A horse stance should be painful.
Let me say that again, a horse stance should be painful.
I find that once we come to grips with this, the particulars become easier to accept.
Your feet should be one-and-a-half shoulder widths apart. The heels of your feet should be pushing outward, causing the blades of your feet to be parallel. This position should cause a stretch in the outside of your ankle.
Your knees should be bending and pushing out over your feet; the goal is having them over your big toe. This emphasis should open your hips and fatigue your quadriceps.
Your hips should be pulling forward, straightening your lower back and further stretching your hips.
Your shoulders should be pulling down and your fists should be pulling tightly against your sides, as high and as far back as possible. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest and fatigue across your back.
Your eyes should be focussing straight forward at shoulder level despite all distractions.
None of this should be comfortable, comfort is not the goal. The goal is to train the body to be strong and well-balanced, the mind to be clear and focused, and the spirit to be steadfast.
I originally wrote this for a newsletter more than ten years ago. I was more than a little flattered to learn that one of my students had kept a tattered copy all of these years. After rereading it I found that I still liked it and wanted to share it again.
In particular I enjoyed the use of the active voice. Instead of suggesting that your feet should be apart it emphasizes that your feet should be ‘pushing’ outward. A horse stance is not a static position, it is a dynamic masterpiece that you must create in each moment.
I also appreciate the emphasis on the horse stance being a anvil for forging the body, mind, and spirit. The physical benefits of a horse stance are obvious, but are dwarfed by the benefits for the mind and the spirit. Gaining the ability to focus amidst life’s distractions sharpens the mind. Forcing your body and mind to persist when they want to quit develops your spirit.
The horse stance was a integral part of our training a thousand years ago, ten years ago, and very much still today.