Newsletter #55 - March 2006
In this issue:
-- From Me to You, by Dr Lam
-- Recent Research Activities by Dr Paul Lam
-- In the Flow - Talk by Jeff Morris
-- Video Yourself by Jack Jacoby
-- A Stimulating Water Experience by Lynne Michaelis
-- Dr Bob's Humor
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read all previous newsletters
Medical research of tai chi is growing fast, interest around the world from government departments, user organisations like arthritis foundations, academic institutions and the people is increasing with health benefits being shown. In fact it is the people who have driven the various bodies to study tai chi for its health benefits. We know tai chi works, and it makes good sense that it does, but we need properly conducted studies to prove it. Scientific proof is the most effective promotion for tai chi.
- Recently I have been involved with many research studies in varying capacities, last week I was in Korea working a medical team to study tai chi's effect on gastric and bowel cancer patients, and our tai chi for diabetes study has just started. I have written a summary about these activities and the important of working with researchers.The first international Tai Chi for Health conference is going to be very exciting. Many people are interested to come to present their work or as participants of this inaugural event. Please keep an eye on my newsletter, I will send a special message for the conference soon. The website address is www.taichiforhealthconference.org - it can accept abstract submission from now.
- Jeff's talk at the Sydney January workshop in Sydney was inspirational. The full title is "In the Flow, What You Think, What You Say, & What You Do...". Remember in the last newsletter someone said to me after his talk, she was so moved that she did not think there should be another talk. We look forward to your thought.
- I always believe that video yourself is a very useful tool to improve your tai chi. Jack told me about his experience with this method when I met him at the June 2005 Workshop in Sarasota, Florida, USA. I have invited him to write an article for this newsletter. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I do reading it.
- Lynne was very excited about her water tai chi class, as I also invited her to write down her experience.
- Dr Bob McBrien's humor has been popular here; we are going to make it a regular feature.
The most helpful review this month came from Paul Lanchantin, he says: "My many thanks for creating an easy to follow guide to Tai Chi (6 forms 6 easy lessons). My Sunday School class enjoys Tai Chi for young people. Back to my plaudits. Tai Chi anywhere gives me a chance to exercise and review whether stuck in traffic, at the doctor's office or waiting in line at the grocery store. Having had bypass surgery, exercise is very important to me. Staying in shape during the cold winter months has always been a problem until now. Your DVD's have helped tremendously..." Click this link to read his review
Thank you Paul for your review. We would like to send you a Tai Chi Music CD for being our Letter of the Month winner. Please email us and advise your postal details.
Click this link to enter your review of any of our products.
Our featured product this month is the new program Tai Chi for Osteoporosis. Designed to build strength, improve balance and better health. This two part program can enhance quality of life and reduce the risk of falls. I have designed this effective and safe program based on medical evidence on osteoporosis and fall prevention. For more information go to this link.
This video or DVD is normally retailed at USD 24.95 for this month it is $19.95. Click here to place your order.
Looking forward to see you in the one-week workshop in Indiana USA in June, or other workshops as listed at the Calendar:
Paul Lam, MD
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Two years ago I worked with Dr. Aeyong Eom from Seoul National University to design a program, based on the Tai Chi for Beginner program, for people who have breast cancer. The study was completed in December of last year showing favourable results for the people who have done Tai Chi compared to the ones who did not. There was also a nearly 90 percent adherence rate. Congratulations Dr. Eom!
Our study on Tai Chi and hydrotherapy's effect on osteoarthritis has just been concluded and is being submitted for publication. It took six years from time of conception to completion, thus is the speed of the wheel of research. This study has shown that Tai Chi and hydrotherapy both work well.
Last year Dr. Lee from Seoul National University, Korea, and Dr. Song from Chun Nam University, Korea and I submitted an application to the Korean National Funding Body to study the beneficial effects of Tai Chi with people who have gastric and bowel cancer. The application has been granted and I went to Seoul in February to train the instructors of this specially designed program, and to finely tune the research protocol. I am very excited to see it happened and looking forward to the outcome.
My study Tai Chi for Diabetes is well underway and Dr Song and Dr Lee's studies of same topic have completed and are being written up.
Many other studies that have involved me as a co-author or consultant, most of them are too early for discussion. This is a strong indication of how tai chi is being taken seriously by the scientific world and the funding bodies. It is great news for tai chi and for the people who want to take control of their own health.
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I recently wrote to Dr. Lam about what I had begun to experience in learning the sequence of Chen 36. Dr. Lam response was, "chen is different... a good way to move up in a steel hill. love to see yours. P"
Now I have heard of being squeezed by two mountains, one made out of silver, one made out of lead,... paralyzed,... afraid to live, and afraid to die,... I have even heard talk of the Five Elders Peak, of the the mythical MT. Meru,... but to move up in a steel hill?....
As a Buddhist, practicing non violence, I found Chen Style to be aggressive, but with Paul's hint, I decided to try. This was two years ago. It did not work for me then at all. So I put it aside, till a few months ago. This time I was able to connect, and some of the moves began to sense to me.
Then and now the language we use to express the intention behind the moves, break-ing bones, strike, and much more is aggressive at best. As one Instructor commented, "...you end up with a whole bloody mess,..." From my understanding of Karma, while an instant of the Law of Cause and Effect, what you do comes back to you.
Karma, like Tai Chi, is based on principles that involve the mind, body and spirit. If I think I am going to hurt you, I feel as if I am actually doing it, and this has its effects. If I say I don't trust you, this too has its effects. If I were to actually strike you, the effects would be made clear.
So when asked to move with such intentions, I experienced resistance in expressing the movements. In part the mental judgement of my bias for compassion was in conflict with my desire to learn Chen 36. At some point I stopped thinking, and let go a deep breath into my lower back. I began to relax into the movement, joint by joint.
And there was something else, I began to slow down, and began to explore breathing through each joint, and to try to initiate each movement by breathing into the hip sockets to rotate the leg bones in the sockets. First thing, I sat up, meaning my posture cor-rected and there was much less strain in moving.
I remembered the health benefits of Tai Chi Dr. Lam discussed in the applications for back pain, and the influence abdominal breathing has on the parasympathetic nervous system, the calming instead of the flight or flight response. And I tried to maintain this connection for moments at a time, all through connecting with the breath.
I began to understand that my limited perception of Chen style was based on what I could see, not what Chen felt like. In practice, I discovered what I did not understand. In moving this way, it felt like I connected to something, something I did not understand was there all the time.
Then I heard Uncle Pat's voice, "Remember ice can heal,..." My mother's family came to live on the Native American Indian reservation of the Blackfoot. My grandmother was born there. As was the time of slavery in America, if escaped African slaves could make it to a Native American Indian tribes, they would be made full members of the tribe.
Uncle Pat, my Grandmother's Uncle, would tell the story when he went ice fishing with his Uncle. They traveled for several days, cutting holes in the ice as they made their way. One morning, Uncle Pat woke up but his Uncle had left him alone on the ice. It had also snowed, there was no way to follow the holes in the ice, because ice can heal.
So Uncle Pat walked to the trees, and found the tracks of a squirrel, the spores and tracks of a bear, and the path of a beaver. He knew to follow the squirrel, would lead you in circles. The path of the bear would lead you higher into the hills. But the path of the beaver would lead you to the stream, and then to home."
Uncle Pat, often finished his story with,... "Remember when I was crossing the lake in the birch bark canoe, with Uncle in front." Birch bark canoes are very thin, but float very well. As Uncle Pat was approaching the shore, he could see sharp rocks, just under the water ahead. So he struggled to re - direct the canoe, at the same time he struggled with his anger.
Uncle just sat there doing nothing. Uncle did not shout out a warning, or help in any way. Later that evening, Uncle Pat asked his Uncle why he did not say anything about the sharp rocks. His Uncle said to him, "How else will you come to know your heart.
And this is what it felt like, I found the Heart of Chen,... what it was like to move from the center,... while a beginning, a profound shift in one's paradigm. Yes there are appli-cations that are external and martial. But there are also internal applications to practice as well, and they have value as part of our practice.
If I use language and intention that creates tension, I create adrenaline and more stress, physically and in my ability to express movements. If I use the Qi Gong within Tai Chi, if I meditate on Wuji, my experience with Chen 36 became very different. I can be with the Flow, without tension, but with an expansive openness and yet grounded.
As Diado, the Abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery would say:
"When practice becomes some kind of self conscious act, it is no longer practice, it is a self conscious act. When we make goals for practice, when it becomes a goal it is no longer practice, no matter how noble the goal is,... just trust yourself,...
To trust yourself is the finest kind of practice you can possibly do."
The wind chimes hanging on a rusty nail doesn't know about the nature of the wind. And yet, for the sake of all beings it sings the 10,000 gathas,...
Do one thing at a time, don't push, be present in your practice, and in all activities of your life,...
Master Dogen's 300 Shobogenzo, Case 123 Bauche's "The Nature of the Wind"
The Main Case
Zen Master Bauche of Mt. Mayru was fanning himself, a Monk approached and asked:
Master, since the nature of wind is permanent, and there is no place that it does not reach, why then must you still fan yourself?
Although you understand that the nature of wind is permanent, the Master replied, you do not understand its meaning of, it reaches everywhere,...
What is the meaning of it reaching everywhere, asked the Monk?
The Master just fanned himself,... The Monk bowed with deep respect,...
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WATCH YOURSELF FROM A DIFERANT ANGLE By Jack Jacoby Miami Beach FL
It's 5:30 AM and you squint into the bathroom mirror. You walk down the street and catch a glimpse of yourself in a window. Staring at the dressing room you adjust your posture and suck in your gut. For me, and I'll bet for each of us, we just can't look in a mirror and not be aware of how we look. That's fine for getting dressed in the morning but there's a better way to critique your Tai Chi movements then trying to follow ourselves in a mirror. We've all used Dr. Lam's video to learn from, so why not take video one step farther?
My job as captain of a large private yacht took me all over the world, but that kind of constant travel does not lend it's self to forming a relationship with a Tai Chi instructor. I had long been interested in learning Tai Chi and one day, in an Auckland bookstore, I came across Dr. Lam's "Six Forms Tai Chi" video. The video was beautifully produced and I found his instruction and presentation of the forms easy to understand and practice in my cabin or on deck but with no measure of comparison I was unsure about my progress. Watching my self in a mirror just didn't cut it because I couldn't look at myself and not think about trying to hold my belly in. A deck hand suggested videoing my movements and the results were fantastic. By playing the videos of myself and Dr Lam side by side I was able to make comparisons in real time that were invaluable. Over a period of a few months I was able to learn the six forms and the "Thirty Two Sword Forms" and I have practiced them both for several years. My wife became interested and we learned the "Tai Chi for Arthritis Part 1" forms and practiced them together as well.
Here are a few tips on using camcorder video as a training aid. First it's best to shoot from a tripod, if you have one, and place the camera in the center of the area you'll cover with your lateral movements while doing the complete set of forms. Ask your camera operator to pan so that you stay in the center of the frame and zoom so that you fill the frame .This will allow you the best perspective of both front and back views. By using a tripod you can check to see if you are moving up and down too much by sighting on a landmark behind you. Shoot form the front and back so that you get as many angles as possible and, at some point in time, do the complete set of forms so you can time your self. When you get use to being filmed you can concentrate on your forms and be uninhibited by your image in the mirror. You can lose yourself in the movements, really concentrate on them, and then have a look at what you have done. Pause, rewind, look back and compare. It's a much better record than what you think you saw in the mirror. Once you've watched your video (and laughed at yourself a little) you're ready for the real comparison. As you know, Paul ends each teaching video with a demonstration of the complete set of forms. Run your and Paul's videos side by side using two monitors or a TV and your camera's screen. Start the videos at the same time and compare your movements with Paul's. Using a remote you can pause, slow mo, rewind and even time your movements (I find that I frequently go through the forms too fast) and you will quickly pinpoint your problem areas. It's easy and fun.
Retirement from the sea lead me to Miami Beach, where I practice Tai Chi by the Atlantic at sunrise every morning, and in June 2005 I was able to attend Paul's summer USA workshop where I learned the 24 forms, had lots of fun and made many wonderful friends. I left that workshop with the "The 24 Forms" video and have used it with success to fine tune my practice.
Absolutely nothing can compare with the warmth, comradely and personal growth of working with Paul and your Tai Chi friend in a workshop setting. There's much more to Tai Chi than you can learn from a video, but if you live in the woods or on a boat or you're just too lazy to get up and go to class some day, break out the camcorder and video yourself. You'll learn where your strengths and weaknesses are and if nothing else you'll get a laugh out of it.
I wish you PEACE.
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A Stimulating Water Experience by Lynne Michaelis
I wish to share the experience of Tai Chi in the water. Fortunately I was offered an opportunity to teach tai chi in a warm water pool at a local Community Centre in San Francisco. I am applying Dr.Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis program. It is a most interesting and different experience to land tai chi. In the water, i am concentrating on the postures of the form and repeating them.
Moving along and through the water is very challenging and the sensation to control your arm or leg in slow motion is extremely demanding as the water wants to control you and hasten any movement. So powerful, one needs to concentrate and resist the pull of the water. It is a wonderful sensation and feeling. The general feeling is that you are balancing and keep control whilst letting yourself feel grounded in the water.
There are mostly seniors in the group - highly motivated and willing to learn and experience the gentle and slow movements. Their wonderful reactions help me to help them! The varied and interesting response from participants is especially encouraging. Some people are making a special effort to hold a posture and balance on one leg - in the water. The interesting point is that they say they cannot do this on land. Their concentration and improved co-ordination is remarkable. They are very dedicated and every posture is a challenge for them - whether they hold on for support at the side of the pool or not.
We do a lot of arm movements and I feel they need to walk around periodically to keep body temperature comfortable.
I am very impressed how they concentrate and make every effort to enjoy the water tai chi experience. In this way the participants can feel safe in the water, learn to relax and soothe any stiffness in their joints - Their feedback is especially encouraging as they report an improvement with their balance, mental and physical health.
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Reading the funny signs people post can bring a laugh. Here are a few:
* On a health food store door: "Closed due to Illness."
* Sign in a coin laundry at Myrtle Beach SC, USA: "Ladies, leave your clothes here and enjoy your day at the beach."
* At a repair shop entrance: "We fix anything ( please knock loudly, the door bell is broken.)"
* An English detour sign in Japan: "Stop! Drive sideways'"
* In a Bucharest hotel lobby: "Sorry,elevator repairs today. During repair time you will be unbearable."
* Message on a poster: "If you can not read, this poster tells you where to get reading lessons."
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END OF NEWSLETTER
Warning: Dr. Lam does not necessarily endorse the opinion of other authors. Before practicing any program featured in this newsletter, please check with your physician or therapist. The authors and anyone involved in the production of this newsletter will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any injury which may arise as a result of following the instructions given in this newsletter.