Newsletter #145 - September 2013
- From me to you, Paul Lam
- The Future Role of Tai Chi for Health, Paul Lam
- Making Boring Forms Interesting, Linda Arksey
- Teamwork brings better tai chi to Manchester, Bill and Linda Pickett
- Seated Tai Chi has Changed my life, Bonny Bomben
- A Week of Intense Work, Eric Borreson
- Humour, Laughter and Radiant Health, Bob Mc Brien
The January workshop in Sydney is now half full; some classes are nearly fully subscribed, so please register as soon as you can at this link. Read Eric's article below about his experience at the annual workshop. Feel free to contact me or our staff for any assistance.
I am a big fan of USB flash drives, I buy them by the handful to give photos and documents to friends. The other day, a young and very technologically minded friend pointed out to me that if we were to go back just twenty years in time with my 32GB drive in my pocket and walk into any US government facility, I would probably be arrested as a high tech spy!
That tiny drive, smaller than my little finger, can potentially hold more information than the Pentagon computers could twenty years ago! Not to mention that in those days a 32GB computer would have filled a warehouse! More information than the NASA computer could handle during the Moon Landings (when many calculations were done by scientists using pen and paper, because the computer couldn’t handle them!) Computer technology is developing at an incredible pace; the first flash drives were introduced in 2000 and this year a 1TB flash drive was unveiled.
What does all this have to do with tai chi? In the olden days it is said that devotees would make arduous journeys for months to train with the great masters, or to slave for the masters for years before they were allowed to learn high level tai chi (if they were lucky enough to have a master who was capable and willing to teach high level art). In the process the instructions often became confused and diluted. Now I can upload a video to You Tube, tweet and Facebook my friends all over the world and hear back from them within minutes!
Even my first video was a struggle, trying to encapsulate all the content within a set time format. The early DVDs allowed us to provide more information, and now Tai Chi for Arthritis provides 12 independent and complete lessons (in real class time!) and over eight hours of playing time! I am excited to be living in an age where we can offer downloadable lessons, so anyone who wants to try tai chi can be enjoying their first encounter with tai chi within seconds of clicking a link! In fact I have provided introductory lesson on three programs to anyone at no cost on my YouTube channel. Do encourage your friends to visit my website where they can read about Tai Chi for Arthritis, Energy and Beginners, and see where they can find a link to the free lessons.
Where is it all going? Maybe in another ten years you will be able to download a hologram of me teaching the sets and play it from your mobile phone. Waiting at the hover jet stop? Don’t waste your time; learn single whip before the number 26 comes along!
I would love to hear your stories of how you utilise technology to improve your classes.
We often talk about being mindful of posture and mind, and now we can use modern medical research on body and mind to enhance our tai chi. The research validates the fact that tai chi which adheres to the essential principles not only improves posture and movements - it also improves the mind.
With this in mind I would like to share two You Tube videos with you. The first is entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy. I found many parallels with using technology to spread the message of how body language shapes mood and influences achievement – one of the cornerstones of tai chi teaching.
The second is Linda Arksey’s morning talk from the June workshop. Linda has also given us a transcript of her talk, which appears below under the heading “Making Boring Forms Interesting”.
To support TCHC USA, please visit and 'like' it at this link.
In this newsletter:
- Dr Lam talks about his vision for the future of Tai Chi for Health
- Linda Arksey shares ideas on making tai chi lessons exciting
- Bill and Linda Pickett share a story from the Manchester Times
- Bonny Bomben tells us how Seated Tai Chi has changed her life
- Eric Borreson describes his experience at the US one week workshop
- Dr Bob McBrien dispenses his regular dose of humour.
This month's special
Buy the downloadable Tai Chi Music CD II and get CD I at no extra cost. The original music was composed based on the rhythm and internal energy of Dr Lam's tai chi to enhance your tai chi practice. The Tai Chi Music II CD was composed and performed by Dr Lam’s daughter Andrea and her musician friends. Andrea, a well recognised international pianist, has also appeared on Dr Lam's Tai Chi for Energy DVD. You can buy the music for your Ipod, Ipad or any smart phone so you can play it anywhere. Click here to place your order, chose your country, select "Products" from the drop down menu, then “Downloadable Products”.
Upcoming Workshops: by Dr Paul Lam
Sep 07-08. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis, Driebergen, Netherlands
Sep 14-15. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training, Toronto, ON, Canada
Sep 21-22. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis, Albany, NY, United States
Sep 28-29. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis, Holland, OH, United States
Oct 05-06. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training, Woodbury, MN, United States
Oct 10-11. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis, Knoxville, TN, United States
Oct 12-13. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training, Knoxville, TN, United States
Oct 19-20. Tai Chi for Beginners Instructor Training, Sebring, FL, United States
Oct 25-25. Tai Chi for Arthritis Multiple Update Training, Walnut Creek, CA, United States
Oct 26-27. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training, Walnut Creek, CA, United States
Nov 02-03. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training, Walla Walla, WA, United States
Jan 06-11. One Week Tai Chi Workshop , Sydney, NSW, Australia
Jul 17-18. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis , Pukekohe, New Zealand
Jul 19-20. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training, Pukekohe, New Zealand
Jul 19-20. Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor Training , Pukekohe, New Zealand
Many other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in the Workshop Calendar.
Yours in Tai Chi,
Yours in Tai Chi,
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The Future Role of Tai Chi for Health
Looking back over the last sixty years the world has never experienced such an age of prosperity, power and technology. The population is growing exponentially. One hundred years ago when hunger was the main concern science fiction writers daydreamed of the ability to create an inexhaustible food supply to feed the world. Now we have the technology to produce food for the world yet many of us in the western world are dying from the modern epidemic of obesity and there are still countries where people are starving.
We have so many technological advances and events that in one day a person in the western world could be subjected to a greater level of stimulation than his ancestor would have experienced in his entire lifespan. One way to look at it is that a person can experience more than many lives of the ancient times. On the other hand, with too much stimulation and the experience can become less profound, and the stimulation becomes a source of stress. Yet with too little stimulation the spirit fades, there is no life without any stimulation.
Our transport systems are so efficient that people hardly exercise. Many people drive to and from their air conditioned homes where they sit working and playing on their computers for hours. Their bodies neither experience the natural variations in environment, nor the exercise they are designed to do. Most health problems are caused by lack of exercise. Yet in other parts of the world people work very hard physically and still struggle to survive.
Life is all about balance and that’s what tai chi is so good at providing. The future of the earth is in our hands. We have the knowledge and technology. We can make the world an exciting and enduring wonderful place. To do that we need the mental ability to maintain the necessary harmony between person to person, country to country and between the planet and the universe. We need balance to keep us sane and let us enjoy our lives. We should avoid being overcome by technology and instead enjoy the leisure advantages which it offers to us.
The subject dearest to my heart is health. The western world is facing a health crisis and our medical resources can’t keep up with the demand. Ninety per cent of people die from chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and immunological disorders. Increasing evidence shows that almost all these problems are due to lifestyle, mainly lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet. More than fifty per cent of diseases presented to doctors are psychosomatic, or mind related. That’s the challenge facing us in the future.
Tai chi, which is an exercise involving body and mind, that improves physical and mental balance, has a central role to play in the future of the health of mankind. The world is a very complex place and certainly there is no one cure or solution for the future. However I firmly believe that tai chi has an important role to play in the betterment of the future of this world. That is my life’s vision; to share modernised tai chi (using new knowledge and up to date teaching techniques to modify tai chi for the present time) with people all over the world. When coupled with medical technology we can make tai chi more effective and enjoyable and a great tool for anybody.
The president and CEO of Arthritis Foundation, USA, Dr John Klippel reviewed my revised book “Teaching Tai Chi Effectively”, he wrote: “This remarkable book needs to come with a warning. ‘Beware, Dr. Lam’s extraordinary passion for Tai Chi and creating teachers will change you and the world’. It could not come at a more opportune time as we search for practical and effective solutions to the epidemic of chronic disease. The role of Tai Chi to influence the course of most if not all chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease has very much come front and center as an important healthcare strategy. Bravo, a new day cometh.”
Dr Klippel was absolutely right. Tai Chi for Health can be part of the solution for the future and I invite you to join us at Tai Chi for Health Institute spread our message.
The Oxford English dictionary’s definition of “boring” is something that is so uninteresting as to cause mental weariness ... so when I was asked to research into this topic I soon found that there was a gap in the market. There isn’t a single person worldwide offering to teach boring tai chi. Every instructor considers their tai chi form to be exciting, and the participant perceives whether they are finding it boring or not.
I found people advertising on the internet, it said, “Ditch your boring tai chi instructor and come and learn tai chi with me.”
So how do you continue to deliver a meaningful experience to your participants each and every lesson? Many people who are new to tai chi might consider that being repetitive it could become boring. The human brain is excellent at pattern matching. Repetition creates a pattern which consequently and naturally grabs our attention and creates the comfort of familiarity. Repetition can lead to understanding after repeated exposure. So what at first may seem strange becomes clear and familiar. Repetition is a method of getting things into the longer term memory and hence is a key method of learning. So the human brain likes repetition, the somatic response becomes familiar and before you know it muscle memory kicks in.
So where do we see repetition? We are all trained as instructors in the use of the stepwise progressive method of teaching, which gives us a powerful and effective way to teach, breaking down the tai chi form into small, easy to learn segments. So why do people get bored with a tai chi form? Often tai chi can feel too difficult to learn, or participants can get frustrated at their lack of progress.
Learners go through phases, in between each quantum leap of technical achievement there is a plateau phase. Impatient students may become bored and disappointed during the plateau phase and often drop out.
Continuing to improve on what you've already learnt comes only through regular practice as well as incorporating the essential tai chi principles. There are lots of articles on the Tai Chi for Health Institute website which can help you to incorporate this into your teaching. Those of you who participated in the Tai Chi for Beginners Instructor Training will have seen how much fun a good foundation in tai chi and the tai chi principles can give you. Going back to basics can bring about a quantum leap of understanding and your form can improve immensely.
So what is the take home message?
There are no Boring Forms of tai chi.
So it is the job of the instructor to make tai chi exciting and fun, it is part of being a good instructor.
Be positive, make it fun, and let them know you are enthusiastic about teaching them. Creating an appropriate relaxed atmosphere is so important to putting everyone in a receptive state to learn.
They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel, and that will stay in their long term memory for ever.
Finally tai chi and teaching is a journey.
Here is a quote from a famous English gentleman.
“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” - Sir Winston Churchill
Ladies and gentlemen enjoy your journey and enjoy your non-boring tai chi, and have fun!
The day before my fiftieth birthday eight years ago, I was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia. I was in the hospital for three months and then went to rehab. As a result of extensive nerve damage from chemotherapy, I had to learn to talk and walk again.
Even after years of physical therapy I still had trouble with balance. I did not want to spend my life in a wheelchair so I did not give up. I used all my determination and my goal is to walk on my own. I progressed to using a walker and then canes which I bedazzled with rhinestones and ribbon.
When my sister went to Dr Lam’s tai chi workshop in Denver last fall, she visited me and showed me seated tai chi on YouTube. I wanted to try it so she sent me the DVD and I practice every day. Now I know the moves by heart and I still practice every morning. Tai chi has helped my shakiness from nerve damage from chemotherapy. My central nervous system has improved as a result and so my balance is better and I am walking better with my walker and my canes.
What I like about tai chi is that I can do it on my own and nobody needs to help me. It makes me feel really independent which I like so much. It is a great accomplishment for me to know the form. I feel very successful.
It also makes me stronger. I definitely feel stronger and more energetic so that is why I like to do it in the morning. Before I got sick I was very active, so it is hard to be sitting all the time. My arms are like rocks now as it works my whole body. It works my core, my back, everything.
I want other people in wheelchairs to know that when you do something physical you feel better. You can’t give up. You have to push yourself and keep going. My doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to walk again but I kept trying. Just because you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. I think tai chi is great and it needs to be more widely known that it can be done in a wheelchair, especially in hospitals. I would never have known if not for my sister. I love to exercise and tai chi has helped strengthen my stomach and back because I wasn’t using those muscles. I used to slouch when I used my walker but now I am standing up taller and straighter since I started practicing tai chi.
So if you are in a wheelchair tai chi may be the exercise for you, but you can’t give up.
The workshop is done! What a wonderful week it was. I recently attended the week-long tai chi workshop in New London, Connecticut, USA. The wide diversity of the people in the Tai Chi for Health community makes the workshop an incredibly rich environment for learning and for teaching. We are all working with a common purpose to create a safe and supporting environment for people to learn to help themselves and to help others. I have never known such a supportive and giving group of people.
We stayed in the dorms and ate at the student cafeteria. It was a simple environment that allowed us to focus on our work for the week. There is tremendous value in getting away from our everyday lives and the distractions that are part of that.
We worked hard for 6 days, from Monday to Saturday. Classes and education ran from 9:00 AM until about 4:30 PM. In addition, 3 of the days we also had optional evening classes and activities from 6:30 PM to about 9:00 PM. And Friday evening was a social dinner and dance. Saturday morning was for group practice. The afternoon was for demonstrations where each class showed everyone else what they had learned.
This is a very intense experience. We would spend from 4 to 8 hours each day on our feet practicing our tai chi. Our brains and bodies were filling up with new information. Almost everyone experiences a "melt down day" where we become so tired that we cannot function effectively. For me, it was Wednesday. There is a section of the Sun 73 where we count our steps so the class can stay together in a group performance. By the end of the day, I was so tired that I couldn't count to 4 and synchronize it with my steps.
I had dinner and went for a walk in a nearby park to regenerate a little energy. I called my wife about 8:30 that evening. She could tell how tired I was. After about 2 minutes, she told me to get off the phone and to go to bed. I followed her advice and got a good night's sleep. The next day I was recovered and ready to go again. The rest of the workshop was full of energy and became everything I wanted.
A workshop is a great opportunity to learn. It is also a great opportunity for giving back. I have accepted some new roles within the TCHC organization and the larger Tai Chi for Health community. You will be hearing about over the next year as the details get worked out. I'm really looking forward to it because it gives me more opportunities to help people. At the same time, I am a little bit apprehensive about it because I am stepping outside my comfort zone with some of it.
Humor, Laughter and Radiant Health
Dr Bob McBrien, Master Trainer, Salisbury, MD, USA
Attending a symposium on PTSD recently, I learned that there is an emphasis on teaching resilience skills to military personnel returning from the war zones. Humor was one of the dimensions of resilience presented at the symposium. No surprise; studies show that those who rarely found humor in their own lives, especially when under stress, experienced a greater suppression of their immune system (IgA). However, those with a well-developed sense of humor did not experience a weakened immune system. The researchers concluded that a humorous outlook on life may enable individuals to cope more effectively with stress. Along with the benefits of regular practice of tai chi for health, daily doses of humor and laughter contribute to well-being and better health. Here are some bits of wit to bring on a smile or a laugh.
Subject: Medical charts
* Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
* On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.
* The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
* Discharge status: Alive but without my permission.
* The patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
* The patient has no previous history of suicides.
* Patient was alert and unresponsive.
* While in ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.
* Patient left white blood cells at another hospital
* Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
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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.