Friday, August 5, 2011

Zhan Zhuang for stroke patients

Recently I had an opportunity of visiting the physiotherapy department of a local public hospital in Hong Kong. The department looked like a big gym with many patients busily doing whatever they had to do with the help of the therapists and their assistants. What impressed me most was this special bed on which a stroke patient was tied and the bed slow raised him up until he was in an upright standing position.

The stoke patient had his onset just a few days ago totally paralyzing his left side. The attending physiotherapist said the patient would do some special hand exercise, sitting posture in addition to this stand-up exercise. The only instruction by the physiotherapist was for the patient to hold his head upright: don't fall forward, and don't fall backward, i.e. hold it in dynamic equilibrium at the centre. I saw the patient only able to hold this position for some five minutes. And the therapist accepted his effort. In other words, it took all the trouble to set up the stand-up exercise for just five minutes of exercise! Well, it got to deliver good results, otherwise why bothered?

And it does. What the stroke person did was essentially zhan zhuang. And what the patient was required to do is exactly the same as an important Tai-chi essential: "Hanging head (頂頭懸)" - as if one were hanging by one's hairs or one's hand were trying to balance something heavy. It is an essential requirement for doing zhan zhuang and doing the tai-chi Form. For those practitioners who still can't get it, they may perhaps learn from the stroke patient and imagine themselves to be very weak and have to try every subtle effort and attention to keep their head upright: in dynamic equilibrium.

A standing bed

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