Shaolin is a diverse system with a barrage of techniques in its arsenal. Sleeping Lohan is one picturesque posture (static) used to develop the body in 3 ways- 1) strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints 2) balance and 3) perseverance. This is a great method for developing ones fortitude and is also a way of tempering the mind. In the Sleeping Lohan one is required to hold the position for a predetermined period of time- from one minute to five minutes for beginners up to one hour for advanced practitioners -conducted in a meditative state. Holding these postures is similar to a person who places his body between two chairs one at each end of the body. This is a difficult position to maintain for any amount of time. Putting the neck, back and leg muscles under extreme use with the requirement of a straight back.
To do this posture one should start in a twisted knee cross stance. Keep the knees tight by squeezing them together. Extend the back leg from underneath place the elbow on the ground as a balance point for the upper body placing the fist or fingers by the temple. Extend the body and leg in this way keeping it up and away from the ground. The only part of your body resting on the ground is the front foot and elbow only. This will in effect toughen the elbow. After holding this posture on one side then repeat and hold on the other side.
As one holds this posture the body will start to shake and perspire as the pain increases. After consistent practice the body will be able to withstand the stress and will become more at ease and with progress this posture will not be as hard to hold as the first time. One can then see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet even as skill progresses this posture will still have its difficulties.
As a static posture it looks as merely a pose to the unknowing. Though it is like yoga. It is intended to be a yoga pose geared toward developing martial arts techniques. The “alpha state” one strives for is the same as other forms of meditation because it is reaching this state that one can turn off the threshold of pain and balance the body's chi level. This posture will effect the meridians and glands around the legs, hips, and pelvic area and help sink the chi as well. Be aware that if one practices this technique one will become very sore for a while until the body becomes accustomed to the workout. Then realize that there are thirteen other different traditional postures like this to complete a series of exercises from Shaolin called -Tong Zi Gung. Self defense wise this is a tool used to develop fortitude and strength in techniques. The components of this posture develop different aspects of the Shaolin “Iron Body”. Holding the posture develops great strength power and endurance in the following muscles- deltoids (shoulder) and shoulder girdle muscles, lumbar region and whole back, the intercostals and stomach muscles, the quadriceps and inner thigh muscles and all the ligaments of the legs. These muscles are the ones required to release power in kicks and punches.
Applications of the techniques can also include elbows, knees, low kicks, heel stomping, sweeping, “iron broom”, and forward and sideward knee strikes leg and knee blocks. Combinations can include knees to low kicks, (the preferred target being the knee, shin or groin.) Elbows and shoulder strikes combined with leg attacks.
In a Shaolin sense this is a unique “way” and “means” to reach the “end”. it is great for developing also a sense of perseverance- tempering the mind developing balance and chi and is uniquely “Martial Yoga”.