Newsletter #136 - December 2012
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On behalf of all us at the Tai Chi for Health Institute; Tai Chi Productions in Australia, USA, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Singapore, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013. I would like to share a Christmas message with you that was taped in snowy Caldera, Oregan with photos of places I have been to and the wonderful people I have worked with in 2012.
The January One Week Workshop is almost upon us and I am really looking forward to the new material we will enjoy from the speakers and contributors. I look forward to sharing all this with you. I am excited that there will be a new Master Trainers workshop directly after the One Week Workshop with 12 new Master Trainers from the USA, United Kingdom, Korea and Australia. Another 12 ambassadors to spread the Tai Chi for Health vision! In January’s Newsletter I will introduce them to you.
Whilst I was in St Joseph, MO, I was interviewed by the local television station about the Tai Chi for Health vision, you can watch the interview here.
My Tai Chi for Beginners program posted on Youtube has had over 1.5 million hits. It was difficult resisting payment for the Youtube advertisement but we did so that you can enjoy the non-commercial FREE LESSON!
While I was in the USA, I felt so sad for the people who had been affected by Hurricane Sandy, and even sadder to read that a man pulled a gun to get a drum of petrol in New York! It is distressing to see the ugly side of human nature. It reminds me of the great famine in China. A recent article in New York Times highlighted yet another book on this catastrophy. At the time many adults took children’s food rations causing the death of millions of children.
Some of my patients have shared with me that their parents starved to save them. I was lucky my aunt also did that to save me. Just like many people risk their lives to save others in war times, there is a good side of human nature that shows in challenging times. How can we foster more of the good side of human nature?
Many people have asked me if Tai Chi for Arthritis is evidence based for falls prevention and arthritis. The answer is “yes.” The largest tai chi for fall prevention study, in a community setting, was published by the American Journal of American Geriatric Society. It is listed on CDC's website as evidence that tai chi is effective for falls prevention. The study found that recurring falls were reduced by nearly 70%. It also found that building confidence— a fundamental component of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program—correlates closely to the reduced rate of falling. The chief investigator, Dr Alex Voukelatos, of this study wrote: “Of the 76 Tai Chi programs taught by 22 instructors, 58 (76%) were Tai Chi for Arthritis (TCA) based on Sun style tai chi. They were taught by instructors certified in TCA by Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health...its (TCA) contribution to fall prevention would be expected to outweigh the effects of the other styles used in this study because it comprised the majority of the tai chi programs used." For more information please read “Tai Chi for Fall Prevention”.
Two months ago Denise Murray’s article discussed the study of Tai Chi for Arthritis benefiting people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This month we are excited to have the Chief Investigator of this study, Regina Leung, explain the study and her experiences with it.
Forgetting is more precious than remembering! My article this month discusses this fascinating subject.
In this newsletter:
Dr Lam explores the advantages of forgetting rather than trying hard to remember while studying tai chi.
Chief Investigator, Regina Leung’s study shows Sun-style Tai Chi improves balance and therefore has the potential to reduce falls in people with COPD.
As 2012 draws to a close, Caroline Demoise reflects on how tai chi and its principles make you more flexible in dealing with the energy of change in your life.
“Connection” holds multiple meanings for Nancy Chatham and her students as they practice tai chi together.
This Month’s Special:
Buy any instructional DVD in our range and receive another copy of the same DVD free of charge.
Sydney, NSW, Australia
May 16 - 17. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
East Molesey, Surrey, United Kingdom
East Molesey, Surrey, United Kingdom
May 18 - 19. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Esher, Surrey, United Kingdom
Jun 01 - 02. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jun 08 - 09. Tai Chi for Beginners Instructor Training
New London, CT, United States
Jun 10 - 15. One Week Tai Chi Workshop
New London, CT, United States
Many other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in Workshop Calendar.
Yours in Tai Chi,
Paul Lam, MD
Forgetting is More Precious than Remembering
Dr Paul Lam, Director, Tai Chi for Health Institute, Narwee, NSW, Australia
When introducing my workshops, I often ask participants to allow themselves to forget any new material throughout the workshop. In our modern world we place too much demand on not only ourselves but also everybody as we are required to know so much and are bombarded with facts. I recently heard a famous author say that over the last few years he found it important to keep away from the Internet and television because he found that there was too much information but not enough knowledge. I found this fascinating. Knowledge is acquired from thinking not just remembering the facts. It is internal like tai chi.
In our busy lives we try to learn many things and we end up getting a lot of information that is relatively superficial. The real knowledge is deep inside us. Imagine when you forget what you have to say when you are speaking publicly; you have to start thinking and re-organising your thoughts. That is where you really exercise your thinking. Your thinking ability can be applied in different places and situations whereas facts remembered do not work in different situations. This is why forgetting is an effective way to learn.
‘The Power of the Mind for Learning” written by Harvard Professor Ellen Langer says it is good to forget because when you do, you become more mindful and you learn more quickly. Professor Langer has studied various people from children learning the piano to older people with Alzheimer’s and she found that through scientific studies, by being mindful, learning is much more effective than just remembering.
Why is it advantageous to forget while we are studying tai chi? Should we not give it our all and get it right the first time? When learning a new concept or a new movement, participants often find it difficult to understand the full concept and to incorporate it perfectly. It is important to understand that we can’t do anything perfect to start with. Actually there is no perfection in tai chi practice. It is a journey. What is important is that the human process of learning always goes through failures and through failing and retrying is where we improve and find better ways. By trying to remember everything and thinking that you need to do everything right then you set yourself up for failure. There is no need to know everything about tai chi. I find it helpful to let knowledge permeate through osmosis to you and when you relax into it, allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to forget and simply do what is comfortable and right for you. Think about what works for you and why. By doing this, your tai chi will gradually develop and grow much quicker. And it will be more enjoyable without placing excess pressure on yourself.
Tai chi is based on the law of nature. Like nature, learning step by step without forcing, and with your mind open, the knowledge will be acquired more easily and naturally. If we never allow ourselves to forget, similar to if we don’t ‘empty our cups’, we won’t be able to accept new knowledge. A quantum leap in tai chi development is more likely to come naturally. There is a whole world of possibilities waiting for us if we are willing to take a couple of steps backwards before we move forward.
I have been learning tai chi for over 40 years and I have allowed myself to forget many of my earlier impressions and with forgetting, new insight and understanding comes to me.
Tai Chi for People with COPD
Regina Leung, Senior Respiratory Physiotherapist, Tai Chi for Arthritis instructor Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and results in an economic and social burden that is substantial and increasing. Pulmonary rehabilitation, which involves exercise training and education, is one of the most effective strategies for the management of people with COPD. Despite the well-established evidence of the benefits of exercise training in people with COPD, people with COPD still have difficulty accessing pulmonary rehabilitation programs worldwide. This can be attributed to the limited number of programs available, the number of people with COPD, the cost of staff and equipment, and the difficulty people have with transport when accessing pulmonary rehabilitation programs. As a respiratory physiotherapist and a pulmonary rehabilitation program coordinator, I realised that exercise training modes which require minimal equipment and are not restricted to any specific training venue, such as Tai Chi, might need to be evaluated in order to address the unmet need.
Tai Chi has become a popular training mode in western countries in the last decade. As the performance of Tai Chi is not restricted by training venue, it overcomes barriers of people requiring transportation to a gymnasium and the costs associated with exercise facilities. Tai Chi can be practised indoors and, therefore, avoids the influence of external factors such as weather. As a result, I have decided to investigate the effectiveness of Tai Chi in people with COPD as my PhD research topic. In order to start my research project, learning Tai Chi was my first initial step. I attended the 1-week Tai Chi for arthritis workshop and begun my Tai Chi journey. The step-by-step teaching method really made the learning and teaching experience a little easier than I thought. Believe it or not, I had slight breathlessness when performing Tai Chi and explaining the movements at the same time in the initial phase of my teaching journey. Tai Chi movements might look graceful but it is certainly not as low impact as it looks.
Here are the details of the research project. The aim of my research project was to evaluate the effect of a 12 weeks of Sun-style Tai Chi program compared with usual medical care with no exercise training on exercise capacity, balance, muscle strength and health related quality of life in people with COPD. Recruited participants were randomly allocated to either the Tai Chi group or the Control group (with usual medical care). Participants in the Tai Chi group attended two supervised, one hour sessions, weekly for 12 weeks of Sun-style Tai Chi training. Each participant aimed to train at a moderate level of breathlessness or exertion that was recommended by a COPD exercise training guideline. For participants whose dyspnoea or exertion did not reach the moderate level during training, wrist weights of between 0.5 to 1.5 kg were worn (see picture), with the weight determined by the individual’s symptoms. In addition to the supervised training, daily home practice was also recommended. In the Control group, participants continued with their usual medical care for 12 weeks.
The result of this research project is promising. 38 people completed the study with 19 people in each group and they were all Caucasians with no previous Tai Chi experience. The result of the study showed that people in the Tai Chi group significantly improved in walking capacity, balance, muscle strength and health related quality of life compared to people in the Control group. In fact, the degree of improvement in walking capacity was similar to what people get in other exercise training such as walking and cycling. The study also showed that Sun-style Tai Chi improves balance and therefore has the potential to reduce falls in people with COPD. In addition, the result of my study also showed that the exercise intensity of Sun-style Tai Chi was moderate which met the recommendation for training in COPD.
Based on the result of my study, Sun-style Tai Chi was an effective alternative training modality in people with COPD. However, exercise training is only one part of COPD management. In addition to exercise training, education on shortness of breath management, mucus clearance and self-management skill also play an important role in the management of COPD. As a result, it is still the gold standard for people to be assessed by a respiratory physiotherapist or a respiratory team before joining community exercise training programs.
Based on my experience, running Tai Chi program for people with respiratory problems is certainly feasible. It is also a very enjoyable journey for me and I will certainly continue teaching Tai Chi at my workplace.
You can contact Regina at [email protected].
Everyone on the planet is experiencing the energy impacting us as 2012 draws to a close, this feeling of pressure to change. Much has been written about this time in our history and the meaning ascribed to the end of this five thousand year cycle. What we do know is that life unfolds in cyclical patterns. We recognize these changes in the seasons of each year and in the stages of growth from birth to death. Tai chi principles are based on the flow between yin and yang and how to harmonize with the changes that continue to flow throughout life. This natural flow in life demands that people respond to a continually changing situation to maintain an alignment with what is manifesting in the moment in life. Being responsive to the flow between yin and yang aspects of a situation allows a person to remain successful in navigating these endless patterns of change.
As you learn tai chi you discover that it is important to know where to place the weight of your body and to be conscious of transferring weight during each movement to the proper leg at the proper time. Attention to this detail improves balance, focuses awareness on being in your body and living in the present moment. More stable balance brings confidence and independence. The ability to focus gives you clarity. Greater awareness contributes to more effective decision-making. Everything you learn about tai chi gives you skills transferable to another facet of your life. The skills involved in moving gracefully, in cultivating energy, in delivering force will apply to activities beyond martial arts. Learning tai chi is a multifaceted gift you give yourself when you explore how the principles apply to every situation you will encounter in life.
The coordination you develop learning tai chi improves your skill in other sports like tennis, golf and skiing. The physical fitness you experience practicing tai chi daily favourably influences blood pressure, helps manage chronic conditions and improves your balance resulting in less falls. All of this gives you more confidence. The stamina and strength you gain from regular practice supports all of your physical activities. And you have more energy. The mental focus you cultivate while learning tai chi keeps you grounded for decision making at work. All the stress management benefits of tai chi support you in navigating stressful situations in life. A few minutes of open and close do wonders to clear your mind and give you a strategic advantage in dealing with anything you encounter during the day.
When your tai chi skill development includes a little push hands training, you not only develop confidence in your ability to yield to the incoming force in partner practice, but see how this applies to the energy of every situation you encounter. When you practice listening to the incoming force from your boss, your wife, your client and your neighbour, you will discover that you are better able to harmonize with opposing points of view more effectively and come to agreements with all the important people in your life. Tai chi teaches you that bullying is less effective than listening to people with the intention of finding a satisfactory resolution to all the differences of opinion.
Our feet connect with the earth; our breath connects with our movement; our mind connects with our body; our spirit connects with the world around us. We are aware of all of these concepts as we practice our tai chi.
There is another connection. Our tai chi practice connects us with one another. We sense it as we greet each other at the beginning of class. We feel it as we laugh at our mistakes, and as we eventually begin to flow with the slow fluid movement of the form. We connect at a deeper level as we practice qigong together in our tai chi circle.
Many of the participants are cancer survivors still dealing with treatments, side effects, and recurrences. We connect emotionally as we listen to each other. One participant said, “Tai Chi brought joy back into my life.” For me this is the “supreme ultimate.”
Pat first started at Paul’s school 21 years ago. She had gone grudgingly with a friend after a very brief and unsatisfactory experience at another school some years previously. “I found the method of teaching at Better Health Tai Chi Chuan made Tai Chi much more attainable & the friendliness of the instructors & fellow participants created an atmosphere that appealed to me greatly.” Two years later Pat was invited to become an instructor, then a Master Trainer when Paul began his Tai Chi for Health programs.
As an MT Pat has run workshops in Sydney, regional NSW, Perth, Tasmania and New Zealand and teaches at the Sydney workshops each January. She also runs a number of classes during the week.
Pat has attended several of Paul’s USA workshops as a student, in addition to training with other Tai Chi Masters in Australia & the University of Physical Education in Beijing. Her teaching repertoire includes Tai Chi for Health forms, a number of fist forms & two sword forms.
As a retired school teacher Pat has found that her involvement with Tai Chi has kept her mentally & physically active as well as playing a big part in her social life.
We have learnt that when Pat gives one of her Sydney workshop morning talks, you sit up & listen! Who could forget Pat’s grandmother & the chaos theory, which taught us the Tai Chi principle of completing one thing before moving onto the next, or the continuous movement principle being likened to a cracking whip – the handle pulling back while the whip tip is still moving forward. Then there are Pat’s Ps – patience, practice, perseverance, preparation & punctuality- always now incorporated into our own teaching. And was it Pat – or perhaps Sun Lu Tang – who said “Place the foot, THEN the weight”.
We could go on – but instead let’s just raise a glass –No, make it a bottle!! of Sav Blanc to Pat – teacher, mentor, MT extraordinaire.
Each month, as I prepare my essay for this newsletter I turn to Google for new material. It is very interesting to see what links appear when I search for positive, healthy or "good" humour. This month, while researching new sources of healthy humour, I was delighted to discover a brand of humour that has been labelled a paraprosdokian.
Isn’t that an impressive word?
A paraprosdokian is a phrase or sentence that leads in one direction but ends with an unexpected semantic twist". When you read the following sentence you are surprised by the twist and it generates a laugh. "She got her good looks from her father; he is a plastic surgeon." I present several paraprosdokians below.
I asked God for a bike, but God doesn't work that way, so I stole one and asked for forgiveness.
The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education (Einstein).
The evening news begins with 'Good evening' and we are told why it isn't.
Hospitality: making guests feel at home, even when you wish they were.
If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember the fire department usually uses water.
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.