Newsletter #52 - December 2005
In this issue:
-- From Me to You by Dr Lam
-- First Aid by Lesley Roberts
-- Love Notes for Beginner and Advanced Teachers by Porsche Ing-Johnson
-- Fall Prevention Study in the Community by Sydney Central Area Health Promotion Unit
-- Fibromyalgia by Jeanne Anderson
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read all previous newsletters
This month's newsletter emphasizes sharing information about Tai Chi for Health programs. Eight years ago, I worked with a group of medical and tai chi colleagues to design the Tai Chi for Arthritis program for improving people's health and quality of life. Subsequently, the success of this program throughout the world has resulted in an extensive network of people who are dedicated to share tai chi for health improvement. Since then Tai Chi for Diabetes and Tai Chi for Back Pain have helped many people improve their conditions effectively and safely.
- We have worked hard to ensure the quality of our programs and the way we deliver them. To make the programs accessible there are now 42 authorised Master Trainers around the world to conduct instructors' training workshops. Recently we introduced a new category of trainers, the Senior Trainers. You can find out more about both Master and Senior Trainers at this link.
First Aid is now compulsory for our certified instructors in line with the coaching standard around the world. Of course, First Aid is a useful skill for anyone. I remember one of my patients, who had just learned First Aid, and used it days later to save her daughter from drowning. To expand on why First Aid is useful for our instructors, Lesley, one of the master trainers from the U.K., wrote an article for this newsletter.
We have introduced a correspondence course for people who have difficulty in attending an Update workshop. Contact your master trainer or me for more information. Click this link to read Lesley's article.
- I met Porsche Ing-Johnson, an amazingly insightful teacher of varying kinds of body movements, at the San Diego Tai Chi for Back Pain Instructors' training workshop. She shares wonderful pointers with us about teaching. Click this link to read the article.
- Between 2001 to 2004, Sydney Area Health Promotion Unit had conducted the world's largest fall prevention study. It has shown 16 weeks of tai chi significantly reduce the risk of falls, about 80% of the participants did the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. Great stuff! Congratulations to the Health Promotion Unit! What a great job done! Click this link to read the summary.
- Jeanne Anderson has fibromyalgia, a condition which has no cure nor specific treatment. What is worse, it is often missed by doctors. She shares with us how tai chi has helped her gained an upper hand of this condition. Please note that I have written a guide for this condition using the Tai Chi for Back Pain program. Click this link to read the article.
- Cyndy Feel, a long time friend from CA, was interviewed by her local paper. I have enjoyed reading the interview. Click this link to read the article.
Many of you have written to me and told me in person how useful our instructional DVDs, books are. Please direct your comment of review to this section of the Forum at this link, the most useful comment will win a Tai Chi Music CD.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! As our appreciation of your support throughout the year, we have a Christmas special feature product package for this month. Buy any one set of the Tai Chi for Arthritis, Diabetes or Beginners DVD with its respective handbook you will get another set (of your choice) free. A health improvement package is an ideal Christmas gift. Please note this is for DVD only and limited to one set per person. Click this link to place your order.
Paul Lam, MD
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Whilst taking registrations for my recent Tai Chi for Arthritis workshop, many enquiries were about the new requirement that participants wishing to qualify for a Teaching certificate must have a current First Aid qualification.
For me, First Aid knowledge has been proven to be an essential part of working with groups of people where there are quite likely to be instances when First Aid may come in handy. It isn't about Tai Chi and First Aid, it is simply about People and First Aid and three recent experiences, 2 faints and one bad bleed in a week reinforced my feelings about this.
The first, a diabetic who became faint and hypoglycaemic, recognising the text book signs of pallor, sweating and trembling I knew where to find glucose gel as previously advised, this quickly relieved the symptoms so that the person could perform a self diagnostic blood test to check sugar levels and take appropriate action.
The second faint was a person generally debilitated with fatigue and a poor nutritional regime after a long period of caring for a sick partner. A chewy cereal bar and sweet orange juice from my 'kit' helped and soon had her feeling better, while a little TLC and advice on the importance of breakfast before class put a knowing smile on her face.
The third a severe cut with heavy bleeding and a near faint, the cut being caused by a piece of broken glass which had, unbeknown to the lady, fallen into her handbag earlier that day at home when she had dropped and broken a bottle. This involved quickly stemming the blood loss, assisting the injured party who became faint with the shock of seeing so much blood, then making a trip to the local hospital for 5 stitches.
It was quite a week which has been cause for much reflection since reminding me of human fragility, about people and real life situations. How glad I was that in August I'd updated my First Aid certificate which helped me to deal with each incident caringly but efficiently minimising distress to other people present. Over the years I have found that a first aid procedure is useful for each venue including information about where to find First Aid equipment, name of qualified First Aider present, telephone number of local hospital, emergency procedures too. A couple of minutes taken to set this out possibly at the same time as your risk assessment can save precious moments when an incident occurs.
First Aid is a valuable qualification which for little cost keeps us regularly updated and brings us in line with the first aid standards required of other exercise leaders. Above all it gives us the necessary confidence to help other people and may even save someone's life. Though we all hope that such situations will never arise, surely it is better to be prepared, in fact for me it would now seem irresponsible not to have this knowledge and hope that others will consider making it one of their qualities too.
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A Master teacher Defined: So there I was in San Diego at a Tai Chi Certification class. And the next thing I knew it was over. Most of it was a blur…. or should I say a dream….or should I say a beautiful dream come true. There have not been many times I have felt so powerfully moved, but this was a rare exception. This time I knew and felt I was in the presence of a Master teacher: Dr. Paul Lam. He is not a striking man because he is of small stature and soft voice, calm and very non intimidating. He possesses a peaceful demeanor to say the least. His ways are smooth, flowing, and grounded; but make no mistake he is a Master teacher or even something else beyond that realm. Dr. Lam defined a Master Teacher as someone who has mastered his own path in life; someone who knows his direction and follows this chosen path. "Well said," I thought to myself; but even more than that was the feeling that permeated throughout the workshop climaxing at Dr. Lam's presentation of his Chen style tai Chi form. I was in awe and felt this overwhelming feeling of appreciation for his knowledge, study, and practice of the Tai Chi form. In was in essence the perfect display of balance, coordination, muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, yet there was more. I found more jewels of beauty, peace, unique expression, vibrance, power, and just pure tranquility. It was in essence more joy my senses had known in a long time and a delightment for the eyes. Afterward I felt rejuvenated by this "dance" and inspired to learn more about Tai Chi. My feelings were indescribable even now as I try to express them on paper still electrified by pulses of its meditative mesmerizing energy. Perhaps this is the gift of Tai Chi to the world- a balance point of peace and a strong motivation to follow the natural positive flow of the universe. I will never forget my experience and I thank all those that were there with me, especially the other Master teachers: Bill, Georgette, Troyce, and especially Dr. Lam who showed us the way, truth, and direction through Tai Chi.
Dr. Lam had asked me to write an article on Effective teaching. So here it is: As I have been inspired by all of you I hope this writing to move others. So here are my thoughts or I call them love notes for Beginner and Advanced teachers.
1. Be Centered in your own world. Meaning be grounded in your own reality for only then will you be able to effect others in their own worlds and finally find their place in the universe. You will hear many things from many people. Believe only half of what is being said. Practice a few of these ideas, the ones you find beneficial. Then dance to your drum, find your own rhythm and enjoy the journey. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Catch your wind, find your second wind when you feel yourself failing and keep your eye on the goal. It does not move, only you move away from your own center by denying the chi within your being.
2. Practice. Perfect practice makes for perfect performance. Perfect performance makes for perfect teaching. Learn the skills and form, and finally practice it till you feel it right in your own heart, which may take more time then to get it right in your own mind. Then practice everything with your specific students in mind. Role play, pretend they are in the room with you, feel their spirits, feel the vibe then work with the energy in the room and move your class into the positive flow showing them your love of the art. Show them how much the practice itself means to you, call upon all the power, knowledge and skill you possess. At this point you may be lacking, we all are. But never show this fear to them. Show your passion of the practice and your willingness to Love them into the gifts of the flow. Do not worry if you feel inadequate we all do at times. Do not let these feelings overwhelm or cripple you to the negative point of non action. Because there is a certain kind of knowledge that one can only obtain through experience. So Practice and practice with them in mind. It is a great danger to just practice. As a teacher you can just practice but as an exceptional teacher (and you will all be at some later point -so hope for it and believe in it) you should see your students, visualizing their spirits in class. Then will you begin to catch a glimpse of reality, their world, your world, and finally a sense of belonging in the universe and the spirit of unity and love that exists. It is a powerful force. It vital that they feel this from you because when they feel this great love from you they will find their own way to tap into the wellspring of Tai Chi's everlasting beauty. It is the best gift you can give as a teacher because it is something that anyone surrounded by Tai Chi's power cannot deny, in other words… it Undeniable to one's soul.
3. Hunger and thirst after knowledge. Never think you know it all. It is the danger of even great teachers. If you think you know it all- you are wrong. You are wrong even to the point of selfishness. Selfish to your students because you have stopped learning, and have therefore stunted their growth as well. You cannot give them anything that you yourself are not. Meaning do not expect to infuse your classes with vibrance , inspiration, motivation, and rejuvenation if you yourself are not seeking or striving for that in your practice and more importantly in your own life. We are not only ourselves; we are a part of a greater whole. We are holistic as well as wholelistic beings : body, mind, and spiritual creatures. When our lives are balanced we seek great ideas, and aspire noble and lofty goals for everyone that surrounds us. Pull them into the magic by knowing as much about Tai Chi as you can possibly study. Remembering: when the student is ready the master will appear. Keep your mind open and ready to expand. Whether you think you are right or wrong does not matter because you have made up your mind already. But think of the possibility of neither and feel your mind expand to unlimited possibility and only then will you find and feel the flow of the universe inspired by your own open world of thoughtfulness and sensitivity.
See all notes on beginner teachers. Surprise, but not really. Did you think I was going to offer some earth shaking advice ? I have some thoughts on advanced teaching methods but they are basic ones that you all know but may have forgotten. Many of us have not even mastered the basics yet seek more. So let us together make a promise to get back to the basics soon and only after that immerse ourselves into other thoughts like:
1. Inspire yourself. Don't let your well of inspiration leading to motivation run dry. Keep your daily practice strong. My experience has been those university professors working in the field as well as teaching are the best ones to learn from. They keep themselves in touch with the newest and latest research and information; and when they teach they are able to draw on more material for their students to appreciate and make sense of. They see a bigger picture than those with limited vision even know about, let alone see.
2. Get to know each of your students individually and specifically. I am not asking you to be their doctor knowing all their medical concerns or how many medications they are taking. I am not asking you to be their counselor or even psychiatrist. I am merely asking you to take an interest in them as a teacher and perhaps even a friend. They appreciate that. They will know you care and are trying to understand them and what is going on in their world. This is key. Be sincere and genuine in your attempts because this they will feel.
3. Be a student. Never lose touch your humility. Many advanced teachers forget what it was like when they started to learn Tai Chi. It was difficult to master the form, it was hard to know timing, it was awkward to move by oneself and still move in unison with the group. Do you remember these times ? I do because I am new to Tai Chi so my experience in the workshop was strange, interesting and frustrating at times as well as exciting and inspiring. But I have 12 years of professional teaching (fitness, educational, etc…) so I felt fine. I knew I was learning, that I would be able to progressively do better and I had great faith that I will become more proficient at the practice in the future.. But I have this hope, promise, and self efficacy because I have taught for a long time. Many of your students do not have as much strength in their own abilities and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel so clearly. It is your responsibility to be the light in their darkness. And you do this by encouraging them to the point of undeniability. As Tai Chi has an undeniable power so you too will show your students the beauty of the work through positive remarks, never singling anyone out, spending time with them after class going over technique, pairing them up with intermediate/advanced students to work with, any other ideas that will come to you as you hold your students as priority in classes. Remember well your feelings when you began then will you never forget your students feelings presently. Because really it is not unimportant that your students learn the form and technique. It is just less important. Because what is really important is that they understand that you see them. See them as they really are. Seek first to understand and then the great truth of being understood will follow as surely as the moon follows the sun. It is the natural rhythm and flow of the universe.
Question …. Are they not here to learn something beautiful and allow its peace to bring wonderment into their lives. You Teach that to them …. isn't that wonderful that you get to teach that ?
Lastly, do not ask a teacher if he or she is a good teacher . Rather ask their students. In fact there is no need to ask their students. Because the clearest indicator is found written on the souls of their students. Just observe closely their clear minds, willing spirits, invigorated bodies and a beautiful yet powerful peace that fills that hearts when they speak of Tai chi not you. It is fulfilling as a teacher if they appreciate you but it is more important that you understand your role as a teacher. You are their guide and Tai chi is the beautiful bridge they cross over to feel the wonderment. Never forget this and you will always be grounded in the practice and in turn the practice will ground you. Because from this knowing, exceptional teachers will understand they have fulfilled their calling… for this is the result of teaching in its purest form. It is the universally most important becoming we can aspire towards as beginner, intermediate and advanced student oriented TEACHERS… So let us vow to remember our first experiences with this beautiful art; I remember mine like it was yesterday. It almost brought me to tears. It is my hope that we come to understand what a power and strength we can be as teachers. Teacher: a skilled artist who possess great love for his work.
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Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a non-inflammatory rheumatic disorder characterized by chronic pain in muscles and connective tissue that are stiffened, shortened, and tightened. Further characteristics include a sleep disorder that interrupts the restorative Delta phase during which the body repairs itself, chronic deep fatigue, and cognitive difficulties. Research is on-going, with a general belief currently that it is a type of central nervous system dysfunction. Its actual cause, however, is as yet undiscovered, with no cure and no clearly identified, universally agreed-upon treatment. Therefore management is the only option to minimize symptoms and their effects on quality of life.
This is my own, layperson's summary of current fibromyalgia syndrome information which I hope is reasonably accurate. In describing what I believe tai chi does for me, it must be emphasized that my symptoms are not as severe as some others with fibromyalgia syndrome. I can only speak for my own experience and do not presume to speak for others with this condition.
My symptoms first appeared in about 1977 or '78, but were not diagnosed until about the mid-1980s. This is common, since the unusual constellation of symptoms was not recognized by the medical community as a distinct condition in earlier years. I retired early from working with students at Michigan State University in January 2003, which is all I'm going to reveal about my age! I had taken a tai chi class from a wonderful Chinese teacher in the early 1990s, but after he left the area found other teachers disappointing. Then I enrolled in a 'Tai Chi for Arthritis' class taught by Sifu Dan Jones in Fall 2003. In these two years since, Dan's excellent teaching has afforded both physical and mental growth that have truly enhanced and made a significant difference in my life.
It is often thought that fibromyalgia sufferers cannot exercise because they cannot tolerate additional stress on muscle and other connective tissue that is already somewhat compromised, yet remaining immobile for any period of time causes muscles to become rigid and painful. I have found tai chi to be extremely beneficial in maximizing mobility, enabling joints to move more freely, moderating the physical sensations of pain and stiffness, improving balance, and exercising cognitive skills. The posture and slow, relaxed, fluid movements of tai chi address the effects of immobility while minimizing stress and stiffness in muscles and connective tissue. In addition, the thought processes required to learn the movements and 'communicate' their execution throughout the body provide beneficial exercise for the brain's function and flow of neuromuscular messages. Perhaps most important for me is developing the internal concept of energy (chi) that flows throughout the body, actuates the tai chi forms, and engenders the sensations of body/mind awareness and oneness.
At my worst, I experience significant pain, stiffness and fatigue, can't think straight, and drop things. At my best, I am doing tai chi, moving fluidly, relaxed, experiencing the energy that is chi flowing throughout my entire body, and feeling the inner peace and satisfaction of accomplishing something I didn't think possible.
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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.