Newsletter #151 - March 2014
• From me to you, Paul Lam
• Greta Reidy – A Tai Chi Treasure, Denise and Mike Soric, Maree Lamb
• With thanks to the Scholarship Committee, Gail Turner
• White Socks and Sleeves and Other Lessons Learned, Buck Barnes
• Tai Ji Tears, Daniel Loney
• My New Knees – Part Three, Have Knees, Will Travel! Sandi Wicher
• Tai Chi’s Benefits and Special Gifts, Joe and Bobbie Richards
• 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
At our Sydney workshop we presented awards to three of our “Tai Chi Treasures” – Greta Reidy, Charles Miller and Zoe Arthy. I would like to give everyone within the Tai Chi for Health vision an award for the wonderful work they do in spreading tai chi, but I really enjoyed seeing the surprise and appreciation on Greta, Charlie and Zoe’s faces on that special morning!
Zoe is one of our youngest and most regular participants, but it did bring home to me that we have many, many seniors who work tirelessly to promote Tai Chi for Health like Charles and Greta. It is a widely accepted fact that the more people put into their tai chi, the more tai chi gives back to them. So to all those wonderful people out there, I dedicate this issue to our seniors, long may they practice!
In timely fashion, Denise Murray sent me a link to a Harvard and Huffington Post public health forum on the science behind healthy aging. It reinforced my conviction that Tai Chi for Health can play a major part in keeping seniors active and healthy. Do share it with your participants, colleagues and local health providers.
Buck Barnes has sent us another wonderful (and very appropriate) article. I love to hear from you all, but I would like to give a special thank you to Buck for always turning in immaculate articles, compliant with the articles guide, all relevant information and a photo included. Well done Buck! If you would like to submit an article you can find a link to the guide on the newsletter page. Also, please do tell your friends and participants about my newsletter, we have a lot of wonderful stories to share!
Lastly, this month we hear from one of our scholarship recipients, Gail Turner about the way tai chi is making a significant difference to her life in the harsh environment of Broken Hill. Gail’s talk was very moving, do take time to watch it.
In this Newsletter:
• Denise, Mike and Maree tell us about the “Treasure” in their
• Gail Turner is in demand in Broken Hill
• Adjusting teaching methods to accommodate those senior moments,
• Daniel Loney shares his beautiful tai ji poem with us
• Sandi Wicher continues the story of her bilateral knee replacement
• Joe and Bobbie Richards talk about being a tai chi couple
• Dr Bob McBrien dispenses his regular dose of humour
This Month’s Special
Tai Chi for Older Adults makes a great gift for your senior friends and relatives.
This month you can purchase Tai Chi for Older Adults and receive a 35% discount.
Click here to place your order. Please use coupon code MSP0314
Upcoming Workshops by Dr Paul Lam
Mar 22-23. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Carlsbad, CA, United States
Mar 27-28. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Palmer Lake, CO, United States
Mar 29-30. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Palmer Lake, CO , United States
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 18-19 Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Chicago, IL, United States
Sep 20-21 Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Chicago, IL, 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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Denise Soric, Senior Trainer, Mike Soric, Senior Trainer and Maree Lam, Master Trainer, Townsville, Queensland
Greta Reidy started tai chi with the late MT Suzanne McLauchlan. She had a long career in teaching and as her tai chi improved, she was always keen to help anyone in the class.
We began our tai chi journey on the same day at the same class, run by Suzanne. Right away we realised that Greta was the important corner person, the encouraging advanced student and the administration assistant that Suzanne needed to help her run a large class. She was always there, respecting her teacher, never encroaching on the lesson plan or trying to show something different, but leading by example.
Her smile said “You are doing well, I’m so glad you are here”. We all immediately knew we had a friend in this strange new tai chi world. Our teacher was remarkable and very approachable, kind and patient. But here was something different. Greta was one of us, a fellow student and we did not feel silly asking her anything.
Greta’s experience is huge. She has attended 10 Annual Sydney Workshops and 4 in the USA. She became a certified instructor for many Tai Chi for Health Programs over the years, and assisted Dr Lam as a group leader in his Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis workshops several times in Australia and New Zealand. Importantly, she still attends regular classes to practice and connect with other students. It would be very easy for someone with such huge experience and knowledge to not bother sharing it, but as we soon found out, this is not the Tai Chi for Health way. And Greta embodies what the Tai Chi for Health community is all about. Caring and sharing.
As we advanced towards becoming Senior Trainers and Master Trainer, Greta was just as important in helping us achieve our goals.
For example, Greta has:
- Facilitated a series of country weekend workshops to bring tai chi to outback Queensland, volunteering time and travelling hundreds of kilometres to assist with teaching and administration, support and suggestions.
- Supported us as new instructors when we started classes, with constructive feedback and practical assistance, as well as suggestions for modification of movements. Greta is a lady of mature years who has worked out the best way to achieve certain movements herself whilst maintaining safety and tai chi principles, and is keen to help others using her experience.
- Proof read proposals for business and government grant applications. She still has a school teacher’s eye for correct spelling and clear language and likes to make sure we present our documents correctly.
- Run practice groups prior to the Sydney Workshops to help everyone to be fully prepared, and watches out for those attending their first workshop to help them to settle in.
- Assisted instructors to prepare for reaccreditation prior to update workshops.
- Always been a wise sounding board for bouncing our ideas about new classes and workshops.
- A wonderful sense of humour that helps everyone to relax and get the most from any class.
Greta really is a Tai Chi Treasure in our community, and we know her fondly as “Greta the Greeter”. Hopefully there are more Tai Chi for Health role models just like her in other places. If you have someone who has helped you along the way, is generous with time and knowledge, empowers you to improve and supports you in all things tai chi then tell them that you treasure them. Learn from them.
And like us, try to follow in those very big footsteps and nurture others, so that more people can know someone like Greta Reidy.
Thank you Greta, from your friends Denise, Mike & Maree and from everyone who has experienced your caring and sharing approach to tai chi. We are all richer for knowing you and we treasure you.
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Gail Turner, Scholarship Recipient and Instructor, Broken Hill, New South Wales
As one of the recipients of a scholarship I would like to thank the scholarship committee. Being at the workshop enables me to learn, grow my knowledge of Tai Chi, to network with other teachers, to grow and I will take away that certain inner strength that comes from attending a workshop.
What I learn at the workshop I take back to my community of Broken Hill.
Broken Hill is an isolated mining town of about 20,000 and our environment is harsh, we have little rain and lots of dust. We are in NSW but our nearest capital city is Adelaide SA (5.5 hours by road); our nearest town is Mildura in VIC about 300 ks away. We are so far west that we are on SA time.
Last year I became a Tai Chi for Health volunteer teacher with Far West Local Health District. This wasn't an easy step for me, but I had lots of help and support from trainers, friends, the Health Department and of course the book ‘Teaching Tai Chi Effectively’. That gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone.
I was a bit worried that I may not be able to fill one class but the day the class was advertised in the local paper by 9.30am I had 30 participants - enough for 2 classes and the phone just kept ringing. For days my husband answered the phone “Hello, Gail’s answering service!” So we have a waiting list of at least another 30 people for this year.
My oldest participant was over 80 but that wasn't the challenge - the challenge was that he was practically deaf, so for him I typed out what I was going to be talking to the class about. He followed well, was enthusiastic and wants to come back this year.
As a first time teacher I was thrilled with the feedback from the classes. The participants reported things like - better balance, improved quality of life, better muscle strength & improved flexibly. As someone who didn’t think she could teach I’ve been amazed that I could have such a positive impact on others. This year I hope to encourage someone else to become a teacher and attend a workshop.
Tai Chi has given me better health, I have less pain and more mobility but most importantly better mental health. About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with an anxiety/depression disorder; I lost my job and became reclusive. Since I found Tai Chi I have a wellness, internal balance and peace that I never had before. The people who know me the best - my husband, mum, and close friends, have commented on the positive changes within me.
So Tai Chi is my future - a growing family of friends, playing, ever learning, taking up new challenges and of course teaching what I have learnt.
So again, thank you for helping me be here. My journey in Tai Chi continues.
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Buck Barnes, Instructor, Buford, GA, USA
At age 102, Joanna had the distinction of being the oldest student in the class. The other students were comparative youngsters in their 90s.
The years having taken a toll on Joanna’s vision, she told me that she couldn’t see how my arms and feet move. From then on I wore white socks and sleeves.
Betty loved stories about tai chi. “Tell us again about the founder of tai chi, that man who watched the snake and crane fight and used their moves to defend himself against bandits.” So I told the story of Zhang San-feng, again, and we all did our individual versions of Snake Creeps Down and White Crane Spreads Wings.
Rose loved poetry. If I failed to bring a tai chi-related poem to class to read, she reminded me to bring one next time. My favorite is the beautifully-written Tai Ji Tears, by Danny Loney, who teaches fellow Parkinson’s survivors in Jerusalem.
When I started reading a poem one day, Joanna said, “I didn’t come here to listen to you talk. I came here to move!” That is when I learned to read poems and tell stories while Joanna took her brief but predictable nap about half way through each class.
While doing Wave Hands Like Clouds, Susan smiled and said, “We have never done that before. I really like that.” Rather than remind her that we had done Wave Hands many times before, I returned her smile and said, “I’m really glad you like it. We’ll do it again next week.”
Fisher was a regular so when he missed class one day and I asked about him I was told that he was in the hospital. After recovering in a rehab facility, Fisher’s smiling face once again graced the doorway. “Welcome back, Fisher.” I called, “Come in and do tai chi with us.” “Okay,” he replied as he entered the room, “but I have never done it before
and won’t know what to do.” After being momentarily taken aback, I said, “That won’t be a problem. We’ll show you what to do.”
Joanna and Fisher are both gone now but the lessons they and others in the class taught me live on. Accommodating individual interests and physical needs can make the difference between a class being successful or not.
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Exhausted from the fight
And weary from the journey,
I find rest upon a city bench
Parked, like a statue in the square.
Ignored and invisible to passersby
Who scurry through their lives,
They move with quickness and with ease,
A pace I can no longer keep.
Yet, there is still a hidden place
Where I am king.
A world where every move
Becomes a gift of praise.
A place where tears flow freely
In thanks for heaven’s grace.
Stillness is my solace,
And slowness is my sanctuary
Where every muscle, joint, and sinew seeks its rightful place,
And every limb and organ finds harmony in the whole.
Where I am quiet as a mountain,
Yet, flowing like a river great.
With the grace of a white crane spreading wings,
And with the firmness of a golden pheasant on one leg,
Using the guile of a snake creeping down,
And with the stealth of a tiger seeking prey,
Like a horse jumping over a stream,
I soar in victory,
And with the surety of a sparrow returning to its nest,
In triumph I fly.
So, if in your daily journey
Rushing from place to place,
You happen upon a man
Dancing an ancient dance,
And diamond drops rest on his cheeks
Know that he is immersed in tai ji prayer,
Crying tai ji tears of faith,
Worshiping through movement in awe of his Creator.
Editor’s note: Daniel Loney has been doing tai chi for over twenty years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was 49. After several years of physical deterioration, he was forced to retire from his job as a computer science engineer and curtail his passion for tai chi.
During this time, Daniel treated his Parkinson’s symptoms using western medicine and various alternative techniques. After having only limited success in relieving his symptoms, he finally decided to take full responsibility for his health and immersed himself in tai chi. As a result, tai chi has brought Daniel sustained relief from his Parkinson’s symptoms.
Daniel kindly agreed to let us publish his poem. You can find out more about him here.
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Sandi Wicher, Master Trainer, Walla Walla, Washington
So I splurged to go to Australia and booked first class. Both legs had to be kept in full-length elastic leg support hose, but I had the pleasure of a stretched seat to keep them up on the long flight. I would be in Australia for two weeks. The bummer was that I wasn’t going to be able to do much sightseeing, not only because of the master tai chi training I was here to do but also because I was not able to get around very much on my new knees. I did take a sitting sightseeing bus upon arrival, having arrived a day ahead of training.
I was still on my pain medication but cutting down. Dr. Paul Lam, a renowned physician and tai chi master presenting the training, was aware of my bilateral knee replacement in early October. He had instructed me to do only what I could during the practice sessions. I attended the workshops, sat and observed between practices and went back to my room each day at lunch to ice my knees and rest.
During my time there Australia was recording some of its hottest temperatures ever and I was not very comfortable wearing support hose in the heat. But I did and I survived, thanks to the ice, rest and, of course, my pain meds.
Coming back to Walla Walla in mid-January was only a pit stop on the way back to Arizona for more recuperation. I was still not ready to return to life’s normal routine. I was, however, walking more, biking some but still on meds, rest and ice.
I tried two or three times to quit taking the meds but my knees hurt. I cried, doubted my decision to replace both knees at the same time — and again thanked my husband, Gordon, for his support. In time, he said, no rush. Same words from my physician. But it’s ME, I don’t do meds! Having not taken any medications in my adult life, I don’t know, I think I had the small fear I would be addicted. Yet my body still needed the help to heal.
Time went slowly and the weight gain seemed to come quickly. Without my usual busy routine, without daily exercise before surgery when my knees hurt and now when I am recovering after surgery, my pants were feeling tighter and my body was getting uncomfortable. Way too much sitting with ice and rest for the amount of food I was eating. But, again, my knees were not ready yet for the program my mind thought I needed to be on.
As April approached and I knew I would be back in Walla Walla and teaching tai chi classes, I felt ready. Tai chi is slow, relaxing and builds strength, range of motion and helps with balance — all the thing my recovering body needed to do. I was also ready to ride my horses again. So, six months after surgery I was ready to face the world, or so I thought.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I would ride my bike for an hour in the morning. I would go on a usual route, including hills, 15 to 20 miles, just like I used to. Then in the afternoons, I would ride my horses for about two hours. Tuesdays and Thursdays I was teaching two back-to-back tai chi classes.
I was finally able to roll onto my stomach to sleep. Yay! So catching up on rest was getting better. My knees were still a little sore and some swelling. I had finally cut down on my pain medication, now just enough to sleep through the night. I decided to ask my surgeon about a few concerns related to continued swelling that I thought should be gone by now and still some discomfort when lying on my side. I told him what I was doing each day, now six months since surgery. I reminded him that he said I could get back to “my normal life” when I felt ready, so why was I still having discomfort and swelling?
His answer was brief: “So do you think you’re doing too much?” He explained that I was not his “usual patient” because most people who have bilateral knee replacements are not back to normal until at least a year after surgery. “You’re doing great, but you’re doing too much,” he said. I guess he didn’t know me that well. After 43 years of marriage, my husband knows me and he told me the same thing. But do I listen to him either? It’s my body and I thought I was ready.
It was at that time I really had to give some thought about doing too much and to take care of my knees. I sure did not want to go through this again, ever. I would make a priority list. My cycling could wait, I was getting other exercise. My tai chi classes and my horse riding ¬— I had not ridden much during the six months before my surgery because of the pain - were a priority. My knee strength, flexibility and my weight gain also were priorities.
So, once again, I set a goal and a realistic plan of action
Next month: Back in the saddle again, and pain free.
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Joe and Bobbie Richards, Instructors, Port Saint Lucie
Recently retired, I had the intention of practicing Tai Chi prominently posted on my "dream board". A brief introduction to Tai Chi a few years earlier left me with a powerful memory of peaceful focus to be explored fully once time became available.
Surprise! My husband, Joe, decided to join me in Tai Chi. He fell in love with the passive nature of Tai Chi and the simplicity ...no equipment, practicing whenever and where ever you like. We now have a shared interest where we are both novices! The chemistry is awesome!
We were fortunate to enrol in classes instructed by Hector and Hildie Ruiz-Puyana. Their dedication and commitment was apparent from the start as they created a community of students, learning together but practicing Tai Chi on a personal level. A second surprise was watching how a Tai Chi couple, interacted in a dynamic environment to the best benefit of the students! Serendipitous and inspiring!
With time and much practice, we gained improved balance (dressing without holding on), greater strength, agility and flexibility, (Joe's range of motion in his neck helps his driving skills and my ability to sit cross-legged on the floor without knee pain). Enhanced focus and attention to detail along with the residual mental peacefulness is invaluable.
I should be finished with this article by now, except that there were more surprises to be had......As a couple, we are closer for sharing a common activity as novices. Best of all are two unintended consequences of our experience that have made our relationship flourish.
For Joe, he has adopted the "Teaching Tai Chi Effectively" style of coaching, practicing positive phrasing in a constructive, informative and caring way. For me? A break-through in our relationship. I can now accept his coaching as an act of generosity, not criticism! This is amazing as I have not been able to do so in the past 25+ years. Yeah! We keep each other on point in practicing and sprinkle positive coaching as we go.
Let me close by saying we are certified to teach two styles of Tai Chi, still practicing together and growing individually. We assist Hector and Hildie in their classes using all that we have learned to help other students and enhance our lives each day! Great journey so far........... .
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by Dr Bob McBrien, Master Trainer, Salisbury, Maryland, USAAre you a lexophile?
Thanks go out to Caroline Demoise. Caroline e-mailed me recently with a delightful contribution to add to my library of positive humor. I am happy to share some examples of word plays that entertain lexophiles.
But first we need a definition for this curious word. A lexophile is a person who loves words and word plays (including puns).
Here are some examples:
• In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.
• A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.
• A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking
• The guy who fell on to an upholstery machine was fully recovered.
• A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
• You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
• He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
• A calendar's days are numbered.
• When you've seen one shopping centre you've seen a mall.
• If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.
• When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
• Acupuncture: a jab well done.
• A sling shot was confiscated from algebra class, it was a weapon of math disruption.
• No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationary.
• If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed
• He had a photographic memory that was never developed.
So, are you a lexophile? Send your wordplays to me @ [email protected]
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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.
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