We’ve been spending more time in horse stance recently in some of the fitness and kung fu classes at the North Shore Kung Fu and Qigong Health Centre, and some of you may have been wondering why. Horse stance training has long been a tradition of Chinese martial arts training. Some masters would require that their students were able to stand in a horse stance for up to four hours at a time before they would teach them anything else. It was common in many styles for students to be required to spend at least twenty minutes in horse stance every day.
Horse stance training is strenuous and it takes time to develop the ability to stay in a horse stance for long periods of time. It requires dedication and perseverance on the part of the student to achieve a good horse stance. Nowadays most teachers are more relaxed and don’t require the same standards from their students, allowing them to quickly go on to learning other skills. This is understandable as most students do not have as much time to train now as they might have in years gone by, however by skimping on horse stance training there a many benefits which are missed. Below is a summary of just a few of them (there are more, but 10 sounded like a good number for a list). Even just a few minutes a day spent on horse stance training will go a long way towards helping you obtain these benefits.
1. Improved posture
In the horse stance you weight is distributed evenly on both feet, you learn not to lean either to the left or right, forwards or backwards (this is quite difficult to begin with). Over time this allows all the muscles of the upper body to balance out and relax. Shoulders will be less hunched up and the body will not slouch). People with better posture are considered to be more attractive and having a balanced posture will mean that muscles are less prone to the aches and pains that come from overuse.
2. Better balance
Developing the strength of your legs in this low upright posture improves balance remarkably. This means you are less likely to fall over and hurt yourself, and for martial artists it is harder for someone else to knock you over.
3. Faster on your feet
Improved posture and balance mean that you are able to transfer your weight more easily and quickly. You will be able to move your feet more quickly and with more grace.
4. Tone pelvic floor
The tucked under position of the pelvis in the horse stance means that load is placed on the muscle of the pelvic floor, causing the muscles to contract and increase in tone and strength. This helps to remedy issues such as poor bladder control and also contributes to the health of the prostate gland in males, leading to increased sexual vitality.
5. Strengthens the transverses abdominus muscle
The transverses abdominus (TVA) muscle is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle. It is the layer that holds the abdominal organs in place and determines whether your tummy sticks out or remains flat. In the horse stance the load of the body sits down through the centre of the body in front of the spine. In order for the body to remain upright the TVA must contract to support this postion. This leads to a flatter stomach.
6. Stronger more relaxed back
With the TVA muscle more toned and holding the abdominal organs in, the spinal column is supported from the front. This allows the muscle of the back, particularly the lower back to relax and become stronger. This will lead to a more upright posture and a stronger back. This in turn will make your back less prone to injury and may help to relieve aches and pains that have developed through poor posture, tension and weakness. For the martial artist this will also allow stronger and faster punches and kicks.
7. Strengthen Kidney energy
When the lower back muscles relax this takes pressure off the kidneys and the nerves that supply them. This allows the kidneys to function more effectively and strengthens the whole kidney energy system which is also responsible for the strength of the spine and hormonal functions in the body (see numbers 6 and 8).
8. Improved hormonal function
This posture strengthens the entire hormonal system including the sexual organs, adrenals, and thyroid. This leads to more energy, healthier hair, skin and nails and generally a more vital and resilient body.
9. Develop Yang energy
The strenuous nature of the maintaining a low horse stance develops the yang energy in the body. This will help you to be more assertive, more energetic, stay warmer etc.
10. Finally, with enough practice… you’ll never have to worry about finding a seat again!