Newsletter #44 - March 2005
In this issue:
-- FROM ME TO YOU by Dr Lam
-- TAI CHI OUT OF THE BOX by Pat Webber
-- TAI CHI FOR CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME by Dr Lam
-- Q & A by Dr Lam
-- HOW CAN I REDUCE MY RISK OF DEVELOPING ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE? By Your_Health
-- HEALTHY HUMOUR By Your_Health
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read previous newsletters
Have you ever been annoyed by new software? For example, Microsoft Word can hide an old function such as "Page Setup" in a new place so that you spend a long time just trying to find this function that you would have found in a flash with the older version.
Not so with this website. Even though we continuously improve it, we keep the same layout. You can find your way around here easily. But while some pages may look the same to you, we update continuously. For that reason, every now and then you should check things out for new material. For example, in the article page, the latest piece is "What Are the Requirements of a Master Trainer?" It might interest you.
Master trainers of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program are not necessarily "masters" of tai chi in the traditional sense, although many of us have reached high levels of tai chi and have been teaching for years. Master trainers have met many requirements; the most important one being to "master" his or her own direction in life. If you wish to know more about our international team of master trainers please go to this link. You can also meet them in the Forum at "Ask Dr Lam." Every master trainer trained and authorized by me is listed on this page. Only they can offer instructor's workshop of my programs with the high standard and my authorized certificate.
As part of my service to you on this website, I'll answer your questions about tai chi and about our programs and products. Go to "Ask Dr Lam". In that same section, You'll also find many high level tai chi practitioners offering their opinions. "Q & A by Dr Lam" is an example of what question was asked, and my answer. Before you post your question, be sure to check the FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the left navigation bar because very likely there is already an answer to your question.
Last month, I promised the second installment of "Tai Chi Outside the Box" meaning outside the norm. Pat Webber, the author, is sharing with us a simple and effective word-focus. Next month, Caroline Demoise will share her experiences in the tai chi journey.
The World Tai Chi Day will be on the 30th April from 10 a.m. The World Tai Chi for Arthritis Day will be half an hour later. Like last year, during that time we suggest you to offer free lessons, practice and information about the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. Please go to www.taichiforarthritis.com, contact your local arthritis foundation or the master trainer closest to you for more information. It's a good opportunity to celebrate both occasions at one time. I'll be looking forward to see you there. You can enter your event on both www.taichiforarthritis.com and the World Tai Chi Day site at <http://www.worldtaichiday.org>.
I have written a guide on how to adapt the Tai Chi for Back Pain program for people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Please feel free to copy it. This will be the first of many guides on how to use my programs for different conditions. If you wish to have a guide for any other condition, please email me at [email protected].
This month's feature products:
1. Tai Chi for Back Pain DVD or video: A step-by-step instructional tape to improve back pain, health and life style. It integrates modern medical research with the ancient art of tai chi. Retail Price US$24.95
2. Tai Chi for Arthritis handbook: Designed to assist people who are learning the program from the instructional video/DVD. It contains photos of all movements, instructions and articles. This handbook will assist in learning the Tai Chi for Back Pain program. Retail Price $10.00
3. The Tai Chi Music CD: Usually, music is created for enjoyment and to capture your attention. Tai chi music should be different. It should have the tai chi rhythm along with an underlining energy that enhances your tai chi practice. This requires a specialized composer, and that's what I used for my CD. She composed the music based on my tai chi practice and after using this four-piece (correlates to four styles of tai chi) CD for years, I still find it most useful. Retail Price $15.95
The complete package of these three CDs: USD$35.00 (Normally $51.90. You save $16.90.) Click here to place your order.
Bob wrote a useful review entitled: "Tai Chi for the Older Adults" You can read this review at this link. He says: "Have used this video for several beginner courses I taught for the local community college. Most of the students liked it, including the younger adults, although they weren't aware it was for "older adults"--I just called it a beginners short form…" Thanks Bob. Please contact our office to claim your free Tai Chi Music.
In March, I conducted a Tai Chi for Back Pain workshop in South Australia. The photos are now posted online. I have just done the New Zealand workshop, next week it will be another one in Melbourne. By May/June, I will be in Hong Kong, Ireland, Manchester, and Florida. In July and early August, I will conduct three workshops in my home city, Sydney. Hope to see you at an upcoming workshop. You can find the list of mine and my authorized master trainers' workshops from this link.
Many people have asked me if they have to pay a special license fee for playing my music and DVD/video in their classes, for patients or educational presentations. I have produced these products to facilitate the learning and teaching of tai chi, I would like you to have the rights to use my products this way. Please go to How to Order and you'll find a letter granting you this right for all products from Tai Chi Productions.
Paul Lam MD
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Through my practise of Tai Chi I've learned a wonderful word. Well, it's not just the word that's wonderful, but also the way it has affected my life. The word is focus. Before focus, I had CONCENTRATE The very word still gives me a slight headache.
I remember as a small child sitting in a classroom and being told to "concentrate on your work." I'd heard this "concentrate" word before and I knew it was a serious thing to do. People who were concentrating always had a frown, a tense body, a set mouth and they stared-maybe at something, maybe at nothing. Furthermore, they were not to be approached. "Don't disturb your father. He's concentrating!"
Well, in the classroom, I had no choice but to follow instructions and CONCENTRATE. I adopted the posture-frown, set mouth, tense body-and I stared really hard at my book. Nothing happened, except that I felt less happy than I had before I started. So I obviously wasn't doing it properly. I tried again. This time I frowned harder and chewed a nail. Still no answers came to me. I didn't realise that I simply didn't understand what I was supposed to be doing. So at an early age, I accepted the fact that I couldn't concentrate.
Over the years, my powers of concentration improved a little, but it was never an exercise that I felt happy about. When I started tai chi, however, I was told to clear my mind, take some slow deep breaths, and to focus on the move I was doing. Even when my thoughts strayed, I was assured that this was O.K. That this happens to everybody. "Just bring your mind back to the move again and focus on it," I was told. Even the word focus sounded friendlier.
Focus has carried over into other areas of my life. For instance, like most people, I hate being told to "Calm down!" It seems to me that people who give this advice are usually in a panic themselves, or they want to be seen as being in control of the situation for their own egos, or they are just plain patronising.
By focusing on a problem, I usually find that I'm able to solve it more quickly and with less fuss, so there is less opportunity for anybody to give the 'Calm down' advice.
In science, there's something called the Chaos Theory, which I don't understand, but I think it's got something to do with my grandmother, Nanna. She was a lady who made an art form of living in a constant state of chaos. For example, in the morning as she was washing the dishes, Nanna would decide that it would be a good idea to get the clothes washing done early. The breakfast dishes would be abandoned and she would go to the laundry and start loading the machine. In the middle of this procedure, she would remember that there was something in the bedroom that needed to be washed. She would leave that task and head back to the bedroom and decide that, while she was there she should make the bed. During the bed making, she would remember the laundry, but on the way back there, she would decide to get the vacuum cleaner out. That house was always disorganised.
If Nanna had taken tai chi lessons, she would have been told that one move should be finished completely before proceeding to the next move. She would have been encouraged to focus on the move she was doing and not to worry about moves before or after.
Tai chi players soon learn that while they are doing Pat the High Horse, then that is where the mind should be. If, at the same time, they're worrying about the fact that they've just done seven Cloud Hands instead of three, or are anxious about the kicks that are just ahead, then Pat the High Horse usually suffers. We can't change the seven Cloud Hands, but by focusing on Pat the High Horse, we are not only doing that as best we can, but we are also putting ourselves in the best position to make a good effort at the kicks.
Self-help books tell us that the most satisfactory way to live our lives is to focus on the "now." We can't change the past, and the future is yet to come. The only situation we have any control over is the present one. And isn't this what we try to do in our practice of tai chi chuan?
Focus: One little word; so much depth.
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Dr Lam, my personal trainer was working with me and he said that I should try to feel a heaviness in my armpits as in deep arm curls and also keep my shoulders down. I think this felt like I was keeping my shoulder joint open like in tai chi. Could this be the same even though my other arm muscles were tightening?
There are similarities between tai chi and other exercises although I'm not sure of the best way to do an arm curl. To open the shoulder joint is a desirable thing in tai chi. When we practice tai chi, our energy and strength come from inside and we gently stretch. We don't, however, actually tighten up the muscle as such. In performing a tai chi movement, it's desirable to use your mind to direct your movement and exert the minimum amount of muscle strength necessary to execute the movement while at the same time making the movement gentle and continuous. The energy and force come from internal intention. So while there are some similarities, I think that the essence of the movement has fundamental differences.
In my article "The Rationale of Tai Chi for Back Pain," published in the journal Medical Paradigm, I explain that there is a deep muscle system (in contrast to the external muscle system) in the spine to strengthen and protect the spine. Scientific studies validate that concept.
This concept of deep (internal) and external muscle systems extends to other joints such as shoulder joints. Tai chi's slow, gentle loosening (or stretching) of the shoulder serves to strengthen the deep protective muscles of the shoulder joints, thus strengthening the shoulder joints from the inside and preventing future injuries. In contrast, external training is like weight lifting for the back muscles. It simply builds the external muscles without strengthening the internal structure, which can lead to an imbalance. And it's possible to have too much external muscle which would disturb the stability of the shoulder joint and, in turn, cause future shoulder problems.
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HOW CAN I REDUCE MY RISK OF DEVELOPING ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE?
There is some evidence that the following strategies may help although the available research into them is limited:
Eat more fish.
Do more physical exercise.
Engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as crosswords and Scrabble.
Take antioxidants, such as vitamin E (500 IU per day) and C (500 mg per day).
Take folate (0.5 mg per day).
Take Ginkgo biloba.
Free medical advice?
A doctor and a lawyer were talking at a party. Their conversation was constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the doctor for free medical advice. After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asked the lawyer:
"What do you do to stop people from asking you for legal advice when you're out of the office?"
"I give it to them," replied the lawyer, "and then I send them a bill."
The doctor was shocked, but agreed to give it a try.
The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepared the bills. When he went to place them in his letterbox, he found a bill from the lawyer.
Rules are rules!
A new patient was quite upset when the doctor's nurse led him to a small, curtained cubicle and told him to undress. "But I only want the doctor to look at an ingrown toenail!" he protested.
"Our rule is that everyone must undress," replied the nurse as she handed him a very skimpy gown.
"That's a stupid rule," grumbled the patient, "making me undress just to look at my toe."
"That's nothing," growled a voice from the next cubicle. "I just came to fix the phones!"
Question: What blood group do pessimists always have?
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.