Newsletter #134 - October 2012
- From me to you, Paul Lam
- How to Embed the Tai Chi Principles, Susan Scheuer
- Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention Benefits People Living with COPD, Denise Murray
- Teller County Tai Chi for Health, Judy Ross & Cheryl Koc
- What Tai Chi Teaches about Life, Caroline Demoise
- A Feature Profile – Linda Ebeling, Linda Ebeling
- Humour, Laughter and Radiant Health, Bob McBrien
Click on the title above to read the articles; to read all previous newsletters, and here to subscribe.
Over the past few months I have been working on better ways to share Tai Chi and news of the Tai Chi for Health programs with more people. In my efforts I have started to write on twitter and Facebook and hope you will "like us" on both Facebook and twitter! I would appreciate any feedback as to how we empower people to improve their health and wellness more effectively.
In the August issue I shared with you my desire to write my life story. How I narrowly missed death during the great famine where seventy million Chinese died from starvation and how I miraculously escaped from China at the age of sixteen. During this time my parents and four brothers and sisters were living in Vietnam. My late father William Lin was the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon…I may have inherited the blood for teaching from him.
In this newsletter:
- Susan Scheuer believes repeated, mindful action is necessary to bridge that gap from understanding the tai chi principles in our minds to expressing them in our bodies as seen in her YouTube video.
Marty Kidder was not kidding about his talk on “Successful Teaching”.
Bruce Young relates the healing he experienced over the past nine years through the power of prayer, good doctors, and the daily practice of Tai Chi for Health forms.
- Denise Murray reviews an Australian study, which used TCA as a physical therapy for individuals living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
- Judy Ross and Cheryl Koc watch the progress their students make from hesitant but curious to confident and assured.
- As Caroline turns 70 this month, she reflects on tai chi’s contribution to the lifelong learning process.
Buy any DVDs from the Health Series and receive 30% discount. Please quote Code 30TCHS when ordering.
Susan Scheuer presented this talk at the June 2012 USA Memphis workshop
- To fix firmly in a surrounding mass, as in embed a post in concrete. That sounded rather harsh, I thought.
To enclose snugly or firmly. Well, that’s a little softer, but perhaps not quite apt.
To cause to be an integral part of a surrounding whole. This is nearer the mark. We certainly try to integrate the tai chi principles into our movements.
As I thought more on this topic, however, another word came to mind - embody. To embody is to give visible form to an idea or quality; or to express a principle in action. So I’d like to talk about how to embody the tai chi principles; how to give them visible form.
Our awareness of tai chi principles often begins when we see a tai chi player who inspires us with their graceful, flowing movements. We recognize that there’s a special quality about those movements and we start to wonder what it is that makes for such grace and fluidity. You have seen many such tai chi players already this week at our morning gatherings, and perhaps you’ve wondered, ‘How can I get my tai chi to look like that?’
The most inspiring tai chi demonstration is one that shows adherence to the principles, and the principles are what make movement tai chi. Furthermore, following the tai chi principles is what is going to bring us the health benefits that we seek.
It can be frustrating, and we may be asking ourselves: How do I get from where I am now to where I aspire to be? How do I get from knowing about the tai chi principles to really knowing and embodying them? How do I express the principles in my movements?
We read about the tai chi principles and have an understanding of them, but how do we bridge that gap - from understanding the principles in our minds to expressing them in our bodies? I would suggest what’s needed is REPEATED, MINDFUL ACTION.
Doing something only once is usually not sufficient to make it stick. Tai chi practice needs to be repeated on a regular basis at all stages of our progress and for whatever goal we are trying to achieve – whether it be learning the shape of a particular movement, trying to memorize a sequence, or in our endeavours to incorporate a particular tai chi principle. To be successful with any of these goals, we need to practice, practice, and practice. Repetition is the key.
Core characteristics: fair, positive attitude, prepared, employ a personal touch, have a sense of humour, creative, humble, set high goals (high expectations), create an emotionally safe environment, build a sense of community.
I have always been a healthy person. I have exercised regularly: biking, running, and practicing Tae Kwon Do and tai chi; I have not smoked; I am careful about my diet, a vegetarian for 12 years; and I have not consumed alcoholic beverages in excess.
So in 2002, when I had my first myocardial infarction, I naturally argued with the doctor, stressing the fact that: “I WAS NOT HAVING A HEART ATTACK.” In fact when this first MI occurred I was in the middle of my regular 5 mile run. I thought I was having some muscle cramping, so I walked two miles beyond that point to see if I could walk it off. Finally, when I returned to my office and called my wife, she convinced me to go to the hospital. So, naturally I drove myself to the hospital and checked myself in.
I was immediately taken to the emergency room and then to the cardiac unit. After three days in the hospital and many tests, I was able to walk enough on the treadmill to convince the doctors that I could go home, and was sent home for three weeks of rest. I found that I was so weak that I could not even walk to the next house on our street and back home. But as I grew stronger, my wife and I walked more each day; and I began to resume my practice of tai chi.
Within a year I was back in the hospital with a second MI. This time the doctors decided to implant a stint, and to change the medications, which I had been taking for a year. I was now to take 5 prescriptions daily. As a precaution after this second MI, my doctors also gave me a flu shot and a pneumonia shot. Over the next 4 years I had the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia every winter.
I had resumed my duties as a United Methodist pastor, and continued to watch my diet, and practice Tae Kwon Do and tai chi. I usually practiced these martial arts, some yoga, and qigong for an hour and half each morning four mornings a week. I also taught a couple of classes of tai chi each week. Gradually I began to feel like myself again; and took, and passed, my second and third degree black belt tests. As I have looked back at my preparation for those tests, it is interesting to note that my tai chi practice time increased over the months before the tests, even as my Tae Kwon Do practice time diminished.
I retired from full time ministry in 2009 and began to teach tai chi in and around the Bangor area, teaching up to 10 classes a week. At my regular cardiologist appointment the next fall, my doctor discontinued two of the prescriptions I had been taking, reduced the strength of another, and told me that I did not need to take one of the two remaining prescriptions, but that he would feel better if I did.
According to the World Health Organization, COPD is a major health problem and is projected to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. COPD is a progressive, irreversible lung disease, which is characterized by a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue, wheezing, chronic cough and coughing up blood. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD.
In the study, half of the 42 participants attended an hour-long TCA session twice a week for 12 weeks and asked to practice at home. The other half followed a standard treatment protocol without exercise. Participants were evaluated for balance, strength of quadriceps, exercise endurance and overall performance before and after the study.
The physical therapists leading the TCA sessions in this study were certified Tai Chi for Health Institute (TCHI) Instructors and followed Dr Paul Lam’s Step-Wise tai chi training method, which is taught in all TCHI instructor certification workshops. On the effectiveness of the training sessions, one researcher reported, “Each form can be broken down into several movements which are easy to teach and learn.” The researcher also reported that TCA is appropriate for patients with COPD because movements do not require “deep-knee bending and single-leg standing.” Researchers were able to modify the TCA sessions to ensure patients achieved a moderate exertion level, which is standard physical therapy protocol for patients with COPD. Under the supervision of the physical therapists, six of the patients used wrist and leg weights to meet this required exertion level. One researcher, Regina Wai Man Leung, reported, "With increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with COPD, it is important to provide different options for exercise that can be tailored to suit each individual."
In addition to providing COPD patients with an excellent workout, two additional benefits of using TCA in a physical therapy environment were identified in the study. Compared with traditional physical therapy, COPD patients experienced less stress and anxiety with TCA. Secondly, TCA provided patients with a fall prevention component in their physical therapy. According to one researcher "Impairment in balance and lower limb muscle strength are common in people with COPD and are some of the major risk factors for falls. Interestingly, conventional pulmonary rehabilitation has not been shown to improve balance in people with COPD."
This study is further evidence why Dr Paul Lam’s TCA is supported by health organizations worldwide. As fans of Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programs, we have personally experienced the health benefits and enjoyment of the practice.
There are skiers and tai chiers all over the state of Colorado. I can’t speak for the skiers, but there are sure a lot of tai chiers in Teller County, CO, USA, in the shadow of beautiful Pikes Peak.
Cheryl Koc and I are co-instructors for one of the many TCA classes here. It’s a joy to watch the progress our students make from hesitant but curious to confident and assured. One lady stands out as an example of this transition. She came to class with great hesitation, but politely said she needed help with strength and balance she kept returning – always quiet and unobtrusive. One evening, though, the group was executing what we call “Four Winds,” a continuous performance of TCA, honouring the 4 cardinal points. Suddenly this lady found herself in the front row of one of the sequences. Her first instinct was to hunch her shoulders and move away. She started to shake her head and say, “I ca…” meaning I can’t. But, with only a moment’s hesitation and with newfound courage, she stopped herself and said, “I can!” You should see her now. She stands taller, smiles more. What a lovely transformation.
If your life includes reflection and periods of quiet meditation, you are able to learn from your experiences. It is fascinating to think about life as a reflection of your thoughts, actions and behaviours. Outcomes you experience reflect your thinking and behaviour towards others. You shape your world. Practicing tai chi will benefit you because it teaches focus, patience and serenity which enhance your ability to reflect on your life’s path. Tai chi skills offer you a way forward as you manoeuvre in life to achieve both internal harmony and harmonious external outcomes. The more reflective, aware and focused you become during tai chi, the more your life will be infused with insight. Awareness transforms your outlook on life. Repetition of movement during practice sessions teaches you to learn from your mistakes. Repetition teaches you how to shape behaviour. Tai Chi positively influences the rest of your life.
The underlying principles of tai chi inform you about the purpose of life by reminding you to focus on transforming habitual behaviour through awareness into behaviour consciously reflecting your intentions. Getting deeply involved in applying underlying principles to a tai chi form creates a reflective, meditative focus on all aspects of movement. Reflection reveals whether you are actually supporting or sabotaging your true intention. Whatever does not support fluid tai chi movement, for example, can systematically and consciously be deleted as you pay attention to how you move. When you focus on tai chi principles and recognize that you are improving alignment, coordination and fluidity, you are validating the importance of slowing down to scrutinize the subtleties of movement. This process creates progress.
In martial arts training, there is a focus on alignment, feeling the energy of your opponent, timing, weight transfers, and recognition of the exact moment to shift position and gain advantage in an encounter. In solo practice, you train similar aspects of tai chi movement using visualization of the situation or opponent. You also have a laboratory in solo practice to transform bad habits through awareness, by focusing your attention on creating movement that more accurately reflects tai chi principles. Habitual behaviours like leaning, looking downward, stepping without awareness, moving arms independently from the core of the body, moving the body with a lack of continuity are all re-modelled by focusing attention on each of these qualities. With focus you will slowly transform subtle behaviours and improve the quality of every movement. This improves your tai chi skill.
Solo practice provides a tremendous opportunity to focus on stress management. In tai chi the excesses of mental activity in the form of anxiety, worry, fear-based ruminating and over reliance on your mind to problem solve yields to sensing the energy of a situation, to environmental awareness and to intuition as powerful skills that inform your decision making and your reflexes. And the icing on the cake is that tai chi also cultivates and rehabilitates the physical body. Is there another movement modality that offers such a comprehensive array of benefits?
Solo practice cultivates the qualities of movement that support awareness of how to harmonize with your current situation, harmonize with people in your life and harmonize with the flow of life as it unfolds, over which you may have little control. Harmony begins with awareness of what you are up against and awareness of how your behaviour impacts the situation. This provides the data to experiment with changes to improve the outcome.
If you associated tai chi primarily with an improvement in health or as a path to martial art skill development, look deeper into this ancient Chinese practice. Tai chi informs your life in profound ways. Tai chi improves balance. Tai chi develops focus and perseverance. Tai chi teaches attention to detail. Tai chi encourages recognizing the importance of strategic, reflexive and intuitive timing. Tai chi training prompts you to trace the outcome back to intention and behaviour. Success in tai chi builds confidence in your ability to respond to an ever-changing world with grace and confidence. These are survival skills that lead to a life thoughtfully examined and subtly realigned to achieve the best possible outcome. Small changes produce tremendous results. Tai chi skills applied to life lead to a rich inner life and increased wisdom.
Linda Ebeling’s tai chi journey began with the study of Qigong and The Five Animal Frolics. The wonderful benefits she felt from qigong prompted her to take tai chi with MT Dr. Russell Smiley, who she continues to study with. Linda has attended Dr. Paul Lam’s weeklong workshops since 2010, when she was a TCHC scholarship recipient. Linda has been teaching TCH classes since 2008 and joined the board of TCHC in 2011. Linda continues to work with the Upper Midwest Region of the Arthritis Foundation in expanding TCA Instructor Trainings in the four state area. She is organizing a Tai Chi for Energy workshop led by Dr. Lam for fall 2013 for Minnesota. With her background as a credentialed teacher (Augsburg College), Linda has taught both credit and continuing education tai chi and qigong classes at Normandale College. Linda has been a fitness instructor for 12 years. She also teaches Water Fitness and is a Water Fitness Instructor Trainer for the YMCA. She is a Red Cross Instructor of CPR and First aid, a member of the MS Wellness Professionals Task Force and a Level II Reiki practitioner.
Dr. Paul McGhee has researched the psychology of humour throughout his career. Recognized worldwide, his mission is to teach us how to develop our own humour skills. Find him on the web at www.laughterremedy.com for more information. I learned from his essay on finding humour when stress is all around that our ability to use humor when under stress is connected to how often we use our positive humor habits on good days when we’re not under stress. Those experiences help us apply the same practices on the tough days.
Learn more on this topic at Dr. McGhee's informative website.
Before the era of cell phones and e-mail students away from home and at college would use "snail mail." As an example of how humor helped a college student deal with stress Dr. McGhee provides this anecdote of a daughter’s letter from college to her parents.
Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry that I haven’t written, but let me explain.
Are you sitting down?
I have recovered from the concussion I received when I jumped from my window when we had a fire in the dorm last month. I can see normally now thanks to the gentle care from Roger, the dorm janitor, who saved me.
I have been living with him since the fire. We are planning to marry before my pregnancy shows. Although he is a high school drop out I know you will love him as I do and accept him into the family.
Your loving daughter,
P.S. There was no fire, I was not hurt, there is no Roger and of course, I am NOT pregnant. However, I am failing Biology and I want you to see the F grade in its proper perspective
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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.