Newsletter #59 - July 2006
In this issue:
-- From Me to You, by Dr Lam
--Some thoughts on Tai Chi and Seniors, from a Senior Teacher of Seniors, by Annemarie Groth-Juncker MD
-- Teaching Tai Chi Effectively: Take a Hike, by Patricia Lawson, M.S.Ed.
-- To Practice the Fundamental is To Return to the Source,by Jeff Morris
-- Dr Lam shares a letter with your from Sherry Jones
-- Which Came First? Was it Laughter or a Sense of Humor? by Dr Bob McBrien
-- More Humor from Dr Bob McBrien
The one-week tai chi workshop in Indiana, USA was a phenomenal success. The 95 participants, 18 instructors and staff had a great time and learned a lot. The venue, 160-year-old St Mary’s College of the Woods, was amazingly beautiful, with tall trees, green grass and beautiful buildings. The energy of the college harmonised wonderfully well with tai chi. It was a week of sensational tai chi development, and exchange of friendships and energy. And I enjoyed interacting with and learning from so many amazing people.
Annemarie Groth-Juncker, a 75-year-old, semi-retired physician, internist/geriatrician and a participant in the “Exploring the Depth of Sun-style” class, does wonderful tai chi and certainly doesn’t look anywhere near her age. We exchanged ideas about helping people with tai chi and doing research on tai chi. I got the feeling that she’s not really retiring but rather changing her focus in life. Enjoy Anne-Marie’s article about “Tai Chi for Seniors From a Senior”.
Pat Lawson, a master trainer and tai chi teacher for 30 years, also has a Master’s degree in education. Pat gave a great talk at the workshop on teaching tai chi effectively. Her talk will be the first of three on this topic featured in this newsletter. The other two, by Russ Smiley and Cynthia Fels, will appear in future issues.
At the workshop, Jeff Morris gave a talk on “To Practice the Fundamental is to Return to the Source”. Jeff has great compassion for people with chronic conditions and his talk moved many people to tears.
During the week, I was inundated with participants telling me what a great time they had at the workshop and how much they had learned. The amazing thing is that everyone thinks their instructor is the best! Sherry Jones from Texas sent me an email that I am sharing with you in this newsletter.
Summing up the week-long United States workshop, it was a great success and I hope you will all join us again next year. Just to give you a sneak preview, it’s most likely that we will be going back to St. Mary’s College of the Woods in Indiana.
Have you heard about laughter clubs or laughter yoga? In an article in this issue, Dr Bob McBrien tells us about laughter yoga, the creation of Dr Madan Kataria, a family physician from Mumbai, India, and how finding the joy in laughter is very important and contributes to good health. Dr Bob also shares some humor about lawyers with us.
Product Review of the Month Winner
The most useful product review of the month came from Paul, who says about the 24 Forms DVD: “I can attest to the benefits of this simple practice already, as after each session I feel noticeably calmer, more centred and even better balanced. I notice an increased awareness of my body and the way it moves throughout the day.”You can read Paul’s full review on the website.
Thank you Paul for your review. We would like to send you a tai chi music CD for being our Review of the Month winner. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to give us your postal address.
Enter your review of any of our products on our website and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
Product of the Month for July: Purchase the Tai Chi for Beginners DVD/video and the Tai Chi for Beginners handbook for $AU 32.90; $US 21.90 - and save $10.
Tai Chi for Beginners is an innovative program with six easy steps to make learning tai chi enjoyable for beginners, and is safe and suitable for anyone. It can be bought as a DVD or video and is now available in French and German as well as English, Spanish, Italian and Chinese.
For more information and to order your copy at our special price go to our online shop.
Tai Chi for Arthritis: Please note that the DVD and video of this is now available in French and German as well as English, Spanish, Italian and Chinese. For more information and to order your copy go to our online shop.
July 22-23, Sydney, Australia:I will be conducting a Tai Chi for Arthritis instructors' training and update workshop. Anyone, with or without prior tai chi experience, can come to learn the program, but only eligible participants will receive certification to teach it. Find out more about the workshop and the requirements for certification.
September 2-3, Christchurch, New Zealand: I will be conducting the first ‘Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis’ workshop, designed to improve your tai chi. Anyone who can remember the Tai Chi for Arthritis Part I and II set can come and benefit from my personal teaching. The course is suitable for instructors as well as students. Find out more
In September and October, I’ll be doing a series of workshops in New Zealand, Europe and the USA. You can find more information about all our workshops in thecalendar.
I look forward to meeting and working with some of you in these workshops.
Photos of past workshopsare posted on our website. You can order a CD with professional quality digital photos in full size (each photo has 8 million pixels – large enough to print a sharp A3 photo.) You can use them for non-commercial tai chi promotion, your class advertisement, private viewing, print them out in full colour, or send to your friends. Please note that the photos are copyrighted and you should contact us if you wish to use any of them commercially. To place your order go to the workshop photos page on our website.
Paul Lam, M.D.
back to the top
Why do seniors flock to Tai Chi? What are they looking for?
- We are looking for an exercise we can do despite being old and having limitations.
- We are looking for the freedom of moving like young people, of freeing ourselves of the box of stiff dignity we built around us. We want to learn to stand on one leg again and we want to make those big graceful moves.
- We want something we can do when we hurt, when we feel stiff.
- We are looking for a way to help ourselves.
- We are looking for a hope, even a promise to remain active and independent.
What makes someone a senior citizen?
- Not all seniors are alike, some are less than 50, others are over 90!
- Becoming senior comes with some decrease in physical function, often with some difficulty hearing or seeing or trouble with memory.
- Seniors have a long life experience, and hopefully they have acquired wisdom. They don’t need to be talked down to by young people who don’t understand yet. They resent being talked to as if they were children, they don’t like to be called “honey” or “deary”.
- They have become aware that most of life and career are behind. The times when they were important and needed have gone. This is hard to accept.
- They often feel inadequate in the face of new developments and technology. They have experience and wisdom, but realize that in many areas they can compete no longer with young people. So they dream and talk about the old times.
- Many are tormented by fear of the future: physical dysfunction, financial need, loss of loved ones, loneliness, and death.
How to teach Seniors
- Affirm that everybody in class has limitations and that we are not in competition with each other. Each one is practicing for his/her proper health.
- Encourage everybody to only move in their comfort zone. “Don’t listen to the teacher or compare with the other students, but listen to your own body.” “Sit down and rest for a while if you are too tired.”
- Praise their efforts. They need the self-confidence more than young people.
- Correct gently, not right away, while they are struggling. Correct only if you think that they could do it the right way. If they seem unable, allow them to enjoy the movement their own way.
- Make sure they can hear you. If necessary use a microphone.
- Ask them to tell you if any movements hurt. If so, make modifications. Explain that working against pain causes the muscles to go into spasms which cause more pain and a set- back. The joints will allow opening if they know that we stay in our comfort zone. Gradually the comfort zone will expand. It is not “No pain, no gain”, but “No brain, no gain”.
What Tai Chi did for me
I am a 75-year-old semi-retired physician, internist/geriatrician. Ten years ago I suffered a serious break of a leg. After a couple of years of physical therapy, exercising in water and with weights I finally was able to walk quite well again, but had lost my sense of balance. I planned to retire. I heard that Tai Chi might help my poor balance. The search for a good teacher led me to a wonderful Tai Chi master in whose classes I have been practicing ever since.
After three months I noticed improvement in my balance, and my broken leg muscles reached equal size. I started to look forward to getting up in the morning and going in the garden to do my Tai Chi. I felt my back getting stronger and healthier. For about 40 years I had spent time on my back every year. Now, in spite of bad looking x-rays, my back is fine, and I can help lift patients again.
At a time when I was ready to retire and accept “old age”, I found new balance and strength and joy in my life. My husband calls it my renaissance.
Now I want to help others discover what I have found. I started teaching seniors four years ago. My classes are growing in senior centers, cardiac rehab, a ladies’ club and a nursing home. I feel that my present teaching may be benefiting my fellow seniors more than what my medical practice has been able to do for them.
back to the top
In order to teach effectively, you must know where the student is, and where you want him or her to get to - the goal.
Think of a Hiking Map. You could put an X where the start is, and another X at your destination. You must cross the terrain between to get to your goal. What is the goal of a tai chi teacher? To me, the general goal of teaching is to get the student to think a new thought. Since tai chi is a mind-body exercise, that goal for me becomes to think a new thought, move in a new way, feel a new feeling.
My first tai chi teacher, Sifu Kutsenkow in Pittsburgh, used to call the list of movements “the map”. To teach tai chi, you need the map. You need to know the start and finish, but also you must have been along the path yourself in order to know its twists and turns, the terrain. To stand and look up a hillside, one might think the fastest way to the top is a straight line, but the teacher may know where the obstacles are, where the footholds along the way are. Alfred Korzbybski said. “Have a map but remember the map is NOT the territory”.
There are five basic principles of teaching that I learned in University; these same principles guide us toward effectively teaching tai chi. They are:
Plan the long-term objectives, then break it down for class objectives. Be realistic in the number of new skills, movements, or concepts you will teach in each class. I like to pick a concept and focus on that for two, three, even four classes using different skills or drills in each class to aid in its discovery.
The single best way to motivate your students, according to Dr Sang H Kim, Teaching Martial Arts, is to be motivated yourself. Continue your own training and you will naturally want to share, with excitement, deeper skills and discoveries with your students. In order for people to sustain their interest, they need to see that tai chi chuan practice is indeed like peeling an onion, with layer after layer. Try to find out when a student starts a program just what he or she hopes to achieve through the tai chi program. Is it better balance? Less pain? Friendship? Competition preparation? I try to keep a little card for each student, because I teach in a variety of settings and I need to track both short and long term students. Find a system that works for you to track progress and keep you on course. Goals may change as students progress.
It seems like a paradox, but the most effective instructors will teach the class as a unified whole but give each person some individual pointers to help them reach their goal. Tai chi is an ancient art and its basic principles must be maintained. Yet by recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, we maximize our potential. Adhere to the principles and adapt when necessary. Instruction can be individualized to accommodate different learning styles. (This point will be addressed in a future article in this newsletter by Cyndy Fels.)
Repetition is how the physical movements become mental and spiritual expression. Educate your students about the benefits of practice and repetition. Give them guidelines. I now hand out a one-page form to cover expectations for beginners and it includes a paragraph on the purpose of class being to learn new material to enrich their practice, and that the student is responsible for practicing in between classes in order to be able to absorb new information. Students often ask, “How much should I practice?” This depends on their goals. Mantak Chia once said “Five minutes a day is more beneficial than 50 minutes once a week”. Practice can include working at various speeds, visualization, isolated techniques, or the whole set.
After each class, and after each term, evaluate your students’ progress as well as your own effectiveness. What did work and what did not? What might you change? It is about your own teaching method as well as the students’ absorption of knowledge. Generally to assess, you need to appraise, get feedback, revise, reinforce and follow-up. (This is rather like the Stepwise Progressive Teaching Method taught by Paul Lam).
Remember, tai chi is all about flow and change. Nothing stays the same. Keep your center. Keep your cool. Go with the flow. The best teacher hopes for the student to exceed and surpass him/her. The basic principles of effective teaching are easy to remember if you Take a H I K E:
- H ave a plan
- I ndividualize
- K eep them going, K eep them practicing
- E valuate
Remember what Takuan once said: “One may explain water but the mouth will not get wet.”
Pat Lawson, President-Elect of the Tai Chi for Health Community in the USA, is a Master Trainer and teaches Tai Chi programs in Stuart, Florida.
back to the top
I received an email request from a Tai Chi for Arthritis instructor asking for my thoughts about what should we, as instructors, consider when we lose some of our tai chi students, due to illness, and end of life issues, or they tell us the tai chi class is too much for them.
The question was further framed with a request for some discussion for healthy boundaries for instructors, and how to adapt tai chi classes for individuals whose capabilities decline.
I have great respect for tai chi instructors, and I am often touched by their compassion and commitment to their classes and to their students. I would suggest that if an instructor notices some participants are having difficulty, they follow the safety precautions Dr Lam has provided and our Three Golden Rules. When we use the Three Golden Rules and use seated visualization techniques and seated tai chi sessions, it can also be of help to everyone.
In some ways I may not be the best one to discuss boundaries, for I see no separation between those facing end of life and myself.
While safety and professional ethics are of primary importance, the last thing someone with a terminal illness or declining physical capacity needs is to run into a wall of protocol.
What they want is the Truth, Understanding and some Good Advice.
The Truth, is the day we are born, we begin to age. With aging comes illness, suffering and we all will experience death.
Understanding, is as much about our intentions as much as understanding is about the resultant factors of our experiences.
What do I mean by this? Our intentions produce results, the tones of our experiences.
Some of us practice tai chi because we want to learn, and as we become knowledgeable we have a great desire to help others, by sharing our understanding, so we become teachers.
So when a tai chi student comments that due to health, or end of life, they need to stop their tai chi practice, I say, “Please forgive me, for I have failed you”. I have failed you because while you were strong, I did not teach you how to be soft.
I have failed you because I did not inspire you to use your will, not your force. To raise up your spirit to subdue your mind and then how to use your qi to command the movements of your body.
I have failed you because I did not teach you the Fundamental Principles of Tai Chi - practice, practice, practice all to prepare for this moment, our most important performance of our life…
By teaching the Fundamental Principles, our intention is to experience the results, the Joy of Serenity, returning to the Source of our being and non-being.
As our wise Master Trainer Shelia Ray said so well:
“Because there comes a point in our practice where we must learn to let go of the form, the perfectionism, and of the ego. As we begin tai chi, the ego is good because it helps us to see what we can achieve. It's powerful, fun and exciting. But like anything we practice to learn, e.g., piano, dance, even cooking, there comes a time when we must let go of trying to follow the prescribed pattern and let the art move through our souls. It's at this point by letting go of the form we can realize the true meaning for our study. It is to integrate the tai chi principles into our daily lives.”
And I would add, to better understand how the principles apply to the end of our lives.
In Buddhism, we practice the Paramettas, the first is Dana Parametta – the practice of relinquishment. The relinquishment of the dualism of opposites, which includes all ideas of being and non-being; love and hate; pure and impure; concentration and distraction.
To truly relinquish, means giving. To give means you have to let go.
In tai chi, to move and to enter the flow, body and mind fall away, age and sickness are forgotten, pain and stiffness; right and wrong; and even time can have no meaning.
It is at this point we come face to face with the Truth of our Nature, the Truth of our Spirit.
When the wind blows, the grass bends down.
When the water runs, streams form.
In tai chi we distinguish substantial and insubstantial; what is hard and what is effortless; what is important and what is not.
Each moment as it arises, you come to trust yourself.
Knowing in each moment you will know what to do, in the right way, at the right time.
I say to you, before you go, Remember.
To practice the Fundamental of Tai Chi is to return to the Source.
To return to the Source is to experience Serenity.
The Wisdom That has No Teacher.
back to the top
Dear Dr Paul Lam,
I want to thank you, your staff, and your trainers for a wonderful pre-conference and the week-long workshop in Terre Haute, Indiana. I feel I have gained much in knowledge about teaching Tai Chi for health as well as growth in performing Tai Chi. The atmosphere at St. Mary of the Woods College was so peaceful, serene, and beautiful. Getting to meet many compassionate and devoted friends in Tai Chi who all have the same goal, to help others to improve their health with Tai Chi, was an experience I will never forget. I feel I came away with some life-long friends.
On a personal note, I hope you can forgive me for disagreeing with you on teaching the Tai Chi for Osteoporosis at the next pre-conference workshop. I should never have questioned your wisdom, expertise, and experience. After viewing the Tai Chi for Osteoporosis DVD, I feel that this course would be an excellent choice. Just when I thought your instruction and DVDs could not be better, I was wrong. This DVD is now probably one of my favorites. It has wonderful examples of your teaching methods and l like the movements you use.
Thanks again for the wonderful experience of this past week and your encouraging comments.
May all your dreams come true.
Tai Chi for Health Instructor, Burleson, Texas
back to the top
Have you heard about laughter clubs or laughter yoga? Laughter yoga is the creation of Dr Madan Kataria, a family physician from Mumbai, India.
Laughter yoga combines yoga and forced laughter. Groups gather in the morning for 20 to 30 minutes and practice a variety of laughter exercises. Dr. Kataria compares practicing forced laughter to yoga exercises that contribute to a healthy digestive system and other benefits. Laughter yoga is described as a new navigation program to help you travel through life.
To learn more about laughter yoga go to: www.laughteryoga.org/about-laughter-yoga.php
My understanding of laughter yoga is that it is mainly a form of physical exercise. A side benefit is the cognitive stimulation we think of as a sense of humor. We need a bit more than a work-out. Finding the joy in laughter is very important and contributes to good health. To find the lighter side of life is one of the keys to longevity. When we are tickled by the punch line in a joke, our total self, body, mind and spirit, feels joyful. The result is more holistic than laughter yoga exercises.
The following story with its punch line is an example of the holistic humor/laughter experience I recommend:
My cousin George asked his wife Martha to accompany him to his appointment with their family doctor. George was to get the results of the various lab work the doctor had ordered.
George was called in first and after a brief period came out and told Martha, “The doctor needs to see you now.”
Martha was greeted by the doctor, who said George was under so much stress that his health was in danger. When Martha asked what could be done she was told she needed to make life easy for George. “Don’t ask him to do all those chores, let him relax. He can watch any program on TV, take naps and you should cook his favorite foods for him."
Finishing, the doctor said, “I want you do to everything he asks that will make his life comfortable. You need to know that he could die.”
Driving home, George asked Martha, “Did the doctor tell you what was wrong?”
Martha said, “Yes.”
George said, “Well what else did he tell you?”
Martha was quiet for a minute, looked over at George and said, “You’re going to die.”
back to the top
People often ask, “If positive forms of humor promote health, does negative or put-down humor promote illness?” In some cases humor that puts down public figures or an institution can serve as a way to reducing stress. For example, when we poke fun at lawyers we do not mean to be unkind to one person. We are having a laugh and poking fun at lawyers in general and it feels good.
Here are bits of fun taken from court reporters' dictation. Yes, lawyers somewhere did conduct the following cross examinations. All the examples were cross examinations of medical examiners.
Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A: All my autopsies have been performed on dead people.
Q: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
Q: Doctor, did you say he was shot in the woods?
A: No, I said he was shot in the lumbar region.
Q: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
A: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
Q: And Mr. Dennington was dead at the time?
A: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy.
Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
Q: Did you check for breathing?
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?
A: It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.
Source: The Web excerpted from Humor in the Court ('77) and More Humor in the Court ('94) by Mary Louise Gilman
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.