Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


 

Archive for July, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – A TCC State of Mind

Posted By Tom Daly on July 28th, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – A TCC State of Mind

Push hands is a very revealing experience.  We tend to fall into several traps and I suspect these are the same traps that we encounter in life.

Trap one: They are doing this wrong!  Here we criticize what the other is doing without taking a good hard look at what we are doing.

Trap two:  I’m here to help you.  Thus, we give our sage advice at every turn.  Sages abound in tai chi because it feels so good to think what we have to offer is so right, so correct, so good.  (This is MY favorite trap!)

Trap three:  I am helpless and can’t do a thing.  That may be true, but to engage in push hands from that angle usually leads to trap one and two down the road.

Trap four:  That’s good that’s good that’s good.  Here we flatter our partner and compliment them, even if you are being so cooperative that a bum on the street would be just as skilled.  Here we are silently being superior.  After all, we are the judge of what is good.  So we must know.

Trap five:  Finding the tiniest of the tiny flaw in your partner.  I am a microscope.  I will find SOMETHING to criticize regardless of the good things that the partner may be executing.

There must be others.  I wonder if my ultimate trap is simply something I don’t want to see or acknowledge.  Hard to say.  I know I really want to be on top of this thing we call push hands.  But let’s face it, push hands is VAST.

Given these tendencies, how can we engage in practice that avoids these traps?

For one, notice your tendency and try to stop it.  Good luck!  (Why do you think they call it a “trap”?)

Two, give your partner 5 minutes of free zone time to just try things. Here you are not allowed to coach, criticize, comment, judge.  Here you don’t have an opinion.  They need time to simply feel things.  You need time to simply feel things.

If your partner gives you some free zone time, you might be taking a good close look at what is going on without the judgment.  See what you feel is good about what you did.  See where you think you need to develop in what you just did.

Then share with your partner your own observations.  Give a few more tries and see if they concur with your observation.

What I’m advocating here is that we sometimes practice with each other as witnesses to the process, not so much as critics (towards them or towards yourself) or coaches.

I can’t tell you how many times I’m trying to do something different and before I’ve gone halfway with my experiment my partner has a comment to make.  I needed 10 tries, but he/she comments halfway into my first attempt.

The other experience I have is when I’m trying to explain something I think may be true, but I know I can’t do it yet.  I’m experimenting or even demonstrating, knowing that before I do it, I won’t truly succeed.  Here the partner quickly jumps in and tells me that they didn’t see or feel the very thing I just noted that I can’t really do.  It seems ridiculous to me, but this is what happens.  Even more amusing is that though THEY can’t do this either, they have an alternate plan to discuss.

I would advocate giving each other some time to fail with impunity.  That’s where we mostly begin anyway.  Let the critic take a break.  Let the witness enjoy.

Push hands is far too messy a process to be saddled with perfection.  You have to start with where you are, with simple ideas, with a simple practice.  At some point you can take out the microscope and begin to untangle knots.  Yes, your partner’s observations here will be extremely helpful, crucial in fact.

But we need to take care to note that we are also always beginners at some level, and we all need time to just experiment.  The next phase is always just beyond our grasp, and yet grasping for it will defeat you.  Not trying also goes nowhere.  Letting play happen is extremely important.  Do kids at play criticize each other relentlessly?

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”  Salvador Dali

Or to alter that a bit, if you don’t find perfection, know it doesn’t exist.  Have fun with the journey.  You will never be perfect. Your partner will never be perfect.

Actor Dustin Hoffman once stated that we are all deeply flawed.  I tend to agree.  Like death, we really don’t want to go there.  Yet here we are looking for perfection, either in ourselves or others.  What to do?

Let your partner (and you) experiment.  Free imperfect exploration.  If they want feedback, you might (or you might not) give it to them.  Practice the free zone practice. You may even find relief within the play!

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Exercise and Brain Fitness – New York Times article

Posted By Tom Daly on July 27th, 2011

July 27, 2011, 12:01 am

New York Times

How Exercise Can Keep the Brain Fit

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

 

For those of us hoping to keep our brains fit and healthy well into middle age and beyond, the latest science offers some reassurance. Activity appears to be critical, though scientists have yet to prove that exercise can ward off serious problems like Alzheimer’s disease. But what about the more mundane, creeping memory loss that begins about the time our 30s recede, when car keys and people’s names evaporate? It’s not Alzheimer’s, but it’s worrying. Can activity ameliorate its slow advance — and maintain vocabulary retrieval skills, so that the word “ameliorate” leaps to mind when needed?

Obligingly, a number of important new studies have just been published that address those very questions. In perhaps the most encouraging of these, Canadian researchers measured the energy expenditure and cognitive functioning of a large group of elderly adults over the course of two to five years. Most of the volunteers did not exercise, per se, and almost none worked out vigorously. Their activities generally consisted of “walking around the block, cooking, gardening, cleaning and that sort of thing,” said Laura Middleton, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and lead author of the study, which was published last week in Archives of Internal Medicine.

But even so, the effects of this modest activity on the brain were remarkable, Dr. Middleton said. While the wholly sedentary volunteers, and there were many of these, scored significantly worse over the years on tests of cognitive function, the most active group showed little decline. About 90 percent of those with the greatest daily energy expenditure could think and remember just about as well, year after year.

“Our results indicate that vigorous exercise isn’t necessary” to protect your mind, Dr. Middleton said. “I think that’s exciting. It might inspire people who would be intimidated about the idea of quote-unquote exercising to just get up and move.”

The same message emerged from another study published last week in the same journal. In it, women, most in their 70s, with vascular disease or multiple risk factors for developing that condition completed cognitive tests and surveys of their activities over a period of five years. Again, they were not spry. There were no marathon runners among them. The most active walked. But there was “a decreasing rate of cognitive decline” among the active group, the authors wrote. Their ability to remember and think did still diminish, but not as rapidly as among the sedentary.

“If an inactive 70-year-old is heading toward dementia at 50 miles per hour, by the time she’s 75 or 76, she’s speeding there at 75 miles per hour,” said Jae H. Kang, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study. “But the active 76-year-olds in our study moved toward dementia at more like 50 miles per hour.” Walking and other light activity had bought them, essentially, five years of better brainpower.

“If we can push out the onset of dementia by 5, 10 or more years, that changes the dynamics of aging,” said Dr. Eric Larson, the vice president of research at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle and author of an editorial accompanying the two studies.

“None of us wants to lose our minds,” he said. So the growing body of science linking activity and improved mental functioning “is a wake-up call. We have to find ways to get everybody moving.”

Which makes one additional new study about exercise and the brain, published this month in Neurobiology of Aging, particularly appealing. For those among us, and they are many, who can’t get excited about going for walks or brisk gardening, scientists from the Aging, Mobility and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of British Columbia and other institutions have shown, for the first time, that light-duty weight training changes how well older women think and how blood flows within their brains. After 12 months of lifting weights twice a week, the women performed significantly better on tests of mental processing ability than a control group of women who completed a balance and toning program, while functional M.R.I. scans showed that portions of the brain that control such thinking were considerably more active in the weight trainers.

“We’re not trying to show that lifting weights is better than aerobic-style activity” for staving off cognitive decline, said Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an assistant professor at the university and study leader. “But it does appear to be a viable option, and if people enjoy it, as our participants did, and stick with it,” then more of us might be able, potentially, to ameliorate mental decline well into late life.

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Tai Chi Chuan – Study Demonstrates Mood Enhancement With Heart Failure Patients

Posted By Tom Daly on July 9th, 2011

Tai Chi Improves Moods of Heart Failure Patients

By FYI Health Writer on Jun 13, 2011

Summary

Evidence indicates that exercise involving meditation may have some benefits for patients who suffer from heart conditions such as heart failure. This hypothesis has, however, not been proved in clinical studies. This study was conducted to see if an exercise form such as tai chi, along with supportive regular therapy, helps for a prolonged duration patients with heart failure. Results showed that, although there was no reversal of the disease process, there was an improvement in the patients’ perception regarding their quality of life, exercise capacity, and general mood.

Introduction

Earlier it was believed that patients suffering from heart failure should not be permitted physical exercise. This belief persisted through the 1980s before new studies showed that regular moderate exercise can benefit patients with heart failure. Exercise modifies their disease, improves their quality of life and alleviates mental ailments like depression. Recent studies have shown that meditation-related physical exercises may help heart failure patients to a large extent. Tai chi, an ancient oriental exercise form, involves meditation as well as gentle balancing body movements and breathing techniques. Studies have shown that tai chi may help lower blood pressure and improve balance, mood, muscle diseases and exercise capacity. This study evaluated the effectiveness of tai chi in heart failure patients.

Methodology

For this study, 100 heart failure patients with an average age of 67 years from different centers were chosen and involved in the study between 1st May 2005 and 30th September 2008.

Half of the participants (50) were included in a 12-week tai chi program involving one-hour group classes. The other half was given educational material regarding good health and exercise practices for the same duration. All patients also received standard heart failure care.

At the beginning and end of the training, all participants were assessed for how much exercise they could undertake (a measure of the heart health) and also how they perceived health, quality of life, mood etc.

Tests were done on participants’ blood samples, for measurement of catecholamines and inflammation factors. Another questionnaire asked about medications taken, and healthcare visits, accidents, falls and symptoms of illness.

Key findings

Results showed that at the end of the study there was no marked difference in capacity of exercise in the two patient groups.

However, those in the tai chi group reported a better perceived quality of life at the end of the study.

Patients in the tai chi group reported that perceived efficacy of the exercise was high and they had improved mood after the tai chi program.

Next steps/shortcomings

Authors write that patients in the education program group were aware that the other group was receiving tai chi classes and this could have affected their reports on quality of life at end of the study. However, researchers had tried to reduce this problem by promising those in the control group tai chi training at the end of the study. They also agree that the study sample was small. A larger sample could define the benefits of tai chi further. Also, the authors admit uncertainty regarding the mechanism by which tai chi benefits heart failure patients.

Conclusion

This study concludes that tai chi – a meditative form of physical exercise – is acceptable and effective in the improvement of daily quality of living, mood, and exercise efficacy in frail patients with heart failure. However, tai chi does not appear to change the disease process significantly. Further studies are needed to see how these findings can be applied to the general population in terms of effectiveness, cost, and feasibility. Further research is also necessary to see exactly how tai chi and its components of meditation, deep breathing, balance and aerobic exercises aid in benefiting patients with heart failure. This attempt would guide caregivers in improving the quality of life and mental health of heart failure patients.

 

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Tai Chi Chuan – one more time with chatter already!

Posted By Tom Daly on July 2nd, 2011

Tai Chi Chuan – one more time with the chatter already!

1.  Yet AGAIN the same issue came up.  Very few get it.  It’s truly difficult to get.  It’s the lesson that keeps on giving.

“Is it OK for you to grip my wrist?” was his question.

We were practicing push hands.  The question might have also been:

“Is it correct form for you to grip my wrist?”

“Should you be gripping my wrist?”

“Isn’t it wrong in push hands for you to grip my wrist?”

His question might have been a hidden statement of:  “I thought gripping the wrist is wrong!”

Strictly speaking, it doesn’t matter what your partner does.   There is no Wrong, Should, Correct, OK in what your partner does.  The focus is on HOW YOU RESPOND to whatever it is that grabs your attention.  It’s what YOU do that matters, not what THEY do.

They are free to do anything at any time.

2.  Principles vs. Rules.  We have principles in push hands and tai chi.  We don’t have rules.  You can bend a principle.  You can’t bend a rule.  We strive to get closer to the principle.  Rules are there to limit us (and this is not a bad thing, either!)

The reason we don’t have rules is that we want great latitude within the context of the experience of tai chi and push-hands.

And yet in push hands, this distinction gets blurred.  We do limit the game in early training and there are rules.  These rules are there to create strong boundaries such that the players can learn basics.  Later, when you let the rules go, you hope that principles are being practiced and applied to a variety, an infinite variety if you will, of situations.

3.  What is the question that is relevant?

It goes like this:

“What can I do when I feel you gripping my wrist?”

Here you can focus on your reaction or action to that grip.  This does not control your partner or tell them what to do. Here is a problem for you and you are the solution.

4.  Let’s look at that “grip.”  For one thing, it may be helpful to look closely at what exactly is being labeled a “grip.”  The gripee may have strong ideas about what just went on.  The gripper may also have feelings about what just went on.  A grip can be many many things.  We may not see eye to eye here.  This conflict often goes nowhere.

Here is a debatable proposition:   I believe that if you are ready for a push hands exchange where the “rules of engagement” are broadened, and a grip occurs, that grip is helpful for the gripee and not helpful for the gripper.  I feel this way because the gripper is using (possibly!) strength and is engaged in a doing action, and we want to minimize strength and doing in all exchanges.  So the gripper is not getting the most out of his practice.

That stated, the larger picture tells us that this is a choice of the gripper.  Since ultimately we can do anything, it is not wrong.   He will befuddle many a tai chi player with his gripping.  From the outside, often it looks like an effective tool.  Getting back to “wrong,” he may be testing the skill of the gripee.  He may not yet understand better ways of playing the game.  He may not be adding skills to his own game.  But WRONG is a useless concept in push hands.  It is simply a judgment that leads us down a path to nowhere.

On the other hand, the gripee is given an opportunity to see what she can do with that grip within the context of non-doing and not using strength.  Pure gold!  How else do we take the principles of tai chi and apply them to a situation that doesn’t suit our comfort zone or skill level?   Can relaxation and non-doing serve us when confronted with a player who grips our wrist?

5.   So that gripper is getting you annoyed?   Again, a good way to keep the game going and not create a rule or make grand claims about Right or Wrong is to speak up and suggest that this level of challenge is beyond your skill level just now.  It is perfectly fine to create a practice that allows you to work with a partner and not deal with the ultimate challenges, or challenges that you are not prepared to take.

Another option is to take that moment of doing/force and slow it down such that it is more manageable, so you can see what is going on, to see how you react to that situation, to see what might be a solution.  Perhaps you can’t access this at a regular speed, but it may open your eyes to the possibility that the principles can and do work.

[Often I see an exchange that is all or nothing.  The gripper has the upper hand, the gripee is lost and confused and sees no way out.  The gripper feels like the winner, the gripee is confused OR claims that the gripper is breaking the rules of engagement (verbally attacks the gripper and takes the moral high road.)   What do we learn here?]

6.  The ultimate confusion – one that I personally look at a great deal – is that THEY do not create YOUR reality.  YOU DO!  This is extremely hard to see, let alone understand and live by.

The best way to work in push hands is to avoid accusations (direct or implied) or declare a moral code.  The best way to work in push hands is to seek out solutions within the context of the principles.

If you have a partner where you can do this, you have a great thing going…

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