Newsletter #76 - November 2007
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
-- Can tai chi make our world well? by Dr Pam Kircher
-- Tai chi and occupational therapy, by Ralph Dehner and Rani Hughes
-- Thank you tai chi, by Robin Malby
-- Doing tai chi with style, a letter and photo from Nancy Chatham
-- Holiday humor, from Dr Bob O’Brien
As the year draws to a close I would like to extend to you my best wishes for the coming festive season. I hope that is a time of health, harmony and happiness for you and your family.
The talk that I’m going to give in Sydney next March to the third International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research is shaping up nicely. Reflecting the huge interest throughout the world in tai chi as a complementary therapy, tai chi for health will be a big topic at the conference - there will be six lectures and several poster presentations about it. I will be chairing this section and giving one of the talks. You can see the full program on the Congress website at www.iccmr2008.com/Program.htm. This congress is one of the best places for you to air your views about tai chi for health, present your studies and interact with interested people from all over the world and I would encourage you to attend if you can.
The January workshop in Sydney is now full. I look forward to seeing you at this very special 10-year anniversary workshop.
In this month’s newsletter
- Dr Pam Kircher, a family physician and Medical Director of the Wellness Center, the Mercy Hospital, CO, USA, explains her ideas about how tai chi can contribute to the world’s wellness.
- Ralph Dehner and Rani Hughes are occupational therapists and authorised master trainers of my Tai Chi for Health programs. They tell us how tai chi can assist with occupational therapy and mental health.
- Robin Malby, Senior Trainer, writes about how 8 years ago, suffering from a chronic back condition, she took up a Tai Chi for Arthritis class and how it has opened up a whole new world of exercise and better health for her.
- Nancy Chatham, who was the first instructor to order our Tai Chi for Health t-shirts for her entire class shows us how her class does tai chi with style.
Dr Bob O’Brien gives us a healing dose of holiday humor.
December’s special offer
Have you finished your Christmas shopping? If you have taken advantage of our generous ‘buy one, get one free’ offer during November, you have certainly made some progress, but if you still have others on your Christmas list, or need to fill some stockings we can help!
The monthly special for December will provide you with the opportunity to get some smaller gifts for your family, friends and students. With every online order you make this month you will receive a free Tai Chi for Health Pin.
Go to the website for more information and to place your order. When you place your order, please mention this special offer in the comments section, quoting SP1207.
Product review of the month
Congratulations to Alan Davies from Irlam, UK, for his review of the Tai Chi for Arthritis Wall Chart and DVD:
"I am a new practitioner of Tai Chi, 8 weeks, and have found it valuable in changing my lifestyle. My instructor Ann Moore is so laid back and easy to listen to, while being extremely patient with me. The wall chart looks like a very good idea and complements the DVD I have just bought... I use the DVD Tai Chi for Arthritis as not only an instruction tool but for inspiration too; watching Dr Lam and his trainees is a real pleasure, thank you."
You can read Alan’s full review on our website.
Thanks Alan for your review. Would you please also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org give us your postal address so that we can send you your free tai chi music CD.
Enter your review of any of my products in the Forum and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
Upcoming workshops by Dr Lam
January 6-12, 2008, Sydney, Australia
(This workshop is now full.)
February 16-17 2008, Perth, WA, Australia
Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructors' training
To enrol in any of my workshops or those of my authorised master trainers please go to the workshop calendar page on the website.
Yours in tai chi,
Paul Lam, MD
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Dr Pam Kircher, is a family physician and hospice doctor. She was the medical director of the Wellness Center at Mercy Medical Center in Durango, Colorado. She speaks nationally on integrating complementary medicine into the conventional medical setting as well as end-of-life issues.
When Paul asked if I would write a general article on tai chi and ‘wellness’ my mind immediately went to my largest vision for the Tai Chi for Health movement in the world. Both the development of adaptations for people with chronic illnesses and the stepwise progressive method of teaching have made tai chi available to anyone. It has removed the barriers that kept tai chi in the physically healthy and strongly motivated community to now include every one of us whether or not we are healthy or very determined. Projects like World Tai Chi Day with its 'One World/One Breath' slogan have brought disparate groups of people together to share the enthusiasm and fun of tai chi in the park. We are meeting people that we might never have met had it not been for our common interest in tai chi.
Tai Chi in the Workplace is bringing together people not only from different departments of a company but also from administration to people at beginning levels in a company. We are learning what we have in common from people that we might never have known beyond simple recognition.
Tai Chi 4 Kidz is allowing teachers and students to enhance their health by playing tai chi together. Students see teachers developing their skills in tai chi at the same time that their students are.
Tai Chi for Health programs in the hospitals and clinics are improving the health of healthcare providers as it improves the health of patients. Healthcare providers and patients are breathing, learning and laughing together as they learn new forms.
Tai Chi for Health programs are returning health care responsibility to the individual where it rightfully belongs. People are seeing that their own lifestyle greatly contributes to their own sense of well being. It doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to feel better.
These are the changes that we are already seeing with Dr Lam’s programs, but I would like to take it a step further. I can envision a time when the US Congress does a few tai chi warm ups together before potentially contentious debates and when they stop for a tai chi break when things get too hot. I can envision world leaders doing a little tai chi before they sit down to serious negotiating. It is much harder to see someone that you disagree with as evil incarnate when you have just been breathing together while focusing on your tai chi.
I can see a world where families meet in the neighborhood parks to do tai chi together before work or school. I can see a world where businesses have tai chi breaks rather than coffee or smoking breaks. I can see a noon hour that begins with a little tai chi. I can see a world where business meetings begin with a little tai chi in order to focus attendees and help them shift gears from individual details and work to planning as a group. I can see a world where families relax with tai chi after work rather than a cocktail. I can see a world where families sometimes take a tai chi vacation to learn a new form or polish up one they already know—or at least, include tai chi as a part of their camping vacation.
I can see a world where we can join one another at tai chi at any place in the world whether we speak each others’ languages or not.
Is that contributing to the world’s wellness? I think so. It is releasing stress while improving strength and flexibility, not only of our bodies, but also of our minds and spirits as well. I invite you to create your own visions of more ways that tai chi might contribute to wellness in our world.
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Occupational therapy (OT) is a profession concerned with promoting health and well being through everyday activities. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in activities of everyday life. Tai chi is ancient form of exercise that originates from China. Ralph Dehner is an OT with a degree in Holistic Studies and Wellness Management is from the United States of America. Rani Hughes is an OT from Australia. In this article they share their experiences of connecting tai chi with their OT practice. Both Ralph and Rani are authorised master trainers of Dr Lam's Tai Chi for Health programs.
Rani, how does tai chi relate to occupational therapy?
Rani Hugheshas been learning tai chi for 12 years. She explains how tai chi is a form of gentle exercise that can be incorporated into our every day life.Tai chi is based on ergonomic principles where the body’s systems are used in an efficient and comfortable way.This principle can be generalised into everyday activities, rather than just during a tai chi class. A homework exercise thatRani may set as an OT is to use the vacuum cleaner in an ergonomic manner.For instance the power is coming from the legs, not from the movements of the arms. She reminds students of the ancient tai chi adage, “Power is rooted in the feet, controlled by the waist, directed by the arms and expressed through the fingers” during the vacuuming homework. Another homework task Rani may prescribe is to stir the porridge using their non-dominate hand as a means to improve coordination, strength and body awareness.
During descriptions of tai chi movements, Rani tries to provide an experience of occupation. For instance, the first action of tai chi is raising the arms to shoulder level, and lowering them back down again. She instructs students to imagine pegging out a heavy wet garment on to the clothesline during this action. Then she will get students to repeat the action, while imagining the garment as a lightweight silk scarf. By using this experience, people are encouraged to use their body efficiently and effortlessly, thus preventing injury and conserving energy. It also helps to highlight the power the mind has during everyday movements.
Ralph Dehner works as an OT in the area of mental health. Ralph, how can tai chi help you in the area of mental health?
Ralph explains how tai chi has helped him as an OT both personally and professionally. He describes tai chi as the dominant part of his personal self-care program. Like other areas of care giving, the mental health arena is very challenging. Tai chi practice keeps me centered so I can give off an air of calmness in what sometimes can be a sea of anxiety and paranoia. I use the tai chi principles daily as I “step back and listen to the incoming force” when a client is acting out because of his/her frustration, due to the illness or the mental health care system, which can be a challenge to traverse.
The general health of people with mental illness is way below the norm. A person with mental illness in the USA dies 25 years sooner than the general public. Exercise is one of the keys, along with a healthy diet, to combating the high incidence of diabetes, obesity and stress-related illnesses in the mental health population.
Decreasing one’s waistline by as little as one inch can reduce the risk of diabetes by 30%. I use tai chi as a gentle introduction to fitness for the non-exerciser, one that is easy to do and learn. It can be done as self care without special equipment or the need for a lot of space.
Another area I am exploring with a few of my clients is tai chi for smoking cessation. I believe that smoking is conscious breathing to help reduce stress. I am working with a few clients now with instructions to play their tai chi forms for the length of time it takes to smoke a cigarette each time they get the urge. It is too early to tell if this is working but I like the idea.
Rani, what is the current research into tai chi?
Scientific studies indicate that tai chi improves conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, multiple sclerosis and other chronic diseases. In addition, benefits have also been found to improve balance, strength and flexibility in older subjects and prevent falls in the frail elderly. Tai chi has also been shown to improve anxiety and decrease pain and stress (Wang, 2004).
Perhaps the most interesting study into tai chi for occupational therapists was Song (2003). The study showed people with osteoarthritis who participated in a 12-week Tai Chi for Arthritis program showed a 29% improvement in the ability to perform daily tasks (like climbing stairs) as well as a 35% decrease in pain and a 29% decrease in stiffness. This finding is congruent with anecdotal evidence that I have from my older tai chi students. They report that they are more able to do things that they previously were no longer doing because of what they term ‘old age’. This ability to re-engage with previously abandoned occupations has been directly linked with their engagement in tai chi practice.
A recent, exciting development into the study of tai chi is by Australia’s Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), which has received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to trial the effectiveness of exercise in delaying the onset of disability among older people. This study will recruit 500 people over 70 years of age and randomly assign them to receive one of two exercise programs. One program consists primarily of tai chi moves, the other program is based on gentle exercise. For further information on this new research trial, visit www.monash.edu.au/muarc/exercise
Who can train as a TCA leader?
Occupational therapists automatically meet the eligibility criteria to be trained as a leader. Other health professionals (physiotherapists and registered nurses), fitness leaders and people with extensive tai chi experience are eligible to train as tai chi leaders. For more information on leader training courses visit www.taichiproductions.com
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I live in Northern California and recently helped my middle son move to a new job in Southern California. He drove the U-Haul and I followed in my car. I have not attempted a seven and a half hour car drive like this since I originally injured my back in 1991.
After I was first injured, I could only drive for twenty-minute intervals, as my injury involved my lower lumbar spine and sacrum on the right side. Braking and pushing on the gas pedal caused pain and setbacks. Also, sitting for any length of time was difficult. Years of intense physical therapy and osteopathy improved my condition, but I was never able to drive any great length without spending the following week laid up with a significantly flared-up back.
An orthopedist told me I would probably never be able to travel in a car or jet more than a two-hour distance. The thought of never seeing places like Hawaii again was a huge incentive for me to keep searching out ways to get stronger.
In 1999 I took my first Tai Chi for Arthritis class. It opened up a whole new world of exercise and I went on to learn and teach several forms. Gradually over time, I was able to increase my driving distance. Imagine my amazement when I made this trip to LA, and found it incredibly easy, with not even a twinge of discomfort.
I credit my tai chi practice. I think the side-stretch warm up exercise, the Sun-style single whips, waving hands, brush knees, diagonal single whips and the toe kicks in both Sun and Yang styles have strengthened the ligaments and muscles around my hip joints and lower back. My internal muscles can withstand so much more. This has made a real difference in how far I can drive and travel.
Since the day I was told two hours would be my traveling limit, I have journeyed across country several times and to Hawaii three times. And this January 2008 I plan to make the trek to Sydney for the week-long workshop.
Thank you tai chi. And to anyone with a lingering back problem, keep the faith, be patient with yourself and work into the movements slowly, and when you feel able - practice, practice, practice.
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Hello, Dr Lam,
Shelia Rae asked me to send you a picture of my tai chi class in Louisville, Kentucky, wearing our smart new Tai Chi for Health t-shirts! This picture was taken at Lakeside Swim Club where I teach both water aerobics and Tai Chi for Arthritis.
I have been teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis for about a year and a half now and continue to discover the benefits and joy of teaching and learning tai chi in more depth. I'm hooked! About 10 of my students demonstrated TCA (wearing their new shirts, of course) at an Arthritis Foundation Expo a couple of weeks ago. They did a great job.
I'm glad I have the opportunity to thank you for developing the Tai Chi for Health programs and for the books and videos you have authored. The program has been a gift and blessing to my students - and to me.
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With the emphasis on positive forms of humor, I often get asked, is there any place for sarcasm or put down humor? I give a qualified yes to the question. It is healthy at times to use forms of humor that poke fun at institutions and public figures. It seems the underdogs in society can feel a bit powerful by sharing stories and jokes that put down the power groups in society.
Along with making fun of politicians, lawyers seem to be fair game these days. A timely example poking fun at the overuse of legalese is the holiday greeting supposedly from a large Washington DC law firm below. Imagine getting this in your holiday mail.
Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice.
By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.
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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.