Newsletter #150 - February 2014
- From me to you, Paul Lam
- Tai Chi for Health to Heal Society, Dr Raymond Lau
- Brought Together by Tai Chi, Anuradha Gajaraj-Lopez
- The Year of the Horse, Buck Barnes
- My New Knees - Part Two, Sandi Wicher
- Our Tai Chi Journey, Hector and Hildie Ruiz-Puyana
- Humor, Laughter and Radiant Health, Bob Mc Brien
Click on the title above to read the articles, this link to read all previous newsletters and here to subscribe
I had a really enjoyable time putting together this month’s newsletter, with the focus being on couples who do tai chi together. I was delighted to find that my friends Art and Anuradha actually met through tai chi, and they are sharing their romantic story, so you could call this a Valentine’s Day” issue!
I met up with Buck Barnes, a retired university professor and dean last year and was astonished to discover that he had taught English at Hanshan Normal University in Chaozhou, China, where I went to high school many years before. Buck became interested in tai chi by observing Chinese people practicing, and has written an article for us about Chinese New Year (31st January this year). Buck is a very gifted writer, and I already have his article “White Socks and Gloves” tabled for our March issue, the theme of which is seniors who still make a positive contribution to Tai Chi for Health. Thanks Buck, for being so generous with your talent.
I had a wonderful time at my One Week Workshop here in Sydney. We had some inspirational morning talks, which I will share with you over the next few issues.
This month we begin with Dr Raymond Lau’s very interesting talk, and you can also see the video at this link.
My school, Better Health Tai Chi Chuan is back from summer holidays. We had a great turn out on our first night, and featured in the local newspaper.
- Dr Raymond Lau’s morning talk from the Sydney One Week Workshop
- Anuradha and Art Lopez share their romantic story
- Buck Barnes applies a Chinese story to practicing tai chi without expectations or judgments
- Sandi Wicher continues the story of her bilateral knee replacement
- Hector and Hildie Ruiz-Puyana describe how tai chi helps them work and play together
- Dr Bob McBrien dispenses his regular dose of humour
This Month’s Special
Tai Chi for Energy is a magical form, with the unique synergy of Sun and Chen Styles. Couples who share tai chi often find that not only does their personal tai chi improve, but also their relationship is enhanced.
This month you can purchase the Tai Chi for Energy DVD at a 35% discount. Why not learn a new form with your special friend?
Click here to place your order. Please use coupon code TCE0214.
Upcoming Workshops by Dr Paul Lam
March 22-23 Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis Workshop
Carlsbad, CA, USA
Mar 27-28 Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Palmer Le, CO, United States
Mar 29-30 Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Palmer Lake, CO, United States
Apr 05-06 Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Chelsea, VIC, Australia
May 10-11 Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Jun 21-22 Tai Chi for Diabetes Workshop
Anchorage, AK, United States
Jul 03-04, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Jul 05-06. Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor Training
Jul 05-06. Tai Chi for Osteoporosis Instructor Training
Jul 05-06. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jul 17-18. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Jul 19-20. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jul 19-20. Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor Training
Jul 31-Aug 01, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Aug 02-03, Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Aug 16-17 Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Torrensville, SA, Australia
Sep 13-14 Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
East Longmeadow, MA, United States
Sep 27-28, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Oct 04-05, Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Oct 09-10 Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Jekyll Island, GA, United States
Oct 11-12 Tai Chi for Energy Part 2
Jekyll Island, GA, United States
Many other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in the Workshop Calendar.
Yours in Tai Chi,
Paul Lam, MD
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Doctor Raymond Lau, Master Trainer, Singapore and Chairman of the Tai Chi for Health Institute
In the World Health Organisation definition, there are six dimensions to an individual’s health and wellness. They are:
1. Social- having positive relationships
2. Intellectual- acquiring knowledge and skills
3. Physical- caring for one’s health
4. Vocational- finding fulfillment through work and volunteerism
5. Emotional- managing and expressing feelings
6. Spiritual- appreciating life, having values
Indeed, a person can only be truly well if all six dimensions of health and wellness are healthy.
If we are to extrapolate these dimensions to our society today, we can also consider the following six dimensions of holistic societal health:
1. Social- having high social capital
2. Intellectual- overall high level of knowledge and skills within the society
3. Physical- the society caring for the environment and facilities
4. Vocational- finding fulfillment through work and volunteerism
5. Emotional- managing and expressing feelings in public space
6. Spiritual- appreciating societal life, having societal values
There are three ailments that are destroying the health of modern society:
1. Destructive and non-sustainable development,
2. Inequality of opportunities and poverty
3. Fragmented systems, including healthcare delivery system that is resulting in avoidable morbidity and even
Therefore in order to heal society, we need to find the cure for these three ailments, in other words, we need to find the means to:
1. Have Sustainable development,
2. Reduce inequality of opportunities and poverty
3. Have integrated systems of healthcare delivery to square the morbidity curve.
- The Purpose of TCHI:
- To empower people to improve their health and wellness
- Vision of TCHI:
- Making Tai Chi for Health accessible to everyone for health and wellness
Today, I would even challenge ourselves to dream a dream that will become reality one day, for Tai Chi for Health to heal society.
How then can we empower people and make Tai Chi for Health accessible for all, and also heal society? As much as the magic of Tai Chi lies in the Tai Chi principles, I believe the magic of the growth of Tai Chi for Health (TCH) program to heal society will depend on the Tai Chi principles as well.
Tai Chi movement should be slow, continuous and smooth. Translated into growing the TCH program, our efforts should be slow, continuous and smooth. In change management of a complex adaptive system, speed in execution may not always be helpful. Oftentimes, slow deliberate actions are more helpful than fast but meaningless activities. Persistence and perseverance are also required in order for our efforts to be continuous. We must not be afraid to fail and try again, to fail and try yet again, learning from our mistakes as we press on to our purpose and vision. Our actions should also be smooth, sensitive to the culture and context of the situations that we are operating in. The principle of gentle resistance can be translated into constructive conflict, a necessary ingredient for an organization that is eager to learn from one another, and to maximize the engagement and potential of each and every individual member.
The Tai Chi principle of upright posture can be translated into growing the TCH program with upright character and values. The principle of weight transference can be the need to demonstrate empathy in our relationship building. Being careful to listen to one another before giving appropriate comments or advices. Being sensitive to the emotional transference in our communications and dealings, so that we can keep it positive to build up one another.
The Tai Chi principle of “Jing” can be translated into mindfulness, the purposeful intentional self-awareness that allows us to observe our own perceptions, thoughts, feelings and actions on a moment-to-moment basis, and to understand the internal and external factors contributing our own reactions. “Song” can be translated into openness in our minds and hearts, being non-judgmental, so that we can accept what is not our own, see the positive in everyone and every situation, so that we can build on the positive in every circumstance.
The Tai Chi principles, when applied with these new insights will help us heal society, for example:
1. Being mindful and non-judgmental will enable us to make choices to protect the environment and allow more sustainable development.
2. Mindfulness and openness, together with being upright in character and empathetic will facilitate a more caring society with equal opportunity for all.
3. If we continue to collaborate with others with hearts that are sensitive, minds that welcome constructive conflict, and attitudes of persistence and perseverance, we shall be able to integrate TCH program into more of the healthcare delivery systems, and square the morbidity curve further.
Practicing Tai Chi by observing the principles will help cultivate and flow the “chi” (energy) and focus the “yi” (intention). In the same manner, nurturing and growing the TCH program by observing the principles will help cultivate and flow the “trust” and “align” our purpose and vision. Trust and alignment are the two most important factors in our success as an institute. By so doing, I am certain that the Tai Chi for Health program will be able to contribute to the healing of society.
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Anuradha Gajaraj-Lopez, Instructor, Fresno, CA
I am 40 and you are 20…I am in the autumn of my life and you are in the spring of your life.
So went the song that Art played to me on our first date…Except, he was 58 and I 39; he was Mexican, and I an Asian Indian; he was born in the US and I was but a new immigrant to America… Yet our hearts met through the vast chasms of societal boundaries.
When I chose to do push hands at the Tai Chi class, it was because he seemed like the safest person to practice with. I was new to Tai Chi; he had been practicing martial arts for over 30 years by then. He was a black belt in karate, had competed in championships and I was completely green to the subject – I had never heard of Tai Chi before this!
Not used to the American culture, his question-“Have you seen the giant sequoia trees?” brought the simple answer “No” from me. That stopped the conversation that day. Next week, we were pushing hands again and he said, “I am going to see the sequoias”. My response? “Oh..that’s nice.”
A week later came the more direct question, “would you like to see the sequoias?”, my answer was simply “no”. I had no idea that he was trying to take me out on a date.
Finally, a direct question was what would get through my psyche, Art thought. Getting my email id from our mutual friend, he wrote, “have you had lunch?”. My response was honest, “yes”. Stumped, Art decided to make himself very clear the next day. I opened my email to his question, “Anu, this is an invitation to lunch or dinner”. I panicked! I called my friend Charles, and talked to the American lady I lived with. Both agreed that it would be good for me to go have dinner with this man. “You never go out, go and enjoy yourself, “ Grace, the American lady I lived with, said.
When Art picked me up that day, as we drove to the Japanese restaurant, it was the 40 and 20 song that he played. The rest is history. In 2010, we went on a trip to India, where we planned to get engaged in the traditional Indian way. We got engaged with Art gamely going through the elaborate Hindu rituals and chanting Sanskrit hymns!
Within three days, he surprised me and my family with a “let’s get married!” So, off we went to a Hindu temple of the Elephant headed God Ganesha and became man and wife in the eyes of God.
We returned to the US, moved into a new house, and Art retired. Art heard about Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis program. Within days, he was watching the video and practicing hard at home. Soon, we were off to Pleasanton where Art got certified to teach TCA!
Back home, he started teaching the TCA at the St Paul Newman Center where he had earlier taught a Yang style class. He had had to hand over the class to another person, because he had been promoted to Deputy Director to the State Department of Rehabilitation and moved to Sacramento.
Soon, his class grew to nearly 60 students and classes are now being held two days a week, beginners and intermediate class each day. Approached by the California State University Fresno, Art started teaching at Fresno state to staff and students during lunch time two days a week as well.
Shortly after, he encouraged me to learn TCA and I got certified as well. I assist Art in teaching TCA during Saturdays to senior students of his class.
As we learn more and more forms, we spend more and more time together doing something we both love: Tai Chi. Alone, I would not have the discipline to practice the form. Art and his passion for Tai Chi have rubbed a little off on me too.
When he practices to new music, he always checks to see my response and so our daily interactions are spiced up with beauty of the world of Tai Chi!
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Buck Barnes, Instructor, Buford, GA. USA
From the powerful war horses of the 4th Century BC Han Dynasty cavalry to the dancing dressage horses that delighted Tang Dynasty emperors in court ceremonies (618-907 AD) and beyond, no other animal has had such a profound influence on China’s history. It is one of only twelve animals to have its own year on the lunar
calendar. Every twelve years, including this year is The Year of the Horse but it will be sixty years before the Wood Horse returns, taking its turn with horses of the other four of the five elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, each with unique characteristics.
Living on the vast grasslands of northern China are the nomadic people of the horse culture where a man’s wealth is measured by the number of horses he owns. On the occasion of one young man’s sixteenth birthday, he was given a horse by his father. That’s a good thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not. The next day the young man’s horse ran away. That’s a bad thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not. A few days later the horse returned with a band of wild horses. That’s a good thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not.
The young man mounted one of the wild horses to go riding. That’s a good thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not. The horse bucked the young man off breaking his arm in the fall. That’s a bad thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not.
A few days later emissaries of the warlord came to the village and conscripted all able-bodied young men into the army. That’s a bad thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not. The young man was not conscripted because of his broken arm. That’s a good thing, right? Perhaps, perhaps not.
Lau Tzu wrote, “Be like nature and do not judge.” This applies to our tai chi practice as well as to the way we live our lives. Apparent successes may turn out to be failures and perceived setbacks may in reality be progress. Let us be like the horse; free spirited, robust, with boundless energy, without expectations, without judgement, without contention.
Salvador Dali advises, “Never fear perfection for you shall never achieve it.” Let us follow the advice of these two wise men, one of flesh and blood and the other shrouded in mystery. Let’s just relax and allow our tai chi and our lives to unfold naturally without expectations or judgement. Natural action, wu wei, is the best way
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Sandi Wicher, Master Trainer, Walla Walla, Washington
Three weeks after I underwent double knee replacements in October 2012, the home therapy machines were taken away. My progress was considered excellent and I had made a believer of my physical therapist about the benefits of tai chi in my recovery.
My doctor, too, was very pleased when he saw me stroll into his office for a post-surgery appointment without the use of a walker. He said I was not his usual patient and encouraged me to continue at my pace but with caution.
I asked him when I could swim; he said not till my stitches were healed. Then I asked when could I cycle; he said my knees would tell me when. He told me to continue with my exercises, elevation, ice and medications.
One day at a time. I could get back to my normal routine when I felt my knees were ready. I was ready to start outpatient physical therapy.
I researched and decided on a clinic about five miles from our home. I immediately liked Cory, the therapist I had chosen at the outpatient clinic. He had a mindset like mine and saw I was a dedicated, serious patient. He gave me exercises to challenge me physically and mentally but was very conscientious and watched to see that I did each exercise with good posture and correct technique.
The flexion and extension exercises he assisted me with were the hardest and hurt the most. The goal was to reach 120 degree bends at the knees, which I eventually did.
I used weight machines, step ups, balls, hurdles and many other props. He had me stand on rocking boards, using ski poles for balance and stretch my leg back then, while balancing, pull my knee up toward my chest. To step over the small hurdles, I had to bend my knee, heel toward my buttocks then extend my leg over the hurdle as I stepped.
I added an extra movement on my own and Cory asked me what I was doing. I told him it reminded me of what are called “Crane Walking Steps” in tai chi and qigong. He said he liked the addition and that I should keep doing it as it helped me get back to my daily practice and life of teaching tai chi.
Between therapy sessions, I was to continue to exercise at home and began walking first around the block then, when ready, add a mile walk around the lake. My legs were stiff and the walking was slow but I was learning to walk all over again.
I still rested with legs up, and ice remained a must. Sleeping was still hard and I was still on my pain meds.
Most days I took the pain meds before physical therapy so I could make it through. It hurt!
I thought surely now that it was getting into the end of November it was time to start getting off my pain meds. I still had swelling and still not sleeping on my stomach yet, but thought that because I am not a sitter I’d surely be fully back on my feet again two months after surgery. I tried to cut my pain meds down, but I still hurt. It sure takes a long time to heal, I thought.
Again I thanked my husband Gordon for his help, encouragement and support. And Cory, too, who has seen many knee replacement patients. He gave me encouragement and said I was way ahead of most people in my recovery because of my pre-surgery preparation and postoperative dedication, and told me I needed to be patient about getting off my medications.
I felt setting a goal is important and I had a big one. I had been invited to attend the Master Training in Tai Chi for Health programs held in Australia in early January. Any goal is a must to keep you focused and encouraged, and this one was mine.
I love to cycle and couldn’t wait to get on a stationary bike, on my way to getting back on my road bike. Yeah right ... my first five minutes hurt so bad I was watching the clock to see how soon I could get off. But that, too, got easier with time, though not as quickly as I had thought or hoped.
The summary here is physical therapy hurts, but it was so necessary for the future of my knees. So I was grateful for my pain meds to help me through it.
I worked hard and accomplished my goals of 120 degrees flexion in both knees. Now it was going to be important to keep the progress going as I prepared for my trip to Australia just three months after bilateral knee replacement.
Next month: Have knees, will travel.
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Hector and Hildie Ruiz-Puyana, Instructors, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Many years ago, in Pennsylvania, Hector wanted to train to earn a Black Belt in Karate - a fun family activity for the whole family (their daughter, seven at that time, had already started to train). But Hildie, his wife, had a bad knee! How could she possibly learn to kick, punch, break wood, and do forms?
They talked to the instructor, who didn’t take “no” for an answer. If it hurts, don’t do it, he said - get your butt in here, we’ll do the rest. Sure enough: after three years and many hours of conditioning, training, stretching, sweating, they both proudly earned their first Black Belt - on their wedding anniversary. Hildie’s knee had gotten better within the first six weeks. They were all in high spirits after hours of intensive training. They suffered together, and enjoyed the rewards together.
They repeated the experience with Taek Won Do in Colorado, and went on to practice other forms of martial arts (Jeet Kune Do, Thai Boxing, Krav Maga, etc.) They came across Tai Chi as one of those forms, and while Hector loved it, Hildie wasn’t quite so enthusiastic about it. She loved the speed and power of martial arts and hated to have to slow down for tai chi.
Later, in Florida, they found a six-week tai chi program. Hildie reluctantly agreed to give it another try because Hector liked it so much. This time she saw tai chi in a different light: as a challenge to her concentration and memory. They went on to practice regularly twice a week with a Chinese instructor (Yang and Cheng Man-Ch'ing style, 42 combined forms).
After a few weeks Hildie noticed that these classes had a profound effect. The stress of her daytime job - teaching math to students with special needs - seemed to melt away. On the long drive to class she was hardly talking, still thinking about the day’s frustrations, but on the way back she was talking and laughing.
Hector has always been fascinated by Chinese culture, philosophy, beautiful characters and paintings. He was now retired and devoted his time to brush painting and reading as much as he could about traditional Chinese arts, tai chi and qi gong. He filled in the gaps Hildie had about understanding the mind-body connection in tai chi.
After a couple of years they found Patricia Lawson, their Master Trainer, and started studying the 24 forms and Tai Chi for Health under her patient and friendly guidance. They continue to train twice weekly with Pat (73, Chen 36 and Yang Sword Forms). It was Pat who planted the seed that maybe, one day; they might be able to teach tai chi themselves.
Little did they know how much deeper their understanding, how much more enjoyable their practice would be once they started teaching. They teach classes together, combining their strengths: Hector brings his broad knowledge of martial arts, qi gong, and tai chi, and Hildie brings her many years of teaching experience and a lot of patience to class. It naturally evolved that Hildie takes care of beginners and novices, and Hector goes more in-depth with advanced students.
They enjoy watching Dr Paul Lam’s DVDs together, discussing strategy and fine tuning their teaching. Traveling to Tai Chi for Health workshops several times a year are their preferred vacation days!
They both agree that they get more out of teaching than they put in. At present they teach and practice tai chi six days a week. They found it very rewarding to see four of their students become certified instructors, now shadowing them in class.
They love to see the pure joy on their students’ faces, to hear their success stories week after week - the walking is easier, balance improved, less pain, greater range of motion, regaining strength and control of limbs after injury, stroke, or with Parkinson’s… It mirrors what they experienced themselves: lower blood pressure, pre-diabetes disappeared, knees are just fine. And, not to forget the first benefit - to quote one of their students: “My husband says I’m in a better mood when I do Tai Chi!”
Next month we hear from two of Hector and Hildie’s participants, Joe and Bobbie Richards
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by Dr Bob McBrien, Master Trainer, Salisbury, Maryland, USA
Teaching Tai Chi for Health classes in a senior center offers many benefits for both teacher and student. One discovery for me was the healthy sense of humor most of my students have. The experience of ageing is the main topic of their stories and jokes. Common themes include, growing older, dealing with health and forgetfulness and of course visiting the doctor's office. Here are a few bits of wit from my pensioners.
- Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to his doctor to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm. A couple of days later the doctor spoke to Morris and said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?" Morris replied, "Just doing what you said, Doc: 'Get a hot mamma and be cheerful.'" The doctor said, "I didn't say that. I said, 'You've got a heart murmur. Be careful.'"
- George began seeing a new physician. After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, his doctor said he was doing "fairly well" for my age. A little concerned about that comment, George asked him," Do you think I'll live to be 90?"The doctor asked, "Do you smoke or drink?" "Oh no," George replied. "I don't do drugs, either." Then the doctor asked, "Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?" George said, "No, my other doctor told me that red meat is very unhealthy." "Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?" "No, I don't," George said. Finally, the doctor asked, "Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a mistress?" "No," I said. "I don't do any of those things." The doctor looked at George and said, "Why do you want to live to be 90?"
- An older gentleman was on the operating table awaiting surgery and he insisted that his son, a renowned surgeon, perform the operation. As he was about to get the anesthesia he asked to speak to his son. "Yes, Dad, what is it?" "Don't be nervous, son; do your best and just remember, if it doesn't go well, if something happens to me, your mother will come and live with you and your wife...."
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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.
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