After you can easily stand in the Fourth Position, Standing in the Stream, for 20 minutes then you can start learning and working on the Fifth Position, Holding the Balloon in Front of Your Face. This is the fifth position in a Zhan Zhuang series of standing meditation positions of Qigong.
This Fifth Position is much more difficult to hold than the Fourth Position because the stance is a full four inches lower and the arms are held higher. It will help to build tremendous endurance and stamina but it will take time and effort to work up to being able to hold the position for any length of time.
Start with Baduanjin as a warm-up, then stand in the First Position, Wu Chi, for 5 minutes, then stand in the Fifth Position, Holding the Balloon in Front of Your face, for about 30 seconds to begin with. As you learn this position review the key points below while you hold the position.
Continue this daily, slowly increasing the time you can stand in the Fifth Position, Holding the Balloon in Front of Your Face, until you reach 5 minutes in the Fifth Position. Take your time and just do as much as is comfortable each day. Little by little add another 10-30 seconds or so until you can hold the Fifth Position for a full five minutes.
This position is much more demanding than the previous positions. You will have to slowly work your way up to five minutes. You will most likely encounter various difficulties such as heavy breathing, sweating, shaking and muscle pain as you work your way through to push your limits further and further. Don’t try to hold the position too long at the beginning. It takes time for your body to build up the endurance to handle this position, so be patient and take your time. After a while you will be able to push through some discomfort until eventually you will be able to hold the position for the full five minutes while comfortably relaxed. Think of it like climbing a mountain. You need to slowly work your way through the most difficult heights to reach the valley on the other side.
As you work your phasic muscles and fast-twitch muscle fibers to and beyond exhaustion, your postural muscles and slow-twitch muscle fibers will begin to strengthen and take over more and more of the work. This process takes time to build up the strength and endurance to hold this position for the full five minutes.
After learning all five positions and being able to hold the fifth position for a full five minutes you are then ready to move up to standing in the Zhan Zhuang Full Circle for 30 minutes, holding each position for five minutes.
Key Points for Holding the Balloon in Front of Your Face the Fifth Position
- Follow all the previous points for Wu Chi including alignment, relaxation, belly breathing, etc.
- From the Wu Chi position, sink in your stance about 8″ by bending your knees.
- Do not extend your knees beyond your toes.
- Imagine that all your weight is sinking down to the soles of your feet.
- Imagine that you are sitting on a large ball.
- Imagine that you are suspended by a string at the top of your head.
- Keep your back straight and lengthen and straighten your lower spine.
- Raise your arms up with your elbows out to the sides and your hands forward.
- Hold your hands about face level with your palms forward as if pushing a large balloon away.
- Imagine that your wrists are being suspended by a rubber strap from behind your neck.
Imagining the various balls, balloons and straps holding everything up is important and useful because it gives you something to focus on as you meditate while holding the position. Use the power of your mind to relax your muscles while imagining that the balls, balloons and straps are helping to hold you up. This lets you relax your voluntary fast-twitch muscles while bringing your postural slow-twitch muscles into play to take up more and more of your weight over time. In this demanding position your legs will often tense up, shake and burn. Don’t overdo it or try to hold the position too long until you build up your endurance and stamina. To help work through some discomfort when you feel your legs tensing up, consciously focus on relaxing the muscle tension while you let your stance relax and sink ever so slightly deeper into a large ball that you imagine is holding you up. Sometimes it helps to focus on your breathing. While breathing in imagine pouring your weight down to the soles of your feet as if pouring wet cement. Then when breathing out imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you slightly upward.
After you can hold the position for the full five minutes then you are ready to move on to learning the Full Circle Zhan Zhuang sequence.
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-Renshi Mike Scaramozzino
These videos are based on exercises described in the book – The Way of Energy.