Standing meditation is the practice of holding the body in a specific standing pose while clearing the mind and breathing deeply. This pose may be held for as long an amount of time as the individual is capable, and longer periods of meditation can be achieved over time. It is practiced by Taoists as a way to improve the flow of ch'i through the body, and by martial artists to improve balance and muscle tone.
In Taoism, standing meditation is an exercise used to improve the flow of ch'i through the body. Ch'i, in Eastern religion, is the life force that pervades every living thing. Placing the body in an open and upright position while practicing controlled breathing techniques is believed to allow this life force to circulate freely to every area of the body.
The spinal cord must be straight and tall while performing standing meditation. The head must typically be oriented directly over the spine, and the muscles of the face and neck relaxed as much as possible. The pelvis can be dropped forward slightly, so that the majority of the weight of the body is centered in the feet. The spine, hips, and shoulders should not be in any awkward positions. The arms are held slightly forward and out from the body, while the finger tips are spread slightly as though connected by a web of invisible filaments of energy in the air.
The pose of standing meditation can be held for 30 minutes or for several hours, depending on the skill level of the individual practicing it. Those who are new to this technique may prefer to begin meditating for 10 minutes at a time, until they have built up strength in the body and in the mind to meditate longer. While the pose is held, the individual can focus on the ch'i moving through his body as it is powered by his breath. Blockages along the lines of the meridian, which are the lines through which energy flows in the body, according to Taoist tradition, are removed as the ch'i gains strength.
The practice of standing meditation is also a training tool used in some forms of martial arts. The posture is the same as that practiced in Taoism. This type of training was popularized in the late 1930s by a martial artist who challenged other masters to a competition with students of his own who trained in the stationary standing position. The master believed that this technique allowed the body to heal itself and strengthen the muscles of the upper arms, back, torso, and legs without adding additional strain.