I have started out in Zhan Zhuang and Qi Gong (Chi Kung).
Actually I started the former - standing like a tree - in November, around 7th November to be exact.
I recall the Channel 4 program 'Stand Still Be Fit', which introduced this idea in 1994/5. I even had a go for a little while and then ditched it then, after a few days. Probably as the stance hurt. I knew nothing then.
Now with a bit of practice in stances due to forms and jurus and an interest in Chi Kung, I had re-watched the video again, from YouTube. I saw the positive comments which repeatedly said it had helped people and saw the same on Amazon reviews. So I also bought the associated book.
(One of the American reviews had said to also get Dr Yang Jwing Ming's book too, as that explains the other exercises - the 8 pieces of brocade - with more theory and details).
I have been standing 'like a tree' every day, without fail since. There are 2 poses they want you to learn properly before you 'branch out' (ahahah) into the other stances of the 'tree'. The author wants you to be able to hold the second pose for 20 minutes before you do these 'new' moves. I am trying to adhere to this exactly. In the book he advises you hold the second stance for 5 minutes for 3 weeks and the next three weeks 10 minutes etc. He said do not be in a rush to race ahead. I was a bit naughty and moved to 15 minutes, and later my knees later felt it. So I moved back to 10 minutes and modified my stance.
Now I see why he advises the 'slow road to Rome' approach. The longer you take over this the more self-knowledge you get in holding the pose, and monitoring all minor aspects of your body in the stance. While there is not much to the stance - it has no movement remember - each aspect of the post and the muscles in that need attendance to. You have to make sure your muscles are relaxed all the time and do not come unnecessarily into action vs your skeleton. You need to stop arms moving down and in. You need to monitor breathing, as abdominal breathing is preferred, if you can do that, (but not at the expense of provoking muscle tension the author notes).
It seems like ages I have been doing this, I thought I started at the beginning of November. I play meditative music too, and when you are holding out in the second stance it feels like a marathon and you start clock-watching. You have to use your mind and the beach ball metaphor to help you endure, in that your held up by the ball.
Once you can reach 20 minutes in stance two, the book says to aid you deal with the new open channels of chi coursing in your body the form of the 8 pieces of brocade will help manage this new power. That is why I also have been studying the second book. In the 'Stand Still Be Fit' video, they give the 8 pieces on the 4 day, or something and each new move throughout the 10 days. In the associated book they are far more frugal in introducing new moves.
Dr Jwing-Ming's book is very good in spelling out the ideas behind how the exercises work and what thoughts your mind needs to be focusing on for chi to be directed. NO ONE ELSE really does this explicitly, really. YouTube videos do not really focus on this and hence now I see why that US reviewer said get this book, too. < He is right. The mind needs to know what it has to do, too. I am toying with the idea of learning the 8 pieces anyway, on their own, vs waiting until being able to hold stance 2 for 20 mins, (which will be around March, late February at this rate).
[Is it any good?]
I know you have to wait for the effects to mature but I can relate to the feelings that the video and book says will occur: Tingling in fingers. This is spreading up my hands how, Started with little finger of the left hand ... then on right ... and now up the fingers yesterday. This is not my imagination.
Also from the first stance - Wu Chi - I am able to get a melting brain effect, as you switch off your mind from 'everyday' mode, to 'get ready for this exercise now' mode. My brain feels like melting butter. I later re-watched the video and the Chinese professor who they visit said that the first stage feeling is 'rain on the brain, 'brain in a shower' type feeling. < I was really glad to see this confirmed as it validated my experience and I did not imagine this. He said the next later stage of feeling is 'silent laughter'. Wow, apparently practitioners get the sensation of laughing in the body but quietly. I am no where near this, but I believe him.
I had wanted to hold off from writing about this topic until next November, when I review this and give an reasoned analysis based on experience but I could not hold off. I had a great session yesterday night when I was not clock-watching at all in the second pose but getting a great anesthetic effect. I also had tweaked my stance to avoid knees hurting and this had not affected the tingly fingers either, so I knew things were not adversely affected. < I really hope this is a pattern now for all the exercise.
One thing I can say despite the earlier aches of holding the position and monitoring yourself in a static pose etc. I have always been looking forward to do this exercise everyday. It is not like a chore as with the exercise bike I had divorced or separated from. The only thing I have to watch is my knees. Despite not going beyond toes, there is scope for lateral play in the knees despite a narrow-ish stance. (Hence my re-calibration mentioned above and the need to take this stuff slowly. I bet you can weld-in a future injury if you race ahead with poor posture / or even a posture your body shape has not modified for you enough).
On the research side of things just reading about all this, and the proposed benefits and seeking out videos, documentaries, books and articles on the web is an energy-learning-rush in itself. This goes with the territory of learning new things as an adult. I do not draw a distinction in any adult learning experience from academic study, health / martial art, chess etc. It is all the same to me: theory driven activity which has much scope for self-expression and interpretation too, which you monitor again and again.
Oh yes ... expect the problems of postures not being alike between practitioners and schools. < Always a source of worry and frustration.
Once you know the ideas behind what the moves mean and aim to do that is enough. The diversity in the 8 pieces of brocade for instance are many but it does not matter. Even the wu chi stance 1 differs between Lam Kam Chuen's own book (two stances are offered in the book, and the video only shows one type).
I am adding in the 8 pieces of brocade now, as I cannot see why that should be held back, as it is a standalone activity anyway. It will take a few weeks to remember the combination autmaticall what moves go in what order, plus the associated aims, plus thought intents.