Newsletter #62 - October 2006
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
--Staying connected to the source, by Susan Scheuer
--Research talk, by Stephanie Taylor, MD PhD
-- I'd make it compulsory reading, says Fiona Black in an open letter to Cynthia Fels
--How tai chi has turned my life around, a letter to Dr Lam, from Wayne Barnden
-- Healthy humor and fun, by Dr Bob McBrien
Over last thirty plus years my tai chi has evolved through different stages. I started learning tai chi to improve my health, particularly to help me lessen the impact of arthritis. Later, I was fascinated with the martial art aspects of tai chi and, as my knowledge of tai chi and skills have matured, I’ve come to understand that the ultimate purpose of tai chi is as a very effective art for self-growth.
Tai chi’s essential principles clearly show its ultimate aim. Mr Sun Lu-tang, the creator of Sun-style tai chi, said that the ultimate achievement of tai chi is to understand the Dao – the way of nature. Tai chi enhances the person from the inside out, leading to a strengthening of the inner spiritual self as well as the physical self. Tai chi helps us to achieve a more serene and fulfilled life through awareness and growth of the self. A practitioner who achieves this level is more balanced and in harmony with themself, with people around them and with nature.
With this in mind, we have decided to make the theme for Sydney’s January 2007 annual workshop, ‘Nurturing the self’. For more information about this workshop please go to the workshop calendar page on the website.
Mental and physical health is the key to self-growth, and the international Tai Chi for Health conference in Korea, in December 2007, is an ideal opportunity for us all to expand our knowledge and skills by sharing our understanding of the medical and artistic aspects of tai chi. Anyone interested in tai chi can participate in the conference. For more information, go to the conference website at www.taichiforhealthconference.org. Hope you can come.
I'm happy to say we finally did it. My book, co-authored with Nancy Kaye, ‘Tai Chi for Beginners and the 24 Forms’ is now on the market. It took us close to three years to plan, write, and produce the book, and thanks to our publisher and others involved, it turned out to be absolutely beautiful, both editorially and graphically. I'll publish a review of it in my next newsletter.
In this month's newsletter:
- Susan Scheuer is a senior trainer who believes it’s really important for instructors to aim consistently to foster an atmosphere in their class where students feel it’s OK for them to be who they are and feel comfortable, whatever their condition and capabilities. Read Susan’s article
- Stephanie TaylorMD PhD, in her article, ‘Research talk’ tells us about the Tai Chi Research Bibliography, which is now available on the Tai Chi for Health Community website, www.taichiforhealthcommunity.org. The bibliography is a list of research articles from 1981 to 2006, followed by a brief paragraph discussing the results. The studies show some interesting trends. Read Stephanie's article
- Fiona Black shares with us a letter she wrote to Cynthia Fels about Cynthia’s article in the last newsletter, ‘The learning styles buster’. Fiona thinks Cynthia’s article should be compulsory reading for all tai chi teachers.Read Fiona's letter
- Wayne Barnden, a sufferer from severe depression, has been taking tai chi classes since 2003 and in a letter to Dr Lam says: ‘I sincerely believe that tai chi has turned my life around and I would not be making such good progress without its benefits.’Read Wayne's letter
- In ‘Healthy humor and fun’, Dr Bob McBrien tells us how when we look for healthy humor to brighten each day we should use the acronym H*U*M*O*R as a guideline.Read Dr Bob's article
Win a prize in our new competition
Tai chi is practised by people of all ages, from young children to seniors. We’ve decided to hold a competition to find out what is the biggest spread of ages within one tai chi class. These may be people within one family who attend your class (for example, grandmother, mother and children) or people not related to each other. Send in a photo and story about your class by 31 January 2007 and win a prize valued at more than AUD$100. You’ll receive autographed copies of my two new books, ‘Teaching Tai Chi Effectively’ and ‘Tai Chi for Beginners and the 24 Forms’, and the DVD of ‘Tai Chi for Older Adults’ and ‘Tai Chi 4 Kidz’. Email your story and photo to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your signed approval for me to use the photos and story in my newsletter.
Product of the month: ‘Tai Chi for Beginners and the 24 Forms’ - book
Buy a copy of my new book, co-authored with Nancy Kaye, ‘Tai Chi for Beginners and the 24 Forms’ this month and you will get 20% off the regular price. For more information about this book and to order a copy, go to the online shop on my website. When making your purchase, please quote SP1006 to get your special discount.
Product review of the month
The most helpful product review this month came from Joseph Wilson. Joe said about the 24 Forms DVD:
‘Before seeing your DVD, I had never seen the 24 Forms and I did not know that one could compete in Tai Chi. You have opened up a new world to me …Thanks again, I am looking forward to many more of your products and maybe even a certification in my future.’ You can read Joe’s full review in the Forum on the website.
Thanks Joe for your review. We would like to send you a tai chi music CD for being our winner. Please email us at email@example.com with your postal address so we can send your prize to you.
Enter your review of any of our products in the Forum and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
You can find out about Tai Chi for Health workshops conducted around the world by me or my master trainers on the workshops calendar page of the website.
Paul Lam, M.D.
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A personal priority for me, as an instructor, is to do my own Tai Chi work (or is it play?) – to stay calm, grounded and in tune with the Universe. The more centered I am, the more I feel connected to each of my students in class. When I am able to be quiet and still inside and align myself with All-That-Is, then I can more readily call forth and utter the words that are needed for that particular group at that particular time.
I feel it’s really important for us as instructors to aim consistentlyto foster an atmosphere where our students feel it’s OK for them to be who they are, and that whatever their condition and capabilities (bearing in mind that these often differ from week to week) they can feel comfortable in our class. We should endeavor to make every member of the class feel valued for who they are and for their unique contribution to the group energy.
Some students can be really hard on themselves and hold unrealistic expectations of how well they ‘should’ be able to do, or they worry about the expectations (real or imagined) that others have about them.
In my classes I explain that we are not trying to be ‘perfect’ – we are simply trying to do a little better each time we come together to practice our Tai Chi form.
I have found that students appreciate it when they realize that I’m not trying to be perfect either. Sometimes I make a mistake. My reaction? I usually shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Well, let’s go through that sequence again for my benefit!’ At that point there’s often an audible sigh of relief as they laugh with me and realize that it’s OK to make a mistake. With the laughter comes relaxation. After all, if we get into a state of anxiety for fear of making a wrong move, that would be completely counter-productive. How can we ever hope to ‘flow like water in a river’ if we are tense and uptight, afraid of making an error?
I like my students to share their wins about how Tai Chi is helping them in life, as I try to encourage them to apply the Tai Chi principles to all kinds of other activities. So we talk about Tai Chi driving, standing with good body alignment in the check-out line, using abdominal breathing when we feel stressed, and so on.
If we can create a safe, caring, inclusive atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to work at their own comfort level, then we are by default discouraging the kind of atmosphere where students are over-exerting themselves or even trying to out-do each other.
Setting goals for our Tai Chi practice is good, so long as those goals are realistic and achievable. When we are working with the elderly and infirm, we have to ask ourselves: Is it realistic to expect improvement in a person’s condition or ability? Perhaps an appropriate goal at a certain stage in life might be simply to maintain a particular level of comfort whilst moving the body.
Of course there comes a time in everyone’s life when it is time to let go of this physical body. We in the West generally have a hard time with this. Indeed medical professionals are trained (and expected) to save life and extend life at all costs. And it can be costly, in my opinion, not only in financial terms but also in terms of the person’s emotional and spiritual well-being.
When an aging student tells us that they can’t manage in class any more, should we feel disappointed? Guilty? Responsible? Since we are just a part of the natural flow, part of the continuous cycle of life and death, my feeling is that we can only encourage our students (at whatever stage they are in this process) to use the fundamental Tai Chi principles we have taught them as a tool to stay connected to the Source.
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I am happy to announce that the Tai Chi Research Bibliography will be available on the Tai Chi for Health Community website, www.taichiforhealthcommunity.org. This is a list of research articles followed by a brief paragraph discussing the results. The studies are listed with the most recent years first. It is quite long (75 pages!) spanning June 2006 to 1981.
There were some interesting trends in the studies. The number of published research studies is increasing rapidly. There were 57 published in the last 18 months and only 11 in all of 2000. The year 1984 saw only one published study.
The most common areas of research were fall prevention, balance control and cardiovascular endurance. There was also a gait analysis study of Tai Chi stepping. One of the most interesting studies was an analysis of injuries in the martial arts. They looked at the frequency of injuries that required time off training. Aikido and Tae Kwondo had 51 and 59% respectively, whereas Tai Chi had only 14%. The majority of injuries were not in beginners, but practitioners with more than 3 years of experience.
Looking at the 2005 National Institute of Health Funding, three studies were funded - two studying heart failure and another studying knee osteoarthritis. The Harvard study of Tai chi and heart failure is more fully described on their website www.osher.hms.harvard.edu/r_trials.asp.
We will be updating the research bibliography every 6-12 months. These will be separate files and hence shorter! It is an exciting time to be practicing Tai Chi. We can look forward to greater acceptance as more research is published.
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The talk you did at the workshop in June has just appeared in Paul's newsletter and I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading it. If I could I would make it compulsory reading for all Tai Chi teachers, as a large number of them seem to think that there is only one way to teach and consequently only one way to learn. As I was reading it I could see you and the Yang sisters as you appeared at the workshop. As soon as you can get people to laugh about something the lesson really goes home and they appreciate the message without realising that they are learning something. (My family will be wondering why I have a huge grin on my face!)
Memories are made of this!
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Dear Dr Lam,
On the 9th of May 2003 I had a nervous breakdown whilst working as a Postal Manager for Australia Post, Cardiff, NSW.
This was the result of severe depression, which has been traced back to my childhood: my two brothers and my mother and father have all suffered with varying degrees of this illness since their early years, so as you can see, it runs in our family.
As a result of my breakdown I could no longer continue to work and after twelve months of sick leave I decided to retire from the workforce. This was effective from the 14th of July 2004.
In the middle of September 2003 I decided to accompany my wife, Jeanette, to Cheryl Lee’s Tai Chi Classes which were then being held at South Newcastle Leagues Club.
Jeanette and myself have attended these classes on Mondays and Thursdays ever since and I have also occasionally participated in Cheryl’s display team.
Discussions have also been held with my psychiatrist about Tai Chi and he continuously encourages me to attend classes, as he believes it is contributing to the improvement and he is now recommending it to other patients as well.
I sincerely believe that Tai Chi has turned my life around and I would not be making such good progress without its benefits.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Tai Chi to any persons suffering from similar conditions.
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When we look for healthy humor to brighten each day we use the acronym HUMOR as a guideline.
Humor is non-toxic when it:
- Helps reduce stress or tension;
- Unblocks the person from the narrow thinking distress creates and frees thinking for solving problems;
- Moves people closer together through play, sharing, laughter and having fun;
- Opens the neural pathways to creative thinking and optimism; and
- Reminds the person of other experiences with laughter and fun.
The following story can help you power up your H*U*M*O*R energy.
A graduate student conducted research titled ‘Pavlov’s Pigeons’ as his Master’s degree thesis.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student spent an entire summer going to the Harvard University football field every day.
Wearing a black and white striped shirt, the student walked up and down the field for ten or fifteen minutes, threw birdseed all over the field, blew a whistle as he walked and when he finished walked off the field.
At the end of the summer, it came time for the first Harvard home football game. The referee, dressed in his official black and white striped shirt, walked onto the field and blew his referee’s whistle to start the game.
The game was delayed for 30 minutes waiting for the flock of pigeons to get off the playing field.
Yes, the student received his degree.
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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.