the air, the feet press into the earth and the head presses toward the sky. With a little practice you can mentally direct the chi to any area of the body at will. While there is some “ding” in the Yin posture it is much more pronounced in the Yang and is one element that defines it as Yang.
These are the postural parameters of the basic stance, which is done both left and right: (There are two additional postures which complete the San Ti/Hsing I sequence but are omitted here for the sake of simplicity.) Weight is on the back foot which is turned out 45 degrees. Front foot is placed 12+ inches forward, not turned, on the same line as the back heel. Both knees are bent, the back more than the front. Spine is vertical except for the sacrum which can be tucked under a little. Pelvis is oriented forward, not turned, and has a sense of splitting between the front and back legs. The splitting sense extends down to the feet. Bottom hand (same side as back leg) is several inches in front of the lower tan tien (hara) thumb pointing at it and palm pressing toward the earth. Top hand is about 15 inches in front on the throat pressing forward, fingers vertical, forearm as vertical as possible on the centerline but without constricting the pectoral muscle. Both palms are spread, index fingers pulled back a little and both elbows are dropped pulling the scapulae down and forward. If possible, the whole body has a sense of wrapping forward, like the “ko” in Ba Gua. Finally, of course, relax! Without a little Yin your muscles will give out rather quickly. This will help give you the sense that you are not stuck but can move at a moment’s notice.
Traditionally a posture is held for 9 breaths before shifting to another one. But “old school” practitioners held postures for one hour. The inhale is directed from the index finger to the nose and down the central channel to the tan tien and the exhale follows the reverse path.