Newsletter #58 - June 2006
In this issue:
-- From Me to You, by Dr Lam
--Tai Chi for health, a speech by Dr Paul Lam
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis: a personal experience, by Maureen Worthen
-- Tai Chi to go: Travel light with Tai Chi for Back Pain and Tai Chi in Flight! by Dahlis Roy
-- Take care with herbal medicines, from ‘Your Health’ magazine
-- Dr Bob's Humor
It has been a great privilege to meet and work with so many people during my world workshop tour last month. Last week, in Barcelona, I conducted a Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructors’ Workshop together with Jeff Morris and Roberto Cree, at the Rehabilitation Foundation for people with mental disorders (www.arapdis.org). The Foundation believes in putting people with mental conditions back into normal society and involving them in normal work. In most countries there is some discrimination against these people and it is quite difficult, if not impossible, for them to gain employment. So the Foundation runs its own factories, restaurants and shops, mainly employing their patients and in conjunction with their medical treatment. The head of the Foundation is a psychiatrist, Dr Ramon Blasi, who believes that employment is the most effective way to help people with mental disorders. He also believes that they need physical activity. He has assessed our program, which he has found to be useful for his patients, and the foundation is going to use it in conjunction with his program.
In Barcelona, Jeff and Roberto are working toward forming a Centre of Tai Chi for Health. It was wonderful for me to be there at the beginning of this development, to work with Jeff, Roberto and the many great participants of the workshop. I’ll put the photos of the workshop on the website very soon on the workshop photos page.
This month's articles
'Tai Chi for Health' is a speech I gave at a tai chi event in Melbourne, Australia in March. It was part of the pre-Commonwealth Games activities sponsored by the Ministry of Aged Care, Victoria and was held at the National Gallery of Victoria. Apart from helping promote tai chi for better health, the event was organised with the aim of setting a world record for the biggest gathering of Tai Chi for Arthritis practitioners. It was a great occasion. We broke the world record of for an indoor Tai Chi for Arthritis gathering, with 400 people. Many people came from a long way away, including Maureen, who has also written an article for this newsletter, and was there from Tasmania. There are a few families that I know drove 300kms to be there. Thank you to everybody who was there to promote tai chi. It was certainly a wonderful occasion for all of us.
Maureen from Tasmania tells us her inspiring story about her experiences with teaching the program Tai Chi for Arthritis in Tasmania. She continues to run new classes, including classes for people with lymphoedema.
Dahlis, a regular contributor, gives us some reflections about long distance travel and the usefulness of tai chi.
From 'Your Health' we have an article about herbal medicines. Conventional medicine does not have all the answers and many people are turning to herbal remedies (made from plants) to treat illness and improve wellbeing. However, while some products are very beneficial, many questions remain unanswered.
- Is laughter good for your health? Evidence is now building up to show that laughter really is good medicine. Dr Bob has always believed this and our newsletter wouldn’t be complete without it, so here’s some more humor from Dr Bob. It’s some answers to a science test by school children and will bring a lighter heart for everyone. Thank you Bob.
Our feature product of the month is ‘Overcoming arthritis’
This month, if you purchase any Tai Chi for Arthritis product (that is, Part I or Part II of the video/DVD, the handbook or audio CD) you can get a 50% discount on the book 'Overcoming Arthritis', written by Dr Lam and Judith Horstman.
This book is a practical guide for a more active, pain-free life, it features Dr Paul Lam's innovative Tai Chi for Arthritis Program to relieve pain and promote better quality of life. includes 165 color photos of all movements of the program.
For more information and to order your copy go to our online shop.
A one-week tai chi workshop will be in held in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA from June 5-10. I look forward to seeing some of you there.
In July we will be running a series of workshops in Australia, starting with one from July 1-2 in Mackay, Queensland, ‘Explore the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis’.You can find more information about all our workshops in thecalendar.
Paul Lam, M.D.
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Tai Chi is nature. In nature, you find movement and stillness complimenting each other. Similarly with human beings, we need to be active to keep our joints mobile and be still for the tissue to regenerate. In nature there is calm and stormy weather; likewise our bodies need stress and relaxed times. We need to maintain a balance, as nature is balance. Following nature’s example, harmonising with nature can help us be healthier.
The nature of balance in our modern society has changed greatly. We have too much stillness and not enough exercise. Food is too plentiful so we become unhealthy because of poor diet and lack of exercise. Also we have too much stress and not enough relaxation. Tai chi is effective just as an exercise, but it is a lot more than that. It helps to restore the balance of nature. Tai chi teaches us to deal with challenges in life, not by crashing head on but yielding to absorb the impact and redirecting it to gain better control. With this approach, even though the stressful situations are still the same, tai chi helps us to handle them more effectively. Tai chi works through nature and balance. It is interesting to look at the history of how tai chi has developed.
In the 1670s, Chen Wang-ting, a retired army general, created the original Chen-style tai chi. It was based on Chen’s martial art knowledge, traditional Chinese medicine and the philosophical understanding of nature.
Chen style in appearance is more obviously a martial art. There are low stances, jumping in the air, kicking and explosive punching. As tai chi was based on traditional Chinese medicine and nature, it harmonises yin and yang within oneself and with the universe and facilitates the balance of body and mind. All this gives me a clear impression that tai chi is much more than just a martial art; it is a healing exercise, an art that brings the body and mind in touch with nature and life, and an art for self-growth. Traditionally tai chi is presented as a martial art, but I suspect Chen had created it to be more than just a martial art; he was also intending it to improve health, longevity and to harmonise with nature.
Yang Lu-Chan (1799-1872) is the creator of the most popular tai chi style. Yang learned tai chi from the Chen family and he modified it to form his own style. Yang style has higher stances, slower movements, no jumping and none of the explosive, force delivering movements. He started teaching it to sedentary people for health improvement. This was how tai chi became popular. The popularity came from its accessibility and health benefits.
It was Sun Lu-tang (1861-1932) in his book who was the first to directly promote tai chi for health. Sun-style is the most health-orientated of all the tai chi styles. Sun said that the highest level of tai chi is Dao. Dao is the way of nature. Sun-style emphasises the cultivation of internal energy or qi and has higher stances than Yang’s. It was particularly significant that this concept came from Sun, who was recognised in his time as one of his country’s most powerful martial artists. Sun style has many features including:
- Powerful Qigong. Throughout the Sun-style set, every time you turn, or at every joining movement, there is an Open and Close form. It is an easy form to learn; yet this form has layers of depths within it that enhances qi cultivation and many essential tai chi principles.
- Following Step. Whenever you step forward or backwards, the other foot follows. This is especially useful for health because it releases the tension in the knees and minimises strain injuries. It also improves mobility, especially for people with arthritis, because it makes them move twice as much and integrates well with the breathing techniques to enhance qi developed through the application of tai chi principles.
- Sun style has a flowing rhythm like water in the river, smooth and tranquil with immense power underneath. It is beautiful to watch – and inspires beginners to learn.
- Sun style has a higher stance making it easier for older people, or people with a disability to adapt to.
By focusing on the health-giving aspect, it is possible to integrate the essential tai chi principles to compose an easy-to-learn set suitable for most people. I have worked with panels of tai chi and medical experts to create several simple and effective tai chi for health programs. They keep the learners’ interest by incorporated much depth from the Sun-style into the forms.
My specially designed programs incorporate medical knowledge to further enhance their effectiveness and safety. For example, a panel of medical and tai chi experts, who included Professor John Edmonds, professor of the rheumatology department in University of NSW and Guni Hinchey, a physiotherapist from St George hospital, have used their knowledge to enrich the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. Another program, Tai Chi for Osteoporosis, incorporates the results of recent scientific studies to maximise the health benefits for people suffering from this condition. I see these programs as the best outcome from combining scientific advances with ancient artistry to improve people’s health.
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When I joined a tai chi class in Wollongong over five years ago just to see what it was all about, I never imagined what a beneficial and important part it would play in my life.
After becoming seriously affected by osteoarthritis, I was at a loss as to which direction my life would now take. This is when I decided to look into tai chi and its benefits, and it is most certainly the best thing I could have ever done.
After beginning the class in Wollongong, I found the learning and the exercise kept my body active and my mind challenged, and most importantly it was something I could do without pain. After only a few months I moved to Tasmania, but was able to continue practice with an established group of enthusiasts. Here my love of tai chi was nurtured and when I saw a Tai Chi for Arthritis class advertised here in Burnie, I jumped at the chance to learn it.
I enjoyed it so much that I thought what a wonderful program it would be to share and when the opportunity arose to attend a Leader/Instructor Workshop in Hobart, organised through Arthritis Tasmania, I again jumped at the chance to participate. Then the following month, in June 2005, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be offered two ready-made classes to take over, and I shall be forever grateful for being given the opportunity and the encouragement to teach the program.
I currently run three classes - one in Wynyard and two in Burnie. The Wynyard class commenced last June and participants are now in the final stages of the program. I hope to keep this class running as an ongoing practice group for as long as required.
The two Burnie classes are at different stages of learning. The first class has been running for two years and was initially set up specifically for people with lymphoedema. Participants have completed the full sequence and they too have found the program helps to ease the difficulties they face as a result of their condition.
The second class began last November and they have completed the reverse 12 movements. They are now in the initial stage of the final nine movements while continuing to improve on the previous 21. This class will integrate with the lymphoedema group very shortly to form one larger group which I also hope will continue as a practice group into the future. I intend to run a new class for beginners later in the year in either Burnie or Wynyard, depending on demand.
Although class sizes are fairly modest, they are very worthwhile and great social events. I conduct all classes as a volunteer through Arthritis Tasmania and I can honestly say that being a leader of the Tai Chi for Arthritis Program is an exceptionally enjoyable and rewarding experience. I always tell my classes that I benefit as much from teaching the program, socially, mentally and physically, as they do from learning, and of course we have fun!
For me personally, the program has most certainly exceeded all expectations and I am confident that no matter how physically challenged I may feel in the future, Tai Chi for Arthritis will always be a suitable form of exercise for me to practise.
Tai Chi is a lifelong learning process and the more I practise and teach, the more I get out of it. I might add here that the Tai Chi for Arthritis program should not be restricted only to those who are physically challenged or the older person, but is an activity that can be beneficial to and enjoyed by all.
Finally, if you are familiar with the program and happen to be visiting this beautiful part of Tassie, please look me up on the Tai Chi for Arthritis website and come and join us for tai chi.
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Two trips to Arizona in one month? How will I do it? Long trips have always been a strain for me. How can I overcome these feelings of restlessness, anxiety and even physical pain? I visualized the trips, one by plane with my husband and only one week later, the long drive (30 hours one way) by car with our son. The plane trip is ‘easy’, the long drive, ‘a challenge’. I’ll pack Tai Chi to go!
I began to prepare well in advance by using coping skills for attention deficit disorder. I practiced muscle relaxation techniques, visualizations, and list writing. I gained confidence. I pictured strength and happiness breezing through airports! Daily tai chi practice based on Tai Chi for Back Pain (TCBP) framed by warm-up and cool-down topped my schedule. By experimenting, I found best results with two short tai chi sessions, giving me fast acting pain relief plus time released qi effect. This split routine worked better than one long practice session. Acupressure points recommended for me by my Traditional Chinese Medical Doctor, plus carry-on exercises clipped from Tai Chi in Flight, completed the picture.
Flight of the Phoenix
Travel day dawned chilly and gray as we drove to windy Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Waiting for the shuttle bus in the parking lot, I kept myself warm by practicing Dr. Lam’s ‘Open-Close’. It worked! Travel is rush and wait. We whisked through security, but we waited for a five-hour boarding delay. Instead of reading, I consciously relaxed muscles and joints, deepened breathing, and visualized my form practice. In place of fidgeting, I tai chi walked to keep flexible up and down the terminal. Like a cat, I placed feet down softly on the rock hard floors. ‘Relax, breathe, and think blue!’ Thinking in colors is fun. Blue brings me great peace. I felt tai chi’s relaxed alertness kick in as I watched passengers hurry by or run frantically to catch that plane.
It was 11 pm Chicago time when my husband and I boarded. Too excited to sleep on the flight to Phoenix, I watched jewels of stars above and strung pearls of city lights below, etched in gold, silver, and turquoise. Exercises from Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi in Flight helped me stay limber. My favorite is raise the knee, supported by hands under the knee, to lift and give a gentle stretch to legs and back. When we deplaned at 4 am ‘our’ Michigan time, we were not stiff and could move easily out of our seats. I noticed much younger people groaned as they tried to stand up and exit.
In the sunny Arizona morning, I practiced TCBP in the motel and noted instant increased mental focus and much qi flow for fast-acting results. I concentrated on the first six movements and their reverse, repeating clouds hands back and forth several times. TCBP is easily cut and pasted into a small space or lengthened as time permits. Later we united with two grown daughters and their families for a joyous lunch and college graduation for one of the girls. Walking a long distance through sunny heat to the ceremony, we kept up with the children and young adults! Again tai chi’s stamina helps, a blend of play and rest.
Departure morning, I experimented with a short form of Yang-style tai chi, but noted it was not as effective as TCBP. Out to the airport and lift-off. I repeated seated Tai Chi in flight, stretching for an enjoyable and relaxed homecoming.
One week later, the long drive to Arizona began. After picking up our son in southern Illinois, we drove to on Tulsa, Oklahoma, arriving at 4:30 am. Again, with TC in Flight stretching, travel was fun and easy. At rest stops, we stretched and practiced TCBP. Using Tai Chi in Flight, I kept legs and feet, arms and hands limber in the car, coupled with deep relaxation methods as I watched mountains and desert. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, I joyously practiced under the shadows of dark blue mountains laced with silver clouds.
On this trip another daughter got married, adding to our joy. Returning home the ‘mountain top’ experience was practicing TCBP on an overlook at Sunset Point on I-17. The morning sun toasted the mountains with beautiful painted hues of snow-shadow blue and sunny orange. There was no breeze, perfect stillness, and fine gravel crunched underfoot as I practiced. On the drive home, I remember tai chi stretching at 3 am ‘somewhere in Texas’. Sleep came easily on the trips with relaxing tai chi cool-down.
‘Re-creating’ with ‘Tai Chi PRN’ (as needed), and relaxation strategies is a bargain round trip ticket. Bonus miles include sustained relaxed state and increased travel enjoyment, a balance of inner and outer harmony. Happy homecoming to report no pain or stiffness traveling or returning home, no crash and burn emotions, and no significant jet lag, using combinations of Tai Chi for Back Pain and Tai Chi in Flight! ‘Tai Chi Travel’ works!
Tai Chi Travel 1-2-3!
1) Relax: Consciously ease muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints
2) Breathe: Switch to abdominal breathing to lift anxiety
3) Think Blue: Visualize color, scene, or tai chi forms
Then: Practice on the Mountain!
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Conventional medicine does not have all the answers and many people are turning to herbal remedies (made from plants) to treat illness and improve wellbeing. However, while some products are very beneficial, many questions remain unanswered.
What is the evidence?
Although there is first class scientific evidence for some herbal medicines, the research for others is of poor quality or non-existent. Some preparations may prove to be effective in time, but others may not. Raw herbal medicines and overseas herbal products are not independently tested by the TGA (a government agency which assesses new drugs).
Herbal medicines are also not standardised. Different brands of the one product may have very different ingredients, quality and strength. This can lead to very different results and effects. It is wise to buy reputable brands and stay with the one brand that works for you.
Some remedies with good scientific evidence for their effectiveness include:
- Ginger: nausea e.g. in pregnancy
- St John’s wort: mild depression
- Saw palmetto: prostate enlargement
- Black cohosh: menopausal hot flushes
- Vitex agnus castus: PMS
- Peppermint oil: irritable bowel
- Garlic: blood pressure
- Kava: anxiety
Are they safe?
Herbal medicines are generally low-risk. However, although they are natural, they are not harmless and serious side effects can occur. For example black cohosh can cause liver failure and echinacea can result in severe allergic reactions.
Many herbal medicines should be stopped before surgery as they can increase bleeding (e.g. garlic, ginkgo) or cause sedation (e.g. kava, valerian).
Others (e.g. ginseng, saw palmetto) should not be used in pregnancy. Most have not been sufficiently tested to rule out harm to the baby. It is also best not to use herbal medicines when breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Like all medicines, herbal products can interact with conventional drugs causing side effects or making the drugs less effective. For example, St John’s wort can lessen the effect of warfarin (a medicine used to thin the blood) and reduce the potency of the contraceptive pill, leading to pregnancy. Always tell your doctor if you are taking herbal medicines.
All treatment, whether conventional or herbal, requires an accurate diagnosis first. It is also vital to ensure that a serious condition is not missed. If you have a health concern, see your doctor for a check up before seeking treatment.
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The innocence of children helps adults learn to use non-offensive, healthy forms of humor. The following are answers a career science teacher saved after reading hundreds of school childrens' answers to tests.
Childrens' Science Exam Answers
Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.
Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.
Q: How is dew formed?
A: The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.
Q: How can you delay milk turning sour?
A: Keep it in the cow.
Q: What are steroids?
A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.
Q: What happens to your body as you age?
A: When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.
Q: What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A: He says good-bye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.
Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A: Premature death.
Q: Give the meaning of the term ‘Cesarean Section’.
A: The Cesarean Section is a district in Rome.
Q: How are the main parts of the body categorized? (eg, abdomen.)
A: The body is consisted into three parts - the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain; the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels, A, E, I, O, and U.
Q: What is the fibula?
A: A small lie.
Q: What does ‘varicose’ mean?
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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.