Newsletter #70 - June 2007
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
-- How to improve your tai chi, by Rosemary Palmer
-- My experience of attending an 'Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis' workshop, by Maree Lamb
-- Gaylene: an inspirational tai chi student, by Cheryl Lee Player
-- World Tai Chi Day on the banks of the Murray River, by Christine Milton
-- A great way to build muscle strength, from Charles Miller
-- ‘Free bowel cancer screening’, an article reprinted from Your Health magazine
-- Positive humor for better health, by Dr Bob McBrien
Both of the annual workshops in USA and Sydney feature morning talks by tai chi practitioners, who have brilliant ideas that make great articles for this newsletter. The last of the talks given at January’s workshop in Sydney is ‘How to improve tai chi’ by a tai chi teacher of many years’ experience and master trainer of my Tai Chi for Health programs, Rosemary Palmer. Next month, after the June workshop in the USA, I will start bringing you some more of these fascinating and informative articles.
In the article on my website, Strategies for improving your tai chi, we discuss the experience of being ‘in the flow’. A good balance of challenge and skill enhances flow and I love the challenge to balance these aspects in a workshop with a wide range of mixed abilities. The article, ‘Strategies for improving your tai chi’ is one of several on my website, co-written by me and Nancy Kaye, devoted to the subject of improving your tai chi. I have recently streamlined my ideas about this and have incorporated into these articles some orthodox and also some ‘outside of the box’ ideas to help you improve your tai chi. I’ve also included excerpts from the book I wrote with Nancy, ‘Tai Chi for Beginners and the 24 Forms’ and my most recent book, ‘Teaching Tai Chi Effectively’. You could start by reading How to improve your tai chi.
My ‘Exploring the depth of Tai chi for Arthritis’ workshops always bring very strong positive responses from participants, and as I prepare for ones over the next few months in Melbourne and Brisbane, I would like to share with you the experience of Maree Lamb, a physiotherapist and tai chi teacher.
In this newsletter:
- Rosemary gives us the benefit of her many years’ experience in ‘How to improve your tai chi’.
- Maree tells us about her experience of attending one of my ‘Explore the depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis’ workshops.
- Cheryl tells us about one of her students, Gaylene, who is an inspiration to her.
- Christine writes to tell us about the wonderful experience it was when Wenrick Tai Chi for Health got together with students from tai chi schools in 3 other towns in northern Victoria to celebrate World Tai Chi Day on Saturday 28th April.
- We reprint an article from Your Health magazine about the commencement of Australia’s first free bowel cancer screening program. Bowel cancer is the most common internal cancer in Australia and kills about 90 people each week.
- Charles shares with us a very interesting method he has found for building up muscle strength.
- Finally we have our regular antidote for stress, another sample of Dr Bob's humor.
This month's special offer
In June, when you buy the DVDs of Tai Chi for Back Pain, you’ll get a copy of the Warm Up and Cool Down Exercises wall chart, worth US$6.50 (AU$8.95) free of charge.
Tai Chi for Back Pain is a safe and effective program designed to relieve back pain, restore ability to work and play, improve health and quality of life, this program will also help people in wheelchair and with other medical conditions.
For more information about these products and to order your copies, go to the online shop. Please quote SP0607 in the comments section to get your free handbook.
Product review of the month
Congratulations to ‘VVanesse59’, of Danville, Illinois for winning a tai chi music CD for this review of the book, ‘Teaching Tai Chi Effectively’:
Thanks VVanesse59 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.
‘My goal is to soon become an instructor of TCA and TCO … I have now gotten involved with Dr Lam's DVDs for TCA I, II and TCO and thought about trying teaching to others. When, I saw first hand Dr Lam's training methods on the DVDs, I didnt realize what was going on other than I was learning easily. This lead me to buy the book Teaching Tai Chi Effectively.
I can only say this small book is excellent - content, understandability, tips for teachers, and a sure step-by-step on how to conduct classes and execute forms. I think my goal of becoming a good instructor has been accelerated by being able to skip the "learn the hard way how to instruct". I also believe that this book would be an asset to instructors already in the business as it gives excellent understanding of the different types of learners as well as instructors. If the experienced instructor only learns one thing from this little book it will pay off handsomely.’
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
June 29-30, Elsternwick, Victoria, Australia
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
July 21–22, Stanmore, Sydney, Australia. 4 workshops to be held concurrently.
-- Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's Training
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Update & Part II Workshop
-- Tai Chi for Diabetes Update and Enhancement Workshop
August 18–19, Stanmore, Sydney, Australia
Therapeutic Tai Chi for Physical Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapy Professionals
August 25-26, Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Find out about other Tai Chi for Health workshops conducted around the world by me or my master trainers on the workshop calendar page on the website.
Yours in tai chi,
Paul Lam, MD
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The first time I experienced tai chi was on a Pacific cruise. The classes were held when the ship was at sea and I enjoyed them so much that when I arrived home I immediately started searching for a teacher.
This proved quite difficult in South Australia in the early 1980s but I persevered and my tai chi journey began.
I was extremely enthusiastic (some would say completed over the top) and I practised at every opportunity - in the kitchen, in the lounge, in the garden anywhere there was a space. My family thought I was completely mad, but after eighteen months I had completed the form and was wondered what I would do next, now that I knewtai chi.
I needn’t have worried because on the final lesson of the term my teacher congratulated me on completing the form successfully and informed me that I was now ready to understand more about tai chi.
I began to realise that tai chi was not just a sequence of relaxing movements like dance but there was more - as Dr. Lam is always reminding us.
I continued to …practise.
Once I no longer had to think about “What came next” I began to notice changes. I begin to FEEL MY TAI CHI.
I began to experiment, when a movement didn’t feel right, I would ask myself WHY?
STANCE: I started to pay more attention to my stances. Was I stepping too long or not long enough, too wide or not wide enough (a centimetre could make a difference)? Did I feel balanced? If not I adjusted.
WAIST: I began to notice that I wasn’t really using it fully, I was STILL TENDING TO FOCUS ON MY ARMS, and I remembered reading in a book that: “The power comes from the feet, is governed by the waist and is expressed in the hands.” My focus changed. I began to concentrate initially on the dantien and then down to my feet and feel the power travelling through my legs to the waist (I’m still working on this).
BREATH:I noticed my breath was beginning to guide the movements, rather than following them. I thought I was going on pretty well but knew enough to know I still had a long way to go on my journey.
I had seen one of Dr Lam’s videos (no DVDs then) and was so impressed I wrote to him and he replied immediately – I WAS EVEN MORE IMPRESSED.
I came along to the first workshop in 1999. It was fabulous and my tai chi took another step forward.
I found myself paying more attention to the internal feeling of tai chi and began to use the tai chi principles in everyday life, I began to move with the flow of events rather than challenge them.
I noticed little things and started using my tai chi teachings for more practical things such as:
- Using the horse stance when I was waiting in the shopping queue. Rather than getting frustrated I used my tai chi principles and practised centring my chi to dantien.
- The bow stance was also very useful on public transport as I could stand and be centred, and I was practising my tai chi at the same time.
- I became aware of the opening and lengthening of the joints, tendons and ligaments, the opening of the shoulders and hips and relaxing into the movement while still maintaining posture and shape, (I’m still working on all these principles and probably will for the rest of my life).
Therefore, no matter what you are doing, whether sitting in a chair, walking along the street, remember what Roberto said at the end of his talk about maintaining an awareness of being in the flow: “It becomes effortless. The only thing that we have to do is be brave - accept the idea that practice is life and life is practice. Trust first the experience of the teachings, there is not time to practice and time to do other things IT’S JUST ONE.”
I’d like to leave you with this last thought. It is not the forms that are important but what you learn when you are learning the forms. My tai chi journey and the friendships I have made are truly wonderful. I wish you all the same.
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This wonderful workshop was presented by Dr Lam in Mackay, Qld Australia on 1-2 July 2006. Forty very lucky (and dedicated) tai chi students and leaders from all parts of the state spent 2 days immersed in the extra layers of the TCA form that Dr Lam exposed us to through lively discussion, fun and practical work.
If you get a chance to attend this workshop, grab it with both hands and your TCA will take on a whole new meaning. Thank you Dr Lam for bringing us a new insight into our TCA. As usual you have left us all inspired to keep practising!
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My students are a constant source of amazement and inspiration. I remember when Gaylene Adamthwaite started my tai chi classes 12 months ago, she had very limited movement and had been under the care of physios, doctors and on medication for years. She was in constant pain, and muscle spasms made movement and breathing extremely difficult.
I was determined that she would stay with me and improve her health. We trained carefully, and slowly her balance improved along with her posture and breathing. Gaylene enjoyed her class and the friendly atmosphere. Our classes are lots of fun with the serious goal of self-development and healing, while training in the depths of tai chi. Gaylene is one of many of my students who experience this growth. She now does three classes each week and her health continues to improve.There’s a real challenge in making a new student comfortable in an established class, especially when they are unwell. Gaylene has taught me so much, and continues to do so.
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We have just completed our wave of World Tai Chi Day celebrations, eventually having to forgo our beautiful backdrop of the Murray River because of the much-awaited RAIN! We had 20 mm overnight - the first downpour of this magnitude for 14 months. We were more than happy to go indoors.
The event went ahead with great success. Students from 4 localities in northern Victoria - Numurkah, Yarroweyah, Cobram and Tocumwal - got together and went through our movements. We all had fun, got to know each other and went away with many new friends. We finished the morning with a great country-style picnic outdoors - the sun did eventually come out.
The success of this day has prompted a regular event to be held, moving to each class locality, every two months. What a great idea! The feedback has been very motivating.
I know that our World Tai Chi Day won’t be stopping with this one.
Wenrick Tai Chi for Health
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Australia’s first free bowel cancer screening program is now operating. Bowel cancer is the most common internal cancer in Australia and kills about 90 people each week.
Bowel cancer is a malignant tumour that develops on the lining of the large bowel (colon) or rectum. Most develop from tiny growths called adenomas (polyps). The risk increases from the age of 40 years, rising sharply from age 50.
What is ‘screening’?
Testing for cancer in healthy patients before symptoms develop, is called screening. Polyps or bowel cancers often release small amounts of blood into the bowel motion that can be detected with a simple chemical test called a ‘faecal occult blood test’ (FOBT).
Testing is usually performed in the privacy of your home. Using a special brush or probe, you simply transfer a small sample of bowel motion to the test kit on two separate occasions. Then post the kit to the laboratory for analysis.
In a recent Australian pilot study, 1 in 10 people had a positive test result (blood in the stool sample). Of these, 1 in 5 were found to have an advanced polyp or bowel cancer on further testing.
What if I have symptoms?
Symptoms often appear only when the disease is more advanced. They include:
- Bleeding from the bowel
- A change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
- Abdominal pain
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately. A colonoscopy is usually advised: under sedation, a narrow tube with a tiny camera attached is inserted into the bottom to examine the inside of the large bowel.
The national screening program
Australians turning 55 or 65 years of age between 1 May 2006 and 30 June 2008 and those previously involved in the pilot program will be invited to participate in the free bowel cancer screening program. Eligible patients will be mailed a FOBT test kit to use at home.
If your test is positive, your GP will arrange further investigation, usually a colonoscopy during which polyps can be removed. If a cancer is found it will usually require surgery.
What if I don’t qualify?
Screening for bowel cancer is recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council for all Australians over 50. If you do not qualify for the free screening program you can still be tested. Your doctor can arrange this. For more information go to www.cancerscreening.gov.au.
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I just came across this exercise suggested for the over 60s to build muscle strength in the arms and shoulders. It seems so easy so I thought that I'd pass it on to some of my friends and family. The article suggested doing it three days a week.
- Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side. With a 2kg potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax.
- Each day, you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer. After a couple of weeks, move up to 5kg potato bag. Then 25kg potato bag and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 50k potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute (I'm at this level).
- After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each of the bags.
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Researching the benefits of positive emotions is much more appealing than studying depression or the effects of overwhelming stress. University of Michigan research psychologist, Barbara Frederickson, is studying the effects of positive emotions such as joy, contentment and interest. Joy, according to Frederickson, includes exhilaration and amusement. Positive emotions support radiant health when they serve as antidotes to negative emotions. Beyond undoing harmful stress effects, daily doses of positive emotions help build physical, mental and social resources. Further, as they help us to recover from today’s stress, positive emotions help us grow more resilient to future life challenges.
We get benefits from the positive emotions that a relaxing tai chi workout produces. In similar ways, enjoying a funny story and having a good laugh increases our joyful experiences, thus contributing to radiant health.
Making regular deposits in our positive emotions account is viewed as a critical necessity if we are to function optimally in the challenges we confront daily. Professor Frederickson describes this search for joy, contentment and interest as an investment we all should consider.
Positive sources of humor and laughter contribute to radiant health. Here are a few more opportunities to have a laugh. Feel free to pass these bumper sticker 'one-liners' along to family and friends.
- Honk if you love peace & quiet.
- Ever stop to think and forget to start again?
- I brake for no apparent reason.
- Chaos. Panic. Disorder. My work is done here.
- Ambivalent? Well yes and no.
- Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
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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.