Newsletter #132 - August 2012
This month we are focusing on the vision of Tai Chi for Health. Dr Pam Kircher talks about her inspirational vision at the USA One Week Workshop in June. Her friend and colleague, Caroline Demoise, quite coincidently wrote about a universal Tai Chi. This was also my vision at the closing speech of the Memphis One Week Tai Chi workshop. My hope is that most people in the world will learn tai chi and adapt it to improve health and harmony.
In my closing speech at the Workshop, I shared with others about history’s greatest famine between 1958 and 1962. During those four years, 70 million Chinese died from starvation due to Mao’s policy. As a comparison, during World War II, 21 million people lost their lives. I was extremely lucky to escape the catastrophe of the famine. Perhaps when the world has more harmony, a catastrophe like WWII and the great famine will not happen. With this in mind, we have Anna Durie from Samoa and Prof Russell Smiley from Bloomington, MN, USA who both share their experiences on World Tai Chi Day. An article about Russell's experience was featured in the local newspaper, The Bloomington Crow. Myrna Akerblom from Sweden and Ingrid Goettert from Austria share their view about Tai Chi for Health.
Linda Arksey, the speaker and author of Carrying the Torch and past Olympian, has generously donated three limited edition replicas of the Olympic Torch to the winners of the “Carrying the Torch for Tai Chi” competition.
I would like to tell you how impressed I am year after year with participants’ personal efforts, perseverance and practice. Most of them have learned from attending just the one week or two day workshops. Each time I meet them I see significant improvement. This year at the 10th Year Anniversary One Week Workshop in Memphis, USA, I was overwhelmed to meet so many participants whose tai chi has reached a very high level. Many of my colleagues share the same excitement of how much we have progressed! Congratulations to the workshop’s instructors and participants. You have shown, that with preparation and care, concentrated workshops are very effective to learn and improve your tai chi. I would like to share with you a demonstration of the 56 Forms by an outstanding instructor, Janet Cromb, at the One Week Workshop. Janet's demonstration brought the audience to their feet! At the end of the week, the participants of Janet’s class demonstrated how much they had learnt.
In this newsletter:
- Pam Kircher believes the sense of community and oneness is one of the most powerful aspects of tai chi and it has certainly become a big part of her vision for Tai Chi for Health in the future.
- Caroline Demoise explores ways to make tai chi accessible to everyone.
- Anna Durie is proud to inform us Samoa was first in the world to begin the recognition of WTCQD on the 28th of April, 2012 since the Prime Minister moved the international dateline last year to be ahead of New Zealand.
- Russell Smiley led over one hundred and twenty people to participate in a tai chi demonstration at Normandale Community College at 10:00 a.m. on 28th of April, 2012 for WTCQD.
- Teaching tai chi has helped Myrna Akerblom learn a new language!
- Ingrid Goettert shares with us her new experience with Tai Chi for Health.
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Yours in Tai Chi,
Each of us in this room has a vision of what the future of Tai Chi for Health might look like. We may not have thought of it in just those terms, but a moment of reflection will reveal that we have at least a broad picture of what we envision. When I was asked to give this talk today, it gave me the impetus to look at how my vision of Tai Chi for Health has broadened over time and I would like to share that with you today.
When I became involved in the Tai Chi for Health programs 12 years ago, I did it for my own health and to help prevent falls in older adults. The studies that showed a 50-70 per cent fall reduction in older adults convinced me that I should use my influence as a doctor to encourage older adults to learn and practice tai chi. From a personal perspective, the osteoarthritis in my knees was greatly improved after only a month of tai chi.
My vision of Tai Chi for Health expanded to include many aspects of health challenges from prevention of chronic conditions to easing of symptoms of arthritis to reduced blood sugar in people with diabetes. I soon realized that the relaxation component of tai chi reduced stress in people with difficulty breathing, in people with heart disease, and in Type A personalities. Currently, I believe that tai chi is beneficial to everyone’s health.
My vision of TCH in the business world includes tai chi at breaks to increase performance and efficiency. It includes tai chi before business meetings so that participants are focused, stress free, and involved with each other in creating win-win situations.
My vision of TCH includes tai chi in families. The whole family can do this intergenerational activity from pre-schoolers to grandmothers. In fact, in my part of the world, the Navajo nation is a wonderful example of this. No one is the boss—everyone is simply enjoying tai chi together.
Whether people begin tai chi to improve their health, to reduce stress and improve focus, or to access a meditative state, they soon learn that body, mind, and spirit are so intricately woven together in tai chi that you can’t simply focus on mind, body, or spirit. All three are enhanced by the practice of tai chi.
Recently, I have come to embrace an even more expanded vision for TCH. I have seen how people of all walks of life come together in the practice of tai chi. These people may have very different political or religious views; they may have very different socioeconomic conditions, but in the practice of tai chi they are simply players immersing themselves in the practice of tai chi while feeling not only their own Qi but the Qi of the entire group. It may be their first time to experience a sense of oneness with a group. I believe that this sense of community and oneness is one of the most powerful aspects of tai chi and it has certainly become a big part of my vision for Tai Chi for Health for the future.
That’s my vision. Now I invite you to consider your vision of TCH for the future, talk about it among friends here and at home, and allow the possibility that each of us might expand our visions as we listen to one another’s visions. And in that very conversation about our vision of TCH for the future, we expand our sense of community and oneness.
If I were granted three wishes, I would ask for peace on earth, the opportunity for a spiritual awakening in mankind’s consciousness and universal tai chi, meaning that everyone in the world had accessibility to this gentle healing martial art based expressive movement. Everyone reading this newsletter can contribute in some way to creating an environment on the planet where tai chi is recognized as a valuable way to reduce stress, improve health and fitness and embark on a meditative practice. If we all did what was uniquely ours to do in promoting tai chi, the world would be a better place.
The change that tai chi creates in a person’s life can be very subtle. These changes grow slowly over time and may ultimately change a person forever. Every idea has the potential to go viral in today’s world where communication reaches around the globe in seconds on the internet. Promoting the initiative of accessibility to tai chi and creating the environment where tai chi is universally valued and available to everyone is up to us, the tai chi community.
To stimulate your creativity on increasing awareness of tai chi, here are some ideas of activities you can to do increase the visibility of tai chi in your community. Wear a tai chi shirt. It is inexpensive advertising. Encourage your church to offer a space for a tai chi class for its members. If you teach, invite the media to your class for a demonstration of tai chi and an opportunity to interview students on how tai chi has benefited them. Volunteer to teach tai chi to a local support group for caregivers or cancer survivors. Lobby for tai chi to be included in every physical education program from middle school through college. Give talks and demonstrations to YMCAs, senior centers and fitness facilities to create demand for these programs. Encourage healthcare to incorporate tai chi into their wellness and rehabilitation programs. Ask your employer to offer lunchtime tai chi as an employee wellness benefit. Write an article for your local newspaper. Live tai chi principles in your life. People will ask you how you manage to remain calm during stressful challenges and this is your opportunity to tell them about tai chi. Tai chi grows best by word of mouth.
The most ambitious idea would be to encourage a group of philanthropic donors to create a Tai Chi Action Committee that would promote tai chi worldwide. The name was inspired by the Super Pac’s we have here in the United States. They are Political Action Committees that raise money to support a candidate for office. So, if we changed that to P to T we would have a Tai Chi Action Committee, which doesn’t lobby against anything except inertia about doing some healthy movement every day. In addition to sponsoring advertisements on television, creating brochures explaining the benefits of tai chi that could be distributed to agencies, employers and the public, they could fund grants for instructor training in tai chi for health programs or grants in low income communities that would enable people to take tai chi free or at a significantly reduced cost.
Dr. Lam has a wonderful Tai Chi for Health Institute that has begun this initiative for the universal availability of tai chi classes worldwide. For an initiative like this to grow, many hands will lay the groundwork; many minds will contribute ideas; and many people must get involved to contribute their talents to achieve a successful outcome. Join Dr. Lam’s efforts to make tai chi available to people through the age spectrum in whatever way you can. Let’s make tai chi available to everyone.
World Tai Chi & Qigong Day (WTCQD) here in Samoa was a blast, and it was the first ever in this part of the world. Since the Prime Minister moved the dateline last year, Samoa was now ahead of New Zealand and therefore the first in the world to begin the recognition of WTCQD on the 28th of April.
Last year I was alone in acknowledging WTCQD and I did this, strangely enough, facing a high concrete wall in a car sale yard. My husband and I had recently arrived in Apia and were in the throes of buying a car. I’d yet to introduce tai chi to Apia.
This year, 10 of us kick started WTCQD, and the location was totally different from last year; we were now on the golden sand of the 5-star Sinalai Resort. Saturday was a beautiful day and we gathered beachside where we began with Qigong movements, followed by the 8 Form (x 3), Tai Chi for Diabetes, the 24 Form and then finished off with The Lotus.
The photos show us doing tai chi and afterwards enjoying tropical fruit platters and fresh, cool coconut juice. What a fabulous day. It couldn’t have been better; the energy of the sun, sea, and sand and of our combined heartbeats began the “healing wave of calmness, reflection and peace.” What an honour to be part of this celebration.
An exciting outcome for me is that a press release in the Samoan Observer about WTCQD inspired the Principal of a private girl’s secondary school to call and I have the opportunity to take tai chi to 90 pupils. Who knows how many of us will be taking part in WTCQD in 2013?
The celebration was free and open to the public and went from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m in the gymnasium. The 10:00 a.m. group demonstration included students, Tai Chi players, and instructors performing the Tai Chi for Arthritis (TCA) Simplified Sun Style. “The Sun Style is very easy for people to do and the TCA is particularly simplified,” said Smiley. “You can sit. You can stand. People of all ages participate in this one.” Other demonstrations were a combined Yang Style 40 Forms and the 97 Sun Style Forms, the Tai Chi Fan and the Yang 32 Sword Form performed by Russell Smiley.
After the demonstrations participants chose one of six areas of interest offered during the breakout session. His interest in Tai Chi began after a colleague introduced him to Tai Chi. The next day Smiley’s muscles were sore. He was athletic, active and had a PhD in health. He believed he was in the best shape possible. The sore muscles puzzled him. “I was doing a lot of western exercise and I couldn’t explain the stiffness so I had to find out what this was all about,” said Smiley.
Russell Smiley has been practicing Tai Chi for 34 years. “I feel like I’m still learning. There’s so much to learn.” Normandale Community College offers ongoing classes in Tai Chi in the summer, fall and spring.
Bill Douglas started world Tai Chi and Qigong Day. Click here for more information on World Tai Chi Day.
Who would ever have thought that tai chi would be a language tool? Well, it is in my case.
What a world of difference from living in New York City and New Jersey to living in my Swedish husband’s hometown in the countryside about an hour’s flight north of Stockholm. Rolling landscapes, clear lakes, rivers and streams, no bumper-to-bumper traffic, clean fresh air, inspirational walks in the woods, practicing tai chi outdoors surrounded by nature. What is there not to like?
Two major challenges, though, had to be tackled when we moved there in 2005. First, I needed a Swedish driver’s license for obvious reasons. The theory part was no walk in the park, so I was really glad to obtain my license in 2006. Second, I did not speak Swedish. Most of the salespeople in stores and shops spoke English, which was convenient, but to really understand Swedish culture and people it was absolutely necessary to learn the language.
Meanwhile, most of the locals I met vaguely knew what tai chi was but were curious to find out. The more I talked about Dr. Lam’s Tai chi for Health programs, the greater their interest. One evening in February 2007, I did a tai chi presentation at a local club for women. That led to my first tai chi class the following month. No doubt I was nervous about the whole idea of being a tai chi instructor but following the steps in Dr. Lam’s book, Teaching Tai Chi Effectively gave me the confidence I needed and my tai chi classes went rather well despite my little Swedish. My students were quite forgiving!
And so continued my journey. To translate tai chi instructions clearly from English to Swedish meant that I had to re-think the movements closely step-by-step. I also had to explain the principles behind the movements. My attempts to translate phrases like “go with the flow” or “center yourself” or “just be” led to a series of wonderful on-going exchanges of ideas with my students. The whole process continues to deepen my own and their understanding of tai chi even to this day. Their comments about the program? They can relax easier, release stress quicker, their balance and sleep quality have improved.
One could say that thanks to tai chi, I learned to speak Swedish and better understand Swedish culture and people. During summertime, my students and I go out on picnics and practice tai chi along the shore, in the woods, by a lake or elsewhere surrounded by nature. After all, being in harmony with nature is tai chi and, as I learned, very Swedish, too!
Before coming to the Workshop in Memphis TN I would like to share an important experience with Tai Chi for Health and discovering new things. In October 2009 I commenced my studies and exercises with “Exploring the Depths of TCA Program“ in Zürich after preparing well by myself. Then very soon I visited the Annual Workshop in Sydney 2010. Round about this time I got free from for years continuous aches in the legs.
But after being back in Austria more than a month later they returned. A Mongolian Doctor believed it would be a stoppage in lymphatic system. She let me take homoeopathic medicine which didn’t help and even worsen my health condition. Nevertheless I did my TCO Instructor in October 2010 shortly after being examined in Hospital. I told you something in Bern as you remember and you did say: „That’s amazing“. And even for the second time I did my travel to Sydney for the Annual Workshop in Sydney 2011 where I hadn’t such a good feeling as in 2010. Afterwards my energy increased and I was able to travel to Firence to do my TCD Instructor training.
But the light pains in the legs didn’t disappear completely. That is why I consulted a Doctor of Osteopathy. He is practising a new method of pain therapy created by a German Doctor med. and her husband. I think that would be interesting for you and your medical colleagues. They are saying: Muscular false tensions programs cause pain and disease. Correct muscle programs keep healthy and does make body and mind younger.
In January I did a Motion class leaded by Dr. Sven Seewald. The pains are now only 10%. I will go this road parallel to Tai Chi for Health being hopeful to enhance my Tai Chi and improve my health condition and wellbeing. I will keep on doing your excellent TCH and if God willing, for many years to come.
We were impressed with all the entries that we would like to share them with you in the hope that they will also inspire you as they did the judges.
- Reading Rewire Your Brain by John B. Arden I was pleased to, find in his chapter on Resiliency and Wisdom, support for my goal of bringing positive humour to readers of the newsletter.
- Arden wrote, " Positive humour boosts vitality of your thoughts and emotions and enhances your self esteem and your ability to deal with stress, anxiety and depression" (p. 185). Here are a few examples of humour for your Healthy Humour file.
- On his way home from work recently, Alice's husband came upon a "Road Closed" sign. Undeterred, he maneuvered his truck around it and continued on. But he didn't get very far. The pavement ended. There was another, larger sign, it read: "What Part of 'Road Closed' Didn't You Understand?"
- President Obama was touring an assisted living centre, walking through the halls with his hosts. Passing by the residents, he greeted and was greeted by them. When the President walked through the lobby, he passed one resident who did not seem to notice him. Pausing, he got her attention and asked, “Do you know who I am?” "No dearie,” she answered, "but if you go over to the front desk they will tell you your name.”
- A college fraternity answering machine message: "Greetings, this is not an answering machine--this is a telepathic thought-recording device. After the tone, think about your name, your reason for calling, and a number where we can reach you... and we'll think about returning your call."
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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.