Newsletter #36 - July 2004
In this issue:
-- From Dr Paul Lam
-- How to Improve Our Tai Chi? By Caroline Demoise
-- Asilomar's a Winner! By Nancy Kieffer
-- Traditional Chinese Medicine by Dr Stephanie Taylor
-- Speaking from the Fan By Shelia Rae
-- How to Deepen Your Ability to Teach Sun Style to People with Chronic Back Pain By Caroline Demoise
-- The Banana and the Rose or, A couple of Things I Learned in Jay's Combined 42 Forms Class By Carol Tennessen
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read previous newsletters
This newsletter features my workshops around the world, starting with Monterey, California in the USA. This one-week workshop was held in the Asilomar conference center which is a national park well known for its natural beauty. The enthusiasm and dedication of the instructors and participants made it a great success, and the natural surrounding of the park enriched the entire experience. Please read Nancy's, Lesley's and Sheila's experiences at the workshop.
I love the short article "Banana and Roses" from Carol Tennessen. And the simple metaphor Jay used reminds me of the way he translates his many years of martial art experience into seemingly effortless tai chi movements in the morning demonstration. You would have enjoyed his sparring partner, Dan, who is head and shoulders above Jay. Dan pretended to be Stanley, the thug. He did such a great job we thought he should audition for the movies. Dan, too, demonstrated his many years of martial art experience wonderfully as the sparring partner.
Other articles from the workshop include Dr Stephanie Taylor's talk on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Caroline Demoise about How to Improve your Tai Chi and a New Workshop. All these articles, based on talks in the Monterey Workshop June 2004, are very popular from participants' feedback forms.
I have posted all workshops photos online. Please go to home page, click Photos of the past workshops under "Global workshop." Or click this link
Next issue, I will talk about my experiences in Ireland. At the end of this month I'll be conducting a Tai Chi for Diabetes workshop and presenting at the 6th World Congress of Activities and Aging in London Ontario, then in Indianapolis to present Tai Chi for Diabetes at the American National Diabetes Educator's conference. When I come back to Australia later in August, I'll be conducting another Tai Chi for Diabetes instructor's training workshop in the conference hall of Diabetes NSW in Sydney. Hope to meet you on one of these occasions.
The feature product this month is Tai Chi for Diabetes video or DVD. The incidence of diabetes is rising alarmingly around the world. It leads to enormous suffering and cost. Type II diabetes (90% of all diabetes) is preventable with better lifestyle, namely diet and exercises, as shown by scientific studies. I believe tai chi has an important role to play in preventing and improving the control of diabetes. You can find more information in my other website www.taichifordiabetes.com. I have written an article about Tai Chi for Diabetes published at the July/August issue of Diabetes Self-management magazine in USA, you can write to the magazine for a free issue at http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/
My choice of the most helpful reviewer this month is Bob, who shares his experience of discovering he has diabetes and using the program to help others. This is Bob's review: "Your Tai Chi for Diabetes program is another winner! This program should also help lots of folks with diabetes, but like TCA, can benefit anyone's health. After becoming certified at your workshop, I am looking forward to teaching this program. Having diabetes myself, I can help both myself and others, The opportunity to acquire this great program was how I got started in this, only discovered I had diabetes myself after I signed up for the workshop. Keep these excellent tapes coming. We are touching many lives in a positive and healthy manner. Best wishes." Congratulations Bob. Please contact our staff at email@example.com for your free CD. Click here to add your review or read others.
Below is a list of my coming workshops. For more information go to the Workshop Calendar at this link: http://www.taichiproductions.com/workshops/index.php
-- July 31 - August 1, 2004, London, Ontario, Canada
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training workshop
-- Aug 21-22, 2004 Sydney, Australia,
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training workshop
In the month of October:
-- 4-5th, 2004 Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's training in Sweden
-- 9-10th Tai Chi for Arthritis part I and II in Birmingham, UK
-- 16-17th Tai Chi for Back Pain in Florida, USA
-- 23-24th Tai Chi for Diabetes in Minnesota, USA
-- 30-31st Tai Chi for Arthritis in San Diego, USA.
back to the top
How to improve our Tai Chi? That's why we all came to Dr. Lam's workshop in Asilomar, that DESIRE to improve our Tai Chi. Having good instruction is essential to Tai Chi development, however, the biggest ingredient in improvement is YOU and your practice. Practicing with precision, with patience, with perseverance, and with passion, having made Tai Chi a priority in your life is a good way to begin improving our Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is a journey inward. It is your journey and yours alone. When I think about Tai Chi, it feels like a process of transformation.
On the physical level:
- the transformation from stiffness to flexibility; from deconditioning to fitness
- the transformation from poorer health to better health
- the transformation from disconnected body movements to coordinated, fluid, full body movements
On the mental level:
- the transformation from mindless movement to intention directing the movements.
- the transformation from a noisy, cluttered mind to a quiet, calm, still, focused mind.
On the spiritual level:
- the transformation from an ego/judgment based reality to a reality of clarity, awareness and compassion.
- the transformation from unconscious movement to being PRESENT in the body, fully aware of how it feels when we move.
So how do we improve our Tai Chi? What do we bring to our daily practice that facilitates this transformation? Using the guidance of teachers on how to perform the physical movements, the external part of Tai Chi, we must bring a focus on the Internal.
Focus is a very important word in improving our Tai Chi. We must bring our focus inward. Our internal development comes after we learn the shape and sequence of movements and feel very familiar and comfortable with the form we are learning.
- Focus on breathing - a relaxed, deep abdominal breathing.
- Focus on the mind - using intention to direct the movements.
- Focus on being present in our bodies - to feel the movements from the inside out,
feeling the movements with our bodies (not just awareness of them with our mind)
- Awareness of our orientation in space as we move. Feeling the proper alignment in
the body during each movement.
- Consciously aware of the heel touching down, weightless at first, then the
transference of energy and weight as we complete the movement.
- Noticing the relaxation of each muscle in the body and the expansion and loosening
of joints as we move.
- Developing the thread that connects each movement to the next.
- Becoming fluid during practice of the form.
- Feeling energy move in the body with each movement.
- Following the energy of the movements. Allowing the energy to move us, or carry
us into the next movement.
- Feeling grounded.
- Feeling connection with earth and heaven.
- Feeling the deep connection we have with nature and really feeling that oneness.
Under our teacher's guidance, we teach ourselves Tai Chi. We follow and watch this process of transformation. Sometimes we even become impatient because the process takes so long and takes on a life of its own.
Our inward journey takes us to deeper and deeper levels of awareness of how our body moves, how our energy feels. Like peeling off the layers of the onion, this transformation takes us to never ending new levels of living deeper in our bodies, becoming more aware and present.
Developing the internal is your responsibility. It is the gift you are giving yourself through the study of Tai Chi. No one can do it for you. A teacher can show you the movements and provide feedback on your process of learning. A teacher can give you technical corrections, guidance on the internal components of Tai Chi and see the results of your practice, but you are the one who must have the desire to pursue the internal. You are the one who must have the desire to improve your Tai Chi.
So, how can we improve our Tai Chi?
1. Find a teacher you resonate with and train with him or her.
2. Teach Tai Chi to other people. I have learned so much more about Tai Chi during the time I spend contemplating how to explain it, how to facilitate another's progress, how to coach and how to inspire a class. Teaching is a fast track for our own progress.
3. Practice, practice, practice with patience, perseverance, passion and precision having identified Tai Chi as a priority in your life. And practice with beginner's mind. When we think we know it, there is no room for new awareness.
4. Look beyond the external form.
5. Develop the inner qualities of stillness, awareness, non judgment, acceptance and courage.
6. Make abdominal breathing your normal breathing pattern.
7. Read, study, contemplate and follow Tai Chi principles.
8. Identify your Tai Chi goals, because "energy follows intention" When your goals are specific, you are more likely to achieve them than when they are vague or unclear. Taking the time to write down how you want to improve your Tai Chi helps to clarify goals and make them specific.
9. And, of course, most importantly, have fun.
back to the top
Pines. Cypress trees. The blue, sparkling Pacific. And good food! That's only a partial description of the participants' experience at the recent Asilomar (Monterey), California week-long workshop.
Of the 68 participants, the majority came from all over the U.S. mainland. Yet, we also enjoyed the company of students from Korea, Sweden, England, and Australia. Needless to say, the program was superb. Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor Training, plus two classes of the ever-popular Sun 73 headed the bill as far as popularity and numbers. In addition, Discovering the Depth of the 73 drew great interest. Other devotees enjoyed the 24 Forms, the Tai Chi Fan, the 42 Competition forms, the Chen 36 Forms and last but not least, the Tai Chi Fan.
In addition to the evening programs listed in the brochure, brief after-lunch programs included a talk on Chinese medicine by Dr. Stephanie Taylor; a "How to Improve Your Tai Chi" talk by Caroline Demoise; a roundtable discussion headed by Dr. Pamela Kircher on Tai Chi in Special Populations; and a talk on back pain by Dr. Paul Lam.
While all would agree that the tai chi portion of the workshop was seemingly perfect, the surroundings and the accommodations couldn't be beat including views of the Monterey Penninsula, walks on the white sandy beach and through the woodsy grounds. As you can see from the accompanying photo, we weren't alone. Deer proliferated as well as birds, and we even had a "friendly" mountain lion. (We were told to "walk tall" so the lion wouldn't bother us.)
Despite the lion, the workshop rated high. Summing it up, one participant told me he wrote in his evaluation, "I don't know how they could have done the workshop any better."
As you can see from the accompanying photo taken by Alice Kuramoto, we weren't alone.
back to the top
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is actually not "traditional." TCM is a more streamlined and efficient form of Chinese medicine developed during the Cultural Revolution in China. It's the form of medical practice that is widely taught in US acupuncture schools. Japanese acupuncture is more similar to the older Pre-Mao Chinese medicine.
Chinese medicine is based on thousands of years of observation of what causes illness and what works after illness occurs. It's more focused on preventive medicine than treatment and more herbs are used in China than acupuncture. It's the opposite here in the west where we use acupuncture more than herbs and use TCM to treat disease rather than maintain health.
The Chinese medical visit consists of an extensive interview that focuses on apparently nonmedical questions, such as "Do you prefer sweet or sour?" This is followed by two primary diagnostic techniques: evaluation of the tongue and pulse. This allows assessment of the person and the disease state (or the developing disease state). Even in Western medicine we have a saying that it's more important to know what type of person has the disease rather than what disease the person has.
Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile needles into specific points on the skin. This is designed to stimulate the flow of qi and address problems in internal organs. Most needles are stainless steel and disposable, but for special cases, some more traditional acupuncturists may use gold needles to tonify, and sterilize them in an autoclave.
Herbs are often prescribed by Chinese pharmacists. In Chinatown there are herbal stores where you can get a quick pulse and tongue diagnosis and emerge with a bundle of herbs to boil daily. An old Chinese saying is that at the beginning of the world there were two types of things made: those that taste good and those that taste very bad. The first is food and the second is medicine. Needless to say, boiling up your own herbal tea and drinking something that is not quite tasty is hard for many to follow. Consequently, there are many pills and freeze dried potions on the market. Most American acupuncturists use these for treatment. I's important to be cautious with herbal medicines from China, since some are contaminated with heavy metals or drugs, and some have caused illness because the plant was misidentified.
After a series of treatments, you will be reevaluated and the treatment changed. The treatment is designed to fit the individual. For example, five diabetics may each get very different treatments, since the root cause of the disease or its manifestations are different in each person.
Chinese medicine is a vast topic and I have included several excellent references to get you started. These are books that are intended for nonmedical persons, and are very well written.
References for Chinese Medicine
By Stephanie Taylor MD PhD
40 Dormody Ct
Monterey, CA 93940
Between Heaven and Earth: A guide to Chinese Medicine
By Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold
The Web That Has No Weaver
By Ted Kaptchuk
The Complete Book of Chinese Health and Healing
By Daniel Reid
American Academy of Medical Acupuncture
General Information site
back to the top
As a member of the firstst Fan class, I want to share one of the most memorable experiences of my tai chi career.
I have challenged myself on many occasions, joining in with such notables as Shou Yu Lian, Wen Ching Wu, Ken Cohen, Roger Jahnke, Paul Gallagher, and Dr. Paul Lam, always learning and growing as I absorbed what I could of the immense knowledge of these skilled martial artist Yet, ever NO PARAwas I so hesitant as I was in signing up for the Fan class at the Monterey workshop. There were no books to study, no video to watch beforehand,: nothing, but the picture in my mind of Dan's demo in CT.
I was definitely out of my "comfort zone." I learn very slowly and methodically, and I was truly scared, thinking I couldn't possibly learn 54 moves involving a fan in a week. Was I NO PARA
relieved when I arrived in class to see Sandra, soon to known as "Lefty", and Sharon, aka "Shifty" there to share in the experience! And, let me tell you, without the mutual support and encouragement, it would have been even scarier.
Dan put us at ease immediately with his assuredness that we could learn the form. His teaching was skillful, patient, and even fun- novel to my usual serious approach and reaction to fear of failure. He even made it seem easy !
We worked hard and learned so much, taking home not only the fan form, but much, much more. I would like to thank Dan for his expertise and Dr. Lam for making it possible. NO PARA It was FANtastic! And I would encourage any serious taiji player to sign up for next year's fan class, Not only to broaden your taiji experience, but to come away with the feeling of beauty and self-confidence the form has to offer.
back to the top
Back pain is an extremely common problem in our society. Almost 90% of the population will experience back pain sometime during their life. For many people, back pain is a recurring problem affecting their lives. Learning strategies to reduce pain and disability from back injuries is essential to maintaining a good quality of life.
In the body, there are two muscular systems. The internal system is composed of the muscles close to the spine, the pelvic floor muscles, the inner layer of abdominal muscles and the diaphragm. These are deep stabilizing muscles whose function is to support and protect the spine. The muscles that move the body are the visible muscles that belong to the external system. Athletic conditioning is primarily involved with the more external muscle system. Tai Chi training works with both the external and internal muscle systems. This makes Tai Chi valuable in the rehabilitation of muscles from back injuries and in managing back pain.
Being a well conditioned athlete does not insure that you will be free of lower back pain. The traditional training and conditioning that produces athletic fitness appears to work more with the external muscles and not as much with the deep stabilizing muscles that are often the cause of back pain. Many athletes suffer from back pain despite all their training.
Tai chi training, especially the abdominal breathing method and the qi cultivating method of the dan tian, works with the deep stabilizing muscles as well as external muscles. In a new workshop, created by Dr. Lam, called Tai Chi for Back Pain, you have the opportunity to build on your previous instructor training in the short Sun Style to work more effectively with people with back pain. Dr Lam has integrated modern medical findings with the ancient art of tai chi and qigong throughout the entire program. You will learn techniques to activate and strengthen the deep stabilizing muscles during Tai Chi movements. These new techniques will be taught in a seated position as well as in the standing and moving situations. This program is designed to help people with back pain better cope with daily tasks, as well as improving their mental and physical health. The program is adaptable for people who are wheelchair bound and people with other chronic disabilities.
The Back Pain workshop is designed as an advanced training in Sun style for instructors already familiar with the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. Goals of the workshop are:
" Improve your teaching skills.
" Adapt the short Sun style to people with back pain, people in wheelchairs, and people with other chronic conditions.
" Discover the causes of back pain and how to use Tai Chi principles to help people with back pain through simple Sun style movements.
" Improve your depth in Sun style.
If you are interested in this new Back Pain workshop by Dr. Lam, read about it on Dr. Lam's website taichiproductions.com. To register for the first Tai Chi for Back Pain Workshop in the USA, October 16th and 17th, 2004 in Bradenton, Florida, contact Caroline Demoise at firstname.lastname@example.org The early registration date to receive a discount is August 16th, 2004.
back to the top
The Banana and the Rose or, A couple of Things I Learned in Jay's Combined 42 Forms Class
By Carol Tennessen
One day, Jay brought a banana to class. "Here," he said, as he handed the banana to me. "Hold this in your hand and don't let it drop." He told me to relax my hand but to keep holding the banana. I tried several times, but as hard as I tried, I simply couldn't do it. If I managed to hang on to the banana, Jay said my hand was not relaxed enough. So I would relax my hand even more, but then I'd drop the banana. Finally Jay reached out and very gently turned my hand over; and lo, the banana now rested in my totally relaxed open palm. The lesson? Sometimes, Jay said, when you try too hard to relax, you drop the banana. Better to change your point of view (or turn your hand over). Sometimes, Jay said, you have to change your relationship to your tai chi, if your goal is to seek balance but not hold on to it. Think of the banana and what happens when you let go of effort.
Another day, Jay asked us to consider how a rose grows on a trellis. The rose attaches itself to the trellis, but only here and there, never completely. As the rose grows taller, it follows the form of the trellis, yet it is not rigid to it. Rather, the rose grows in and out; sometimes it grows away from the trellis, but then comes back in again, so that each individual rosebush growing on the trellis will ultimately have its own shape, and no two will ever look exactly alike. Jay said to us: "Think of the tai chi form you're learning as a trellis that will give you a structure and a foundation, and let your tai chi come in and out of it, the way a rose grows on a trellis, effortlessly."
Paul, the workshop was everything I had hoped, and much, much more. Thanks again for everything!
back to the top
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.
back to the top