Newsletter #75 - November 2007
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
-- Hormone therapy for menopause, 2007 update, by Dr Stephanie Taylor
-- Letting go your baggage by Dr Paul Lam
-- Elva Arthy awarded “Most Outstanding Woman Making a Difference 2007”
-- Humor, laughter and radiant health, by Dr Bob O’Brien
I have just concluded a two-month world tour during which I met many wonderful and inspiring people. An example is Betty, 85, who ten years ago was told she would never walk again yet has now been teaching tai chi for almost ten years.
I also met Joe and his colleagues, karate experts who teach karate philosophy to kids in 27 schools in the US, and who are now going to incorporate Tai Chi for Kidz into their work. Photos from workshops I conducted during my last overseas trip have now been posted online. You can order a copy of these photos in a professional format for your personal use as well as for promoting your class, from the Workshops photos page on my website.
While I was in Singapore recently, I gave a public talk at the invitation of the Arthritis Foundation of Singapore. It was a most successful talk and I was really pleased to see the level of interest shown by the community: the hall was really overflowing. The lecture hall can take 200 people and 500 people wanted to come.
We have been talking a lot about children over the last two months and I am sure you would agree with me that it is vitally important to help our kids develop better health and harmony, so that they can live a more fulfilled life. Tai chi can be a very useful tool to help them to do this, but children are not small adults, they are different people and need to be taught in a different way to adults and using modified forms of tai chi. If you are in a position to work with children, I hope that you will look for a suitable tai chi program for them, such as my Tai Chi 4 Kidz.
The January workshop in Sydney, Australia is 90% full, so if you wish to come please register as soon as possible. I look forward to seeing you at this very special 10-year anniversary workshop.
I would like to remind you of the two important conferences being held over the next year.
The Third International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research will be held in Sydney, Australia on 29-31 March 2008. I will be the liaison person in the area of exercise preventive medicine with tai chi, and will be speaking about evidence-based therapeutic tai chi. Abstracts submissions are now being accepted through the Congress website at www.iccmr2008.com.
The Second Tai Chi and Qigong for Health International Conference will be held in Orlando, USA from 3-6 December 2008. If you require more information please contact me through [email protected].
In next month’s newsletter we will be featuring articles about tai chi for health from the perspectives of a family physician, Dr Pam Kircher, and two occupational therapists, Rani Hughes and Ralph Dehner. Please feel free to share your experiences and ideas about Tai Chi for Health with us. Your articles should be between 100-200 words (photos welcome) and emailed to: [email protected].
In this month’s newsletter
- We feature an article by Dr Stephanie Taylor updating us on the use of hormone therapy during menopause. There is a lot of confusion about the use of Hormonal Replacement Therapy during menopause and Stephanie’s article contains information you might like to share with your friends. Dr Taylor is a Master Trainer and a gynaecologist in Monterey, California, with a special interest in the menopause.
- "Letting go your baggage" by Dr Paul Lam: During my recent overseas trip, United Airlines lost my baggage for nine very long days. How this happened and how I dealt with the frustrations of trying to find it by “letting go” is a story with a valuable lesson for all of us.
- Denis Arthy proudly tells us about his wife, Master Trainer Elva Arthy, who has been awarded the “Most Outstanding Woman Making a Difference 2007” recently in Queensland, Australia. We reprint an article from the local newspaper about her award and her work.
- Finally Dr Bob McBrien injects some humour to brighten our day and contribute to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
November’s special offer
Christmas is coming up fast and we’d like to help you take the stress out of gift-giving that so often comes with it.
You know what tai chi has done for you, so why not share it with a friend! Shop early for Christmas this year by taking advantage of our special offer for November. This month, for every DVD, CD or book you buy, we will include another of the same title, free of charge, for you to give as a gift, and relieve both you and the recipient of some of that holiday stress!
Go to the website for more information and to place your order. When you place your order, please mention this special offer in the comments section, quoting SP1107.
Product review of the month
Congratulations to Karen Zanolini for her review of the ‘Explore the depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis’ workshop by Dr Paul Lam that she recently attended in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.:
‘My TCA has taken on a whole new level. I feel I have peeled another layer of the Tai Chi onion. I use the word onion to refer to the unlimited layers to the depth of Tai Chi. These two excellently presented days were full of extra layers.
‘I never realised that 'Cloud Hands' could have that much depth, but when one learns to step before you change your hands the depth arises …
‘To have Dr Lam teaching for 2 full days was a real treat. A treat if you ever get the chance DONT MISS IT! - make it a must on your calendar, I can assure you it is money well spent.‘’So, thank you Paul for this truly amazing and inspiring experience. You've added another dimension to my Tai Chi journey.’
You can read Karen’s full review on our website.
Thanks Karen for your review.We would like to send you a tai chi music CD for being our winner. Please email us at [email protected] and give us your postal address.
Enter your review of any of my products in the Forum and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
Upcoming workshopsby Dr Lam
January 6-12, 2008, Sydney, Australia
One week Tai Chi Workshop
To enrol in any of my workshops or those of my authorised master trainers please go to the workshop calendar page on the website.
Yours in tai chi,
Paul Lam, MD
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One of the wonderful things about practicing Tai Chi is the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. At our annual workshops, we have a chance to experience people from very different backgrounds and walks of life and it is enriching for all of us. During these annual workshops I have given a few short talks on menopause and hormone therapy because there is so much interest in this area of health. Some exciting things have happened in this field in the last 2-3 years, so Dr Paul Lam has asked me to write an update for this newsletter.
You would expect the practice of medicine to be international, but it actually is quite regional. We have a joke about the “NIH syndrome”. The NIH is the National Institute of Health in Washington, DC, but the joke is that NIH stands for “not invented here” and refers to the disregard that the American medical and research community have for research results from other countries. This old fashioned attitude has been steadily reduced by a wonderful group called The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). This group was formed in 1989 and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the quality of life of women through an understanding of menopause. Rare among groups, it has close ties to its sister international organizations. NAMS has always had a broad and balanced view of menopause. It is also interdisciplinary, with members who are physicians, nurses, social policy makers and even veterinarians! In fact my favorite member is Tom Clarkson DVM, who should be given a Nobel Prize for his brilliant work on the effect of hormones on cardiovascular disease. You can reach the consumer side of the website at www.menopause.org.
Now, having said that, I would return to the subject of menopause that was given so much news time in 2002 when the Womens Health Initiative terminated the estrogen and progestin arm of a large study they were conducting, due to risks of continuing it outweighing its benefits. This was an ill-considered step and caused much anxiety among women. Many stopped their hormone replacement. An analysis several years later revealed that one third or more had restarted due to disabling symptoms. Because of the sensational nature of the new reports, those women who chose to stay on their hormones or restarted are anxious about the long term effect on their health. Should they be anxious? I, and my colleagues, would say no, and here is the reason.
The WHI was designed as a primary prevention study. That means that they selected healthy women who were not on hormones and also not having any symptoms, and put them on Premarin and Provera to see if they could prove that this was beneficial for several outcomes, specifically breast cancer and heart disease. Because it was a primary prevention study, an outside third party monitored the results regularly to detect any trend toward harm. If this occurred, it was agreed that the study would be stopped immediately. Well, what happened is they saw a trend to increased breast cancer and heart disease. The contract was to stop the study if trends like this were recorded, and so they did. They released their findings to the press immediately and there were banner headlines “Hormone Study Stopped Due to Harm to Women”!
Well, what really happened, after all this fun with the press, the researchers went home and took a look at the data and found the trend to increased breast cancer was much smaller than they first thought and the heart disease occurred primarily in the first two years and after that they were starting to see a benefit from taking the hormones. They also looked at all cause mortality (death from any cause) and found it higher in the placebo group than the hormone group. When they analyzed the estrogen-only arm of the study, they found a reduction in both breast cancer and heart disease. That is right, estrogen modestly reduced breast cancer. Some folks who were really good at math pointed out that the average age of women in this study was 61, fully 10 years after most women reach menopause. So, instead of doing a prevention study of women entering menopause, they had studied women who were significantly past menopause. The results therefore only pertain to women who start hormone therapy ten years after menopause. Most women start replacement in their early fifties and these results just do not apply to their situation.
The next reasonable question to ask is if there is a critical period for starting taking hormones, and it looks like there is. Many studies show that you get the most benefit by starting within 3 years (or so) of the onset of menopause. Starting later, as in the WHI study, does not give the same benefits.
Well, what about bio-identical hormones? These are hormones that are made in the laboratory from plant material (soy, cactus and yam) to be identical to the hormones your body used to make. They are not natural since they are made in a factory, but they are identical to your natural hormones. All estrogen for sale in the USA is essentially bio-identical except for Premarin, which is an extract of hormone from horses.
The most important aspect of the bio-identical issue is not the estrogen used, but rather the progestin. The progestin your female body makes is called progesterone and is commercially available as Prometrium. The synthetic that is widely used is Provera or medroxyprogesterone acetate. It has a nasty habit of causing blood vessels to lose their elasticity and hence will precipitate a heart attack in someone so inclined. This is why the WHI investigators saw an increase in heart attacks early in the study and then an improvement. There are synthetic progestins that are heart healthy, such as norethindrone and drospirenone, and I use then when needed. I have probably written only three prescriptions for Provera in the last ten years, at patient insistence due to cost.
So, in summary, it has been a fascinating few years for menopause research, but also some sad ones, because the reporting of the WHI research results was so poorly managed that many women were frightened and came to distrust their physicians and the medical system. It will take a long time and a lot of talking and research to undo this damage. Fortunately, more moderate voices are now being heard.
There is no doubt that we are living in very interesting times. My hope is that we will all become more awake, intelligent and inquisitive and also much less willing to give away power over our lives to distant authorities.
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During my recent overseas trip United Airlines lost my baggage for nine very long days. Just when I thought it had gone forever, together with important documents, my computer hard drives and many personal items, with the help of a friend, I got it all back. How this happened and how I dealt with the frustrations of trying to find it makes an interesting story.
On 23 September 2007, my luggage, instead of going to JFK airport in New York, went to Jacksonville airport, in Florida. From there this story almost becomes a detective story. I have lost luggage before, and usually it has come back within one or two days, but this time it did not. I called United’s baggage tracing service, called Jacksonville airport, JFK airport, tried United’s Customer Service, I tried everything I could think of. Each time I called United I was put onto a computer voice and, after a lot of mucking around, which took a lot of time, was finally put on to a real person. However, no matter who or where I rang I was always connected with call service people in India. These people to me sounded like the computer, saying exactly the same thing without going through a thinking process, and for each simple question it took them 10-20 minutes to come back to me with an answer. They did nothing to help me find my luggage.
It was most frustrating, and very time consuming. After spending at least 20 hours on 20 phone calls I had got nowhere with United’s baggage tracing service. Each time they promised to do their best, some even said they’d call me back, but seldom did they fulfil their promises to me – and I still couldn’t find my luggage.
After piecing together all the bits of information from the 20 phone calls I’d made, I had a strong feeling that the luggage was still lying somewhere in Jacksonville airport, but I couldn’t get this point through to the tracing service. They steadfastly stuck to a script that they must be programmed to keep to, which excelled in delaying me and wasting my time. They never said anything different to their standard answer, that they would do their best, they were very sorry etc.
In the meantime, my work was being affected, and I had to make do without my documents and information on my hard drive and had to go out and buy new clothes, tai chi clothing, shoes, and so on.
One day during one of my workshops, I was talking to participants about the concept of "letting go". When you reach a certain learning phase of tai chi you need to learn to let go of the form so that you can realise the true meaning of what you’re studying. As I was talking about the topic (and if you are interested to find out more about it, read Shelia Rae’s article "Letting go" in Chapter 12 of my book Teaching Tai Chi Effectively) I reflected on my own situation and how difficult I was finding it to let go, to move on and forget about my lost luggage. I had recently read in a newspaper that lost luggage is a big problem in USA and the cause of much frustration among travellers. One US congressman, for example, has just been accused of punching a luggage handler. By learning how to let go of my physical baggage, I started letting go of my mental baggage. It is the same as freeing up external tai chi form, and gaining more inner energy.
Luckily for me, in this particular instance, our big tai chi family came to the rescue. Craig Miller, husband of one of my tai chi students, Maureen Miller, spent one whole day visiting the Jacksonville airport, looking around, talking to many people and, finally discovering my luggage, as I had all along thought, lying somewhere in the airport.
So, the moral of this story is that if you travel don’t leave your computer hard disk, important documents and important personal items in your luggage. (And if you lose your luggage, be prepared for the airline’s luggage tracing service not to be of much help!) I suggest you also read ‘Letting go’, which as a concept can be extended outside that of applying it to improve your tai chi. You can apply it to very many different situations in life. By letting go of our physical and mental baggage, we can gain more in our lives. Come to think of it, isn’t this how tai chi is a way of life?
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Elva has been awarded the "Most Outstanding Woman Making a Difference 2007" award here in the Redlands area of Brisbane. It’s been in all the local newspapers, everyone a buzz of congratulations.
This award is long overdue and hugely deserved for Elva in being recognised locally for her unassuming and caring nature, her enthusiasm, her boundless compassion for helping others and her immense expertise as a brilliant teacher of movement, dance, exercise and of course, Tai Chi for Health. A couple of weeks ago, Elva was featured in another front page story that was in a sense not unrelated to her current recognition of being the "Most Outstanding Woman" for 2007 here in Redlands, but that is another story.
Local news story in the Bayside Bulletin - "Thanks for Making a Difference"
Master Trainer, Elva Arthy, has been awarded the “Most Outstanding Woman Making a Difference 2007” at the recent “Women Making a Difference Awards” hosted by the Redlands Women Information Network (RWIN) in Queensland, Australia. The awards recognised thirty-five exceptional local women who were described as doing what they do with such spirit and gusto and yet always with compassion and foresight. Elva was also recognised for her dedication as a community based teacher of Gentle Exercise and Tai Chi for Health in the Redlands for the past 25 years, for her fundraising and contributions to various charity organizations, and for her many achievements as a Tai Chi for Health and Fitness Instructor in Australia and overseas.
Elva had been nominated by one of her students in the field of “Sport, Recreation and Health", which was one of nine different categories for achievement awards. At the time of the presentation of the awards at a gathering of over 120 people, Elva was only aware that she had been nominated but had not been able to attend due to a previous commitment to run a Tai Chi for Arthritis (TCA) Instructor training workshop at the Cairns Base Hospital. Her daughter Zoe attended as her representative and was able to accept both the category and overall winner awards on behalf of Elva.
The overall award of "Most Outstanding Woman Making a Difference" was also in recognition of her lifetime achievements as a professional teacher of movement and dance for over forty years leading up to her current commitment to provide training and consulting in the corporate and community areasthrough her Tai Chi for Health & Community Fitness. Since becoming a Master Trainer with Dr Lam's TCA Instructor Training program, Elva has trained in excess of 500 people as Tai Chi for Arthritis Leaders in Queensland alone.
Through her Tai Chi for Health & Community Fitness, Elva is now pioneering a Tai Chi for Health, Advanced Instructor Training program to provide an extension and alternative pathway for TCA Leaders and others who do not wish to pursue the martial arts Level 1 Coach accreditation for instructor training. This new program, which commenced in July this year, has competency based levels of progression focussing on a modern, secular and scientific understanding of safety principles, teaching methods and an In-Depth Study of Sun Style Tai Chi at an advanced level.
Other achievements, which were recognised in the “Most Outstanding Woman Making a Difference" award included:
- Elva's role as Senior Master Trainer in assisting Dr Paul Lam in the training of new Master Trainers of the TCA Instructor/Leader Training program for Australian and Korean TCA Master Trainer in January 2005 in Sydney and again in November 2006 at the world's first International Tai Chi for Health conference in Seoul, Korea.
- As a Tai Chi for Health consultant, Elva was the presenter and teacher on a DVD titled INSPIRE - aimed at people with bleeding disorders, produced by Haemophilia Foundation Australia and distributed in Australia and overseas including Europe, India, USA, UK and Canada..
- Elva is also the author of Raging Ageing Gentle Exercise Manual for Design and Delivery, a manual used as a resource for health and fitness professionals and carers of older adults. Drawing on her vast experience in working with older adults, she is now writing a book and working on producing a companion exercise DVD/Video in partnership with Arthritis Queensland for a safe and fun exercise program designed specially for people who are chair-bound. The book and DVD are titled - "An Affair with a Chair".
Upon her return to Cleveland, Elva was officially presented with her award as the overall winner, receiving a two-night holiday package for two people on North Stradbroke Island compliments of Pandanus Palms Resort and Stradbroke Ferries.
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In my essays on healthy humor, I have been emphasizing our natural ability to discover the 'punch lines' in daily life that bring out a smile, a chuckle or a laugh. With this capacity to use humor to brighten our day we are contributing to our well being in the same way daily playing tai chi does.
Recently the news reported on a U.S. District Court judge in New Hampshire used this natural ability to lighten the work of his court. When a prison inmate sent a complaint to court regarding prison official's refusal to serve him a special diet he included a hard-boiled egg with the documents he sent to court. Stating he cannot eat hard-boiled eggs, the inmate was suing the state for ten million dollars.
Judge Muirhead, apparently a fan of Dr Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham book, responded to the suit in rhyme:
I do not like eggs in the file. I do not like them in any style.
I will not take them fried or boiled. I will not take them poached or broiled.
I will no take them soft or scrambled. Despite an argument well rambled.
Judge Muirhead knows how to use humor to brighten his day. I want to meet him.
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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.