Newsletter #99 - November 2009
--From me to you, Dr Paul Lam
--Remembering Suzanne, Dr Paul Lam
--Experiencing Depth in Tai Chi for Arthritis, Caroline Demoise
--Deepening your Tai Chi, Pat Webber
--Tai Chi as a Modality to Self Awareness, Troyce Thome
--How to Improve Tai Chi while not doing the Form, Tony Garcia
--Humour, Laughter and Radiant Health, Bob McBrien
October has been a roller coaster month. While I was on my workshop tour, after completing some really exciting workshops in Asia and Europe, I received some shocking news that hit me and our Tai Chi for Health community.
The December newsletter will be our 100th issue and we will be celebrating this significant milestone by offering a once only special offer and a prize. The theme will be “Tai Chi Spirit”. In the spirit of Christmas and as part of the celebration, we would like to offer a once only discount in our monthly special. We are providing a Christmas package, comprising of five DVDs from Tai Chi 4 Kids to Tai Chi for Older Adults and the music CD with specifically composed music. This package can be for yourself or as a Christmas gift to friends and relatives. There will be a 50% discount on the package so do take advantage of this special offer. Also as part of the special issue, we would like to hear your feedback on our newsletter. The most illuminating entries will win this special package worth US$145 AUD $175. The winner will be announced in the December newsletter.
I am in the midst of my workshop tour that started in Singapore with Tai Chi for Diabetes and Tai Chi for Arthritis. With the former I had the pleasure of working with community leaders and football players from the Malay ethnic group as well as tai chi teachers and health professionals, which was extremely uplifting. The latter was the second Tai Chi for Arthritis workshop that I have worked with 50 traditional Chinese tai chi teachers. It was especially gratifying for me to have met so many open minded traditional tai chi teachers; some of them teaching longer than I have. My heart warmed to see so many tai chi teachers recognising the merit of modifying traditional tai chi to make it safer, more effective and easier to learn. Their dedication to promote the Tai Chi for Health program was quite astounding.
After Singapore, I led two large workshops in the UK, Exploring the Depth of TCA and Tai Chi for Osteoporosis and Fall Prevention. This was my first return to the UK in three years and I was very excited by the overwhelming support, it was wonderful to meet new and catch up with old friends. I can see the UK moving forward and bringing more people to the Tai Chi for Health programs. Workshops in Barcelona and Zurich followed immediately after the UK. I am now in the USA conducting workshops in Georgia, Colorado, Oregon and California; I hope to meet some of you soon.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the dedication of local organisers and the enthusiasm from students. They are fundamental to the success of these workshops.
In this newsletter:
- In memory of Suzanne McLauchlan, Dr Lam has collated a series of emails from the Tai Chi for Health community reflecting on their experiences with Suzanne. Several of her colleagues and students also write heart warming tributes to their teacher and friend
Caroline Demoise has devised practicing with a small ninja rubber ducky riding on top of your head as a way to help deepen your tai chi skills!Pat Webber is more academic when it comes to deepening your tai chi. She believes knowledge and understanding of terms from classical tai chi writings will make tai chi more meaningful.Troyce Thome has another approach, that the practice of mindful movement in tai chi trains both the body and the mind into deeper levels of understanding, coordination and balance.Tony Garcia goes even one step further. He reveals how you can improve on your tai chi without having to practice the forms!
This Month’s Special:First time offer of 20% discount on our full range of products. Please quote Voucher number 1109SP to receive the discount.
Upcoming workshops by Dr Paul LamNovember 7 - November 8, 2009. Sisters, OR, United States
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
November 14 - November 15, 2009. Pleasant Hill, CA, United States
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
December 14 - December 15, 2009. Seoul, Korea
Tai Chi @ Work Instructor Training
January 4 - January 9, 2010. Sydney, NSW, Australia
One Week Tai Chi Workshop
June 5 – June 6 2010 Tacoma WA, United States
Seated Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi @ Work Instructor Training
June 7 - June 12, 2010. Tacoma, WA, United States
One Week Tai Chi Workshop
July 15 - July 16, 2010. Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand
Tai Chi 4 Kidz Instructor Training
July 17 - July 18, 2010. Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for ArthritisMany other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in the Workshop Calendar.
Yours in Tai Chi,
Paul Lam, M.D.
Paul Lam, Narwee, NSW, Australia
9th October, 2009
It is with great sadness that I am writing to let you know that yesterday, one of our colleagues, Suzanne MacLauchlan, passed away in a car accident.
Suzanne is a force behind Tai Chi for Health, her dedication and contributions are known to most of you. I am sure you will remember what a wonderfully caring and positive person she was to everyone.
Rosemary Palmer, Janet Cromb and I completed a Tai Chi for Diabetes MT and instructor training workshop in Brisbane only three weeks ago with Suzanne. In a way I felt privileged to have shared that quality time with her – none of us would have dreamed that was the last time we enjoyed her presence and her unique energy!
I know Suzanne’s work will never be forgotten, the seeds she has sown will grow into a multitude of strong and healthy trees. She has lived an incredibly full life and helped and inspired countless who were fortunate to have come in contact with her. We are proud to be associated with her.
Please send your positive energy to her transition in life and your good wishes to her loved ones.”Several of Suzanne's colleagues and students have written heart warming tributes to their teacher and friend, please click here to view
Experiencing Depth in Tai Chi for Arthritis
Caroline Demoise, Master Trainer, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
One of the most effective ways to deepen your tai chi skill is to slow down. When you slow down, balance and leg strength improve. Now turn your focus inward and notice the details of foot placement, weight transfers and arm movements. Animate each movement with intention. Control your movements to make them precise and more fluid. Another important change to make is from “thinking” to “awareness”. Thoughts add an extra layer between you and direct experience and thoughts are not always true. You think you move with an upright posture, but looking in the mirror shows otherwise. You believe you are doing the movement accurately, but reviewing the details in Dr. Lam’s new Tai Chi for Arthritis DVD reveals otherwise. When you move with awareness, rather than thought, your experience of tai chi is more direct, allowing you to feel your movement and self correct.
The principles underlying all styles of tai chi point the way toward depth. Invite tai chi itself to teach you by practicing principles with awareness. Feel when your posture is upright as you focus on maintaining good alignment while moving through the external choreography. Practicing with a small ninja rubber ducky riding on top of your head is a fun way to get instant feedback on your posture because if you lean or look down the little ducky will fall on the floor. Notice how you lift your foot to take a step and move purposefully in slow motion to become more accurate. Practice as though you are swimming on land to bring more fluidity to your movements. Notice every aspect of your movement to help you produce a coordinated tai chi flow. Repetition reinforces this mind-body connection. Patiently practicing the underlying principles cultivates depth.
Tai chi movement has intrinsic qualities that emerge naturally when movement following the underlying principles described by the ancient Chinese masters. Let’s look at two of these qualities, jing and song. Jing is a quality of mind, an internal stillness, which is quiet and deep. It is a meditative alignment with the spiritual vibration in the universe. When you begin tai chi, mentally your alignment is primarily with your thinking mind. Moving slowly provides an opening to move inward and align with tranquility. When mind aligns with awareness, a calm quietness develops as though time has stopped. Awareness and perception are heightened. The shift from thinking to a quiet background cultivates jing. Thoughts not focused on dissolve into the background, allowing you to experience peace. Following your mind into a meditative state is a natural progression toward connection with source energy. A quiet mind provides the environment for your awareness to expand from an exclusive identification as a separate body to the perspective of being part of the oneness of life expression. Jing, as mental quietude, is an alignment inviting spirit rather than ego to lead. Jing approaches the oneness.
The Chinese concept of song combines relaxation and expansion in your physical body. When your body is properly aligned to allow the natural flow of energy, relax your muscles into your supporting skeletal structure and use intention to loosen your joints by creating a little space within every joint. Use imagination to feel your spine grow. Imagine your legs lengthening as you extend them outward during a kick. Feel your arms growing longer as they move outward to accompany a kick or flow through wave hands like clouds. Begin to visualize your energy expanding outward from the center of every cell in your body to fill all the open space with vital life force. This energetic expansion within an environment of relaxation is the state of song. Cultivating song transforms your body from stiffness to fluidity and from stagnation to health.
Deepening your Tai Chi
Pat Webber, Master Trainer, Narwee, NSW, Australia
When we begin to explore the depth of tai chi we are exposed to terms which come from the Chinese classical writings on tai chi and from traditional Chinese medicine. Some knowledge and understanding of these terms will help to make our tai chi more meaningful.
QI: According to traditional Chinese medicine, we all have a life force called Qi which travels throughout our bodies along channels called meridians. . Qi which is strong and which moves freely means we enjoy good health. Qi which is weak or cannot move freely because of blockages in the meridians results in poor health.
QIGONG: An exercise (gong) to stimulate the flow of the qi.
DAN TIAN: The storehouse of the qi, located about three finger widths below the belly button. It is also our centre of gravity.
BAI HUI: When checking posture, we think first of gently pushing the crown of the head towards the sky. At the top of the head, where the midline intersects a line joining the tips of the ears is the Bai Hui point. This is where our focus should be.
SINK THE QI: Located in the perineum, which is between the anus and the sexual organs, is the point called the HUI YIN. The gentle lifting of this point, simultaneously with the out breath, sinks the chi and helps with balance. This is essential to our core strength.
THE BUBBLING WELL (YONG QUAN): Located on the sole of the foot, about 1/3 along the length of the foot. Said to be the point at which the energy from the earth can enter the body. Keeping the bubbling well in contact with the ground helps balance by avoiding the practice of touching the ground with the toes only when performing a following step.
YIN/YANG: The Daoist philosophy teaches that we should live our lives in harmony with nature. To achieve this we need balance in our lives. Tai chi moves are influenced by this need. Thus we think of up and down, forward and backward, hard and soft, fast and slow.
SONG: A Chinese word meaning “loosening”. Think of relaxing the tension on a stretched rubber band. A tense arm, whether throwing a ball or striking, is not as effective as an arm which is “song”.
FA JIN: “ Jin” means “internal force” and “fa” means “to release”. This is an advanced technique which requires the cultivation of “song”.
LAOGONG POINT: The point where the middle finger touches the palm when the fingers are closed. This is the point we focus on when doing the open/close movement in Sun style.
Troyce Thome, Master Trainer, Mission Viejo, CA, USA
The effect of mind on body and body on mind is evident every day of our lives. Fleeting glimpses of this connection between body and mind are felt by everyone at sometime in their lives, moments like, “I feel like I was walking on air”, or conversely when something bad has happened “I had a pit in my stomach” or “a knot in my throat”.
Through recent advances in science and medicine we now have scientific proof that the mind is integrally connected to the body, as is body to mind. We should be asking ourselves how to have more moments of “walking on air” than “pits in the stomach”. More moments of feeling connected and grounded than moments of feeling scattered and fragmented.
Realizing the health benefits of an aware, present and calm disposition for both body and mind should be motivation enough for us to search for a technique or a practice that can enhance our ability to stay both mindful and responsive.
Works cited: Daniel Siegel, The Mindful Brain.
Tony Garcia, Senior Trainer, Miami, FL, USA
Make it a habit to consciously align (upright posture) anytime you are standing or in a seated position. This could be done anywhere such as when making a line in a grocery store or seated at home while watching television during a commercial.
Practice visualizing the form one movement at a time with your eyes closed. Incorporate the feel into each of the movements. For example; how is my body feeling as I step and slightly bend my knees and as my body turns?
- Practice the agile stepping used in the form such as; half step, picking up toe, lifting and dropping heal.
Experience fullness and emptiness. Slowly transfer and feel how your weight transfers from one leg to the other while walking or use the same transfer by shifting side to side while standing on line.
Practice keeping your elbows down and shoulders relaxed while brushing your teeth or cleaning.
Improving your balance can help you with your form and walking as well.
Rest both of your hands on the kitchen counter or the back of a chair and stand on one leg for a few seconds. Later on, you can try using one hand and eventually no hands. Always remain close to the object you are holding to prevent injury.
Practice portions of your everyday movements as if you are feeling a resistance in the air around you or as if you are moving inside the water. Capture that feeling to use it in the form.
Meditate to help clear the mind while remaining calm and focused.
Bring your life speed down a notch. Patterns in everyday life can sometimes bring us to an unconscious speed of continuously being in a rush, waking fast and even thinking fast.
Slow down and pay attention to the details life has to offer. The scents in the air, the way the foot feels when it touches the ground and expanding your vision to see things that are not only in front of us but all around us.
Dr Bob McBrien, Salisbury, MD, USA
"Keep breathing," John said.
When the master appeared, Ikkyu asked: "Why do people have to die?"
"This is natural," explained the older man. "Everything has to die and has just so long to live."
Ikkyu, producing the shattered cup, added: "It was time for your cup to die."
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.