7 Benefits of Standing Meditation and How to Practice It


Single tree standing on a green landscape with a stormy cloudy sky in the background.

I’m a big fan of standing meditation and I try to encourage my students to practice it as often as they can. Most people think of meditation as an activity that involves sitting. Sitting meditation is a wonderful way of cultivating awareness and getting in tune with the workings of your mind of course, but lots of people struggle with sitting, even for relatively short periods for a variety of reasons.


If you’re tired or have some physical pain, sitting meditation may not work particularly well for you. The pain might increase or, if you are tired, it could give your mind exactly the excuse it needs to drift off into daydream or sleep. Not much awareness or focus going on there.


Meditation is about developing the mind’s ability to rest in and be deeply aware of the present moment without judgement. We want a posture that is going to help us develop that state. The standing posture might be the solution if you struggle with sitting.

Most people find that in standing meditation it takes a shorter time to get centred and come to a place of stillness, allowing for a much easier path into focused awareness than the conventional sitting posture. It’s partly for this reason that the novice monks at the Shaolin Temple in China are made to stand whilst meditating. Sitting meditation is only for the more advanced practitioners. It is said that the Korean Zen master, Kusan Sunim would push himself to practice standing meditation for longer periods by practicing with a knife placed at his throat for motivation and to keep himself from falling asleep.


Even when held for relatively short periods of time (no need for a knife at the throat!), there are many benefits to standing meditation.


THE BENEFITS OF STANDING MEDITATION


Front and side view illustrations of a figure showing the line of balance through the body.

1/ The standing position forces you to become much more deeply aware of the places in your body where you hold excess tension. By placing your awareness into those locations, the tension tends to dissolve very quickly.


2/ It can help to energise and realign your physical posture, enhance your endurance and strengthen your core muscles. Bad posture is ‘normal’ for most modern people resulting in sluggish energy levels and a lack of vitality. Standing meditation corrects this, improving your posture throughout the rest of the day.


3/ Meditation can stimulate the immune system through an increase in electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex, the right anterior insular, and the right hippocampus. These are the parts of the brain that control the positive emotions, awareness, and anxiety levels. They are also the parts of the brain that control the immune system and help it to function more effectively when stimulated.


4/ According to Yang Yang, founder of the Centre for Tai Chi and Qi Gong Studies in the US, standing meditation is also said to increase bone density. In standing meditation, you are encouraging your bones and posture to take your body weight, which is normally held by furniture and the stabilizer muscles. Standing acts as a catalyst for activity within the skeletal structure by creating intense pressure.


5/ The quality of your sleep can improve, and it can help fight the effects of insomnia. It’s also a great way to energise your day.


6/ If you suffer from arthritic pain in your hips, legs, or spine (as I do), you might want to take up standing meditation sooner rather than later. The standing posture allows for the free flow of energy and blood through the areas that are the most prone to pain, especially the lower back. Standing meditation can repair, regenerate and amplify the natural springiness in the sinews and the strength of the joints.


I’ve suffered from severe pain in my left knee, left hip, and lower back for some years, but always managed to cope with it somehow. However, about six months ago the pain in my knee and the rest of my leg became so intense, I could barely walk to my front door. Zhan Zhuang eased the pain in a matter of days. My lower back is now mostly pain-free, and although I do still suffer from arthritic pain in my knee and leg, it is significantly less than it used to be. I can now walk for some considerable distance before I have to take a break.