Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Helpful information to Quit Smoking or To Just Calm Yourself

So yes when you smoke you may feel slightly relaxed - this is down to the way you breathe when you smoke. It's less about the nicotine and more about how you breathe when you are smoking.  Have you noticed any difference in the way you breathe when you smoke? Take a minute and put your fingers to your lips and pretend you are smoking.
Have you noticed anything different in comparison to your normal breathing patterns? You should have noticed the two following patterns.
Firstly, your in-breath was much stronger when smoking. Try it again, inhale as if you were smoking a cigarette. This deeper in-breath sucks in a lot more air than normal breathing because you are relaxing your diaphragm. With this extra air also comes more oxygen - your brain and body's fuel, up to 20% more oxygen in fact than when you breathe normally.
The second thing you should have noticed is the way you exhale. Your out-breath was also much longer and deeper, when smoking. Try it again, breathe out deeply without cigarette smoke, do it several times.
How do you feel? You feel relaxed and calm don't you! Exhaling feels good, especially when it is done strongly. Have you noticed that when you laugh and when you sigh you exhale and breathe out strongly? Breathing out has a calming and positive effect on the body. So even though the smoke puts a strain on your system, when you breathe out strongly you feel good.
So basically when you smoke you are just practicing deep breathing exercises. 
The deep breaths provide your body and organs with more oxygen, which helps you to relax and release stress to a degree. I say to a degree because that extra oxygen is not enough to compensate for the strain that the chemicals in a cigarette put on your body.
So smoking itself doesn't actually reduce stress, or help you concentrate in any way - it's the way you breathe that does that for you. Have you ever wondered why people tell you to take deep breaths when you feel a craving or withdrawal symptoms? It's because the deep breathing mimics the way you breathe when you smoke.
So if you are trying to quit, just take some deep breaths and use a fake cigarette if it makes it easier for you.  Eventually try to do some Qigong (reverse) breathing for life!
Read Daniel Fargher's full article here at ezine articles . My comments are in red.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tai Chi Chih Acutely Decreases Sympathetic Nervous System Activity in Older Adults

A study published in the Journals of Gerontology studied the effects of doing Tai Chi  on the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) of healthy older adults. Significant changes were described in the Tai Chi group vs. the Health Education group, and furthermore vs. a second group performing guided stretching that was not Tai Chi.

"Tai Chi has been described as “meditation through movement” and can be characterized as consisting of a series of prescribed slow, purposeful movements with an emphasis on concentration and relaxation. Besides behavioral and self-report measures, few studies have carefully examined physiological pathways affected by Tai Chi. Our findings support the hypothesis that TCC promotes decreased SNS activity, although changes in blood pressure or heart rate were not found, possibly due to short duration of TCC practice assessment. The mechanisms accounting for the changes in PEP are unclear. Subsample analyses that explored the effects of slow physical movement indicated that such activity is not sufficient to alter PEP. We speculate that TCC may alter sympathetic activity in the short term via other mechanisms such as relaxation and/or meditation. 

Background. Aging is associated with increases of sympathetic nervous system activation implicated in the onset of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the practice of Tai Chi Chih (TCC), a movement-based relaxation practice, would acutely promote decreases of sympathetic activity in elderly persons. 
Method. The sample included two groups of older men and women (age ≥ 60 years): TCC practitioners (nnn = 8) returned for a second evaluation and performed videotape-guided stretching for 20 minutes to evaluate the effects of slow-moving physical activity on sympathetic activity.   = 19) and TCC-naïve participants ( = 13). Participants were recruited after completing a 25-week randomized trial of TCC or health education. TCC practitioners performed TCC for 20 minutes, and TCC-naïve participants passively rested. Preejection period, blood pressure, and heart rate were measured before and after the task. A subsample (
Results. Results showed that TCC performance significantly decreased sympathetic activity as indexed by preejection period (p =.01). In contrast, there was no change in preejection period following passive rest or slow-moving physical activity. Neither blood pressure nor heart rate changed after TCC performance.
Discussion. This study is the first to our knowledge to assess the acute effects of TCC practice on sympathetic activity in older adults. TCC performance led to acute decreases in sympathetic activity, which could not be explained by physical activity alone. Further study is needed to determine whether the acute salutary effects of TCC on autonomic functioning are sustained with ongoing practice in older adults."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hard vs. Soft

Often when I watch new Tai Chi players,  their efforts to reach out too far and step further create a kind of bizzare ballet full of tension.  Unless you are experienced,  flexible and moving in alignment, doing Tai Chi this way will not get you the benefits which you will experience from doing it in a softer, less muscular way.

The flow of the Chi or vital energy is greatly enhanced by relaxing/loosening the physical structures near the energy pathways or meridians. That means if your muscles, tendons etc  are tensed to their limits,  the chi flow will be minimized.

At the other extreme if you are too soft and slumped in your posture, this also hampers the flow of the Chi, which flows faster on a gently elongated spine and extremities.

To the untrained eye, seeing the difference is difficult and that is why when beginners study with a teacher who is experienced, flexible and moving in alignment and they try to imitate his/her postures, they may think that they are doing it correctly, but in fact they are not. They might as well be doing another kind of exercise because they will not get the internal benefits of doing Tai Chi.

In a culture where we push ourselves physically as much as we can (more is better) especially when doing a sport or exercise, the idea of moving with a softer body is somewhat foreign. So where do we net out? Creating a balance between hard and soft is the answer. My opinion is: if you have to go one way or the other, at first, err on the side of being too soft. At least then you will get some of the internal benefits that Tai Chi can bring.

The Chinese word for this is 'soong'.  Shape without tension.  If you lift your arm in a posture, only use the minimum amount of power to effect the shape.  Reach out, but keep an unlocked elbow joint.  Step out but only as far as your foot can reach without locking your kneecap, tensing your calf muscle or reaching too far with your heel or toe.

Be a bit lazy at first.. as your strength and flexibility improves you can then add more 'shape ' to your moves and still be doing Tai Chi.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is Tai Chi an effective treatment for Fibromyalgia?

Article from Canadian Medical Association regarding American Rheumatology Association in Boston, Mass.
Clinical question: 
Is tai chi an effective treatment for fibromyalgia?

Bottom line: 
Tai chi is an effective and safe intervention for patients with fibromyalgia, and the practice of tai chi should be encouraged.

Wang C, Schmid CH, Rones R, et al. A randomized trial of tai chi for fibromyalgia. N Engl J Med 2010;363(8):743-754.

Study design: 
Randomized controlled trial (single-blinded)



Outpatient (any)
Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. Tai chi began as a martial art but has evolved into a practice that involves slow and stylized movements, breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation. In this study, adults who met American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia were randomized to tai chi or to a control intervention (general education about wellness and stretching). The mean duration of the participants' fibromyalgia was 11 years, and the baseline SF-36 physical health component was only 28 of 100, indicating poor health.
Patients in both groups met for 60 minutes twice a week for 12 weeks, and were asked to practice the intervention for 20 minutes per day at home. Of 124 patients in the Boston area who were screened for participation, 66 were included. Most of the remainder had scheduling conflicts, did not have fibromyalgia, had practiced tai chi recently, or were physically unable to participate. Outcomes were evaluated at 12 weeks and 24 weeks. Follow-up was good (30/33 patients in the tai chi group and 29/33 in the control group at 24 weeks).
Patients in the intervention group had improvements in pain, function, and symptoms that were statistically and clinically greater than those in the control group. Benefits were largely maintained at 12 weeks after the end of formal classes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

'Medication in Motion'

This is the best article I've read about Tai Chi in a long time. It's a quick read full of good information, and comes out of Harvard Medical School's  Health Harvard Newsletter.
Read it and find out what Tai Chi has for you!

 Mary James, 88 Lindsay Ontario

"This gentle form of exercise can prevent or ease many ills of aging and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.
Tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication in motion." There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the best of health."

"A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age," says Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center. An adjunct therapy is one that's used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient's functioning and quality of life."

Read the rest here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mayo Clinic teaching Tai Chi & Qigong to patients

Here's a short video  of Dr. Mary Jurrison explaining how Mayo Clinic incorporates Tai Chi into physical medicine and rehabilitation, including cardiac rehabilitation.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tai Chi Beneficial for Women with Osteopaenia.

Article from Tai Chi research: August 14, 2010 by David Bendall

 A randomized trial carried out by researchers at Texas Tech University found that 24 weeks of tai chi improved general health, vitality, and stride width while decreasing pain compared to a control group. The study involved randomly dividing 61 females aged 65 plus with low bone mass into two groups. The first group practiced tai chi three times per week one hour per session for 24 weeks. The other group was a control group who did not receive tai chi training.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Slow moves to battle body pain Modern medicine enlists gentle exercise of Qigong

 Pain from any source is a pain... something that affects one's quality of living.  In the past one had either to suffer or take pharmaceuticals, now people are discovering another way to deal with pain.
In an article in the Toronto Star today, Francine Kopun wrote about several kinds of pain and examples of people who are dealing with it by taking Qigong classes. 
"Qigong movements are similar to the movements used in tai chi and incorporate some simplified tai chi moves, at a slower, gentler pace. The emphasis in qigong is on releasing tension and preserving mobility.
Fervent disciples of the art claim qigong can result in miraculous cures. Modern science has more temperate views.
A 2007 Swedish study of the effects of qigong on 57 women with fibromyalgia found that regular practice over seven weeks had a positive and reliable effect. The researchers concluded that qigong could be a useful compliment to medical treatment for people with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread body pain and stiffness.

Scroll for full article below;

Friday, July 16, 2010

Study investigates benefits of Tai Chi for breast cancer survivors

New Study for Breast Cancer survivors: participants needed
By Amanda Butterfield
SALT LAKE CITY -- Three times a week a group of elderly cancer survivors meet and meditate under the close watch of Huntsman Cancer Institute researchers.
For the first time, researchers are figuring out if Tai Chi can help breast cancer survivors live a better, happier, healthier life.
HEALS project
  • Seeks female participants who have experienced breast cancer
  • Age 60 years or older
  • For more information, contact Kathleen O'Connor, research coordinator, at 801-587-4556.
The women learn slow breathing and movements during their Tai Chi class.
And after a double mastectomy and six surgeries, breast cancer survivor Kay Powell says this class is what she desperately needs to help her slow down.
"You get really busy in your day and you think of everyone else. This is something you can do for yourself," she said.
As Anita Kinney, Ph.D., with the Huntsman Cancer Institute explains, "Tai Chi is a mind-body intervention that includes meditation as well as physical activity."
Preliminary evidence suggests is offers numerous benefits:
  • Stress reduction
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improving balance, flexibility and muscle strength
  • Reducing falls in older adults
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness in older adult
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Increasing energy, endurance and agility
  • Improving overall feelings of well-being
Source: Mayo Clinic
Kinney particularly wants to see if it improves the quality of life for elderly breast cancer survivors. There is data showing Tai Chi is beneficial for the elderly and young cancer survivors; but Kinney says of the 12 million cancer survivors in the United States, 23 percent had breast cancer -- and it's that group she wants to help.
"This can help in getting insurance reimbursement for cancer survivors for such activities," Kinney said.
But most importantly, it may help women like Elsie Halliday feel better.
"The mornings I wake up after class I have hours more worth of energy than I did the day before," she said.
Another perk of the classes that Halliday didn't expect: She's meeting other survivors who inspire her.
"We come in different shapes and sizes and we have all been through the battlefield," she said.
Though results from the study won't be published for at least another year and a half, Kinney said, "We've seen improvements so far."
Researchers want more volunteers to participate. CLICK HERE for more information about volunteering.
E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Slow Shifts of Tai Chi Can Help Build a Better Body: the You Docs, Dr.Mike Roizen and Dr.Mehmet Oz From Toronto Star, July 5 2010

Are you leaving the house later because it takes you forever to find your cellphone, car keys and that wayward umbrella?  About dinner-time, and again on awakening, start breathing like a yogi.  It turns out that one of their simplest techniques – left-nostril breathing – improves spatial memory.  That’s the kind that helps you remember where you put something.  Try it: hold your right nostril shut and breathe deeply and slowly through your left.
In one study, practicing this for a month slowed sympathetic nervous system activity and increased heart rate variability, both indicating less stress.  The connection: hormones chured out when you’re tense mess with your ability to recall where you left your shopping list or if you unplugged the coffeemaker.
In another study, undergraduates who did left-nostril breathing before a memory test scored 16 percent higher than those who didn’t.  And left-nostril breathing improved spatial memory scores in kids by 43%.  But (and here’s the fascinating part) right-nostril breathing had no effect.
The explanation?  Breathing through your left nostril may give your left hippocampus, the area that controls memory, more blood flow and thus makes it better able to gain and retain memories.
Could right-nostril breathing give your right brain a jolt and make you better at creative tasks?  Proving that might be on some right-brain researcher’s to-do list.

Slow but Soothing….
•    You’ve probably seen people doing Tai Chi.  TC crews love filming people gathering at dawn to wrestle demons in the air – all right, that’ not what they’re really doing.  Tai Chi is rightly called moving meditation; its gentle positions relax your body and centre your mind.  In just the past few months, dozens of U.S. studies have found that Tai Chi helps with:
•    Heart attacks: tai chi speeds recovery
•    Breast cancer: it helps you get your strength back
•    Sore backs: tai chi is as good as acupuncture and yoga at easing them
•    Weak, painful legs messed up by rheumatoid arthritis or nerve damage (often from diabetes): tai chi makes them stronger.
•    Maddening menopause symptoms: tai chi helps shut them down
•    Arthritic knees: tai chi relieves these, too.
In case you’re wondering if there’s anything tai chi alone can’t make better, there is: depression.  High energy, aerobic exercise is better at that.
Also, the research is still iffy on whether it helps prevent falls that fracture hips.
On the other hand, as we’ve said before, tai chi is a perfect candidate for natural Ambien: People who do and hour of it three times a week fall asleep and sleep almost an hour longer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Five Finger Qigong Exercise for Anxiety

I found this guided 5 minute video on youtube which is a quick Qigong meditation.. very relaxing.
5 Finger Qigong for Relaxation & Relief from Anxiety 


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How our emotions can cause illness

This is an excerpt from an article by Dr. Christiana Northrop:
Most of the blockages in our vibrational systems are emotional in nature. It’s helpful to think of your vibrational system as being like a stream of water flowing along. As long as this energy flow is healthy and you are feeling good about yourself, there’s much less risk of disease. Environmental toxins, dietary fat, and excess sugar or alcohol (to name a few) usually don’t manifest in disease unless other factors have already set up the pattern of blockage in the body’s energy system in the first place.1 Environmental or dietary risk factors can be likened to debris carried along in the body’s energy flow. This debris stays afloat unless there is a felled tree or other blockage to the water flowing in the stream. When there is, the debris collects in the branches of the felled tree and accumulates. Over time, similar accumulations in the body’s energy flow can result in physical illness. In fact, scientific research has associated a failure of the flow of information between cells with the induction of cancer in those cells. A physical barrier of any kind that blocks communication between cells is a carcinogenic influence.2  The fat and connective tissue that form a fibroid, for example, do so only when the energy flows around and through the uterus is already blocked in some way.
To read more click here

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Short Stuff?

When I stopped growing at the young age of 12, I was measured at 5'2". Now in my family, that was tall.. and trained in ballet I had 'good' posture. Later I became involved in swimming and finally Tai Chi and Qigong.
When I was 32 we had a health fair at one fitness club I was teaching at, and for the first time in 20 years my height was measured for a fitness assessment. I surprised to find I was now 5'3" tall!
How did that happen?
The training I did in Tai Chi helped to adjust the curvature in the spine, align my hips properly - after years of dance training which had made my hip flexors off balance.
I wondered if this was a common happening? No one I knew had this experience. Until last week I hardly thought about it, then one of my long time students told me he had gone to his doctor for a check up and he reported that he had gained 1/2" from his previous measuring a few years ago.
In addition to doing Tai Chi regularly, he had been doing some back physio exercises to strengthen his back after suffering from a pinched nerve and sciatica.
One exercise we follow in Tai Chi class is to lift from the crown of the head and drop from the tailbone during Qigong standing meditation. This gentle 2 way stretch slightly temporarily removes the natural S curve of the spine and allows the vertebrae to open up a small amount more than normal posture. Think of an accordion; when you open it up from both ends the spaces between the folds gets bigger fills with air and then when you press it back it compresses.
Perhaps this is why people with disc problems and pinched nerves get some relief from these exercises.
I would like to know if anyone else has had this pleasant side effect from doing Tai Chi and if it has been studied at all?
Email me or reply in the comments,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Slow Fix

A few minutes a day... can make a big difference in you life, in your health both physical and mental. Still it amazes me how easily people pop pills, with so many side effects and cost, yet when a simple and enjoyable habit can be effective they just won't do it. There is a high attrition rate in any Tai Chi club or any class. I feel happy if 10% of my students continue to study, I know that sounds dismal, but it is what it is. Most of us in our 'right now' culture, don't have the patience or perseverance to create a lifetime habit in order to help our health. We want a quick fix, maybe it's time for a slow sustained fix?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

East Bay Inmates Breathe Easier

MARTINEZ — The qi gong meditative class begins with instructor David Ezra asking the participants if they have any worries this week.

A burly man with tattoos running down his arms speaks up. "Any little thing will set me off," Sonny Mitchell says.

Ezra tells Mitchell to control his emotions and then instructs all the men in orange jumpsuits to stand in two rows of five or six. He turns on a portable CD player, which plays soothing melodies.

Several feet away, Deputy Frank Oathout, a guard at County Jail in Martinez, watches to ensure the inmates behave while they're performing their slow movements and controlled breathing techniques.

Oathout said he has seen a decrease in the number of fights among inmates in the cellblocks. Suicide attempts and medical emergencies have also decreased, Ezra said.

"It helps me relax and stay grounded," Mitchell said. "I wish this class was more than once a week. I look forward to it."

Read the rest of this article here

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise may retard bone loss in postmenopausal women: A case-control study

Two groups were studied: a non exercising group and a group that did Tai Chi at University medical school in Hong Kong.

This is the first case-control study to show that regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise may help retard bone loss in the weight-bearing bones of postmenopausal women. Copyright 2002 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Read the entire article here

Friday, January 8, 2010

York University, Toronto study results are in!

Tai chi can cheer you up
The Brampton Guardian
Friday January 8 2010
Tai chi can help mitigate musculoskeletal disorders caused by extended computer use and provide a lift in mood, says a study led by York University researchers.

The study looked at female computer users at the university, measuring levels of physical fitness and psychological well-being in more than 50 staff members who participated in a twice-weekly lunch-hour tai chi program.

Researchers found that participants improved their musculoskeletal and back fitness, achieved lower resting heart rates and smaller waist circumference, and experienced an emotional boost.

“Overall, the program was effective in improving both musculoskeletal fitness and psychological well-being,” says study lead author Hala Tamim, Associate Professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health. “We’re excited about these results, especially given the difficulty in treating musculoskeletal disorders using traditional methods,” she says.

Musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, are painful disorders of muscles, nerves and tendons, often caused by work activities that are repetitive or involve awkward postures. Women suffer from these complications at a higher rate than men, which makes early intervention for women particularly important, according to Tamim.

The exercise program consisted of two 50-minute classes per week for 12 consecutive weeks from May to August 2007. Classes were conducted by a professional tai chi practitioner, using fitness facilities at the university.

Study participants averaged 5.8 hours a day on computers at work. The majority (79 per cent) perceived their physical fitness as average or above, yet 34.6 per cent reported that they rarely or never engaged in weekly physical activity. Of the 52 participants, 42 had never formally practiced tai chi prior to the study.

Pre-and post-program assessments included resting heart rate, resting blood pressure, anthropometric measures (height, weight, waist circumference), and musculoskeletal and back fitness (including grip strength, sit and reach, and vertical jump tests), employing the Canadian Physical Activity Fitness and Lifestyle Approach.

Psychological well-being of study participants was also assessed pre-and post-program, using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). They reported feeling less stress, and more control over their lives and personal problems.

Tamim says the simplicity of tai chi makes it especially beneficial for office workers.

“It’s something that can easily fit into a working day. You don’t need any specialized equipment, and you’re not perspiring heavily, so there’s no need to shower before going back to work,” she says.

The study, “Tai chi workplace program for improving musculoskeletal fitness among female computer users,” is published in the Dec. 23 issue of the journal, WORK.

It is co-authored by Kinesiology & Health Science graduate student Evan S. Castel, York professors Veronica Jamnik, Sherry L. Grace, Norman Gledhill, and Alison K. Macpherson, and McMaster University professor Peter J. Keir.

Study Shows Acupuncture Offers Relief to Breast Cancer Patients With Hot Flashes

Since acupuncture clears the energy pathways in a similar way to doing Tai Chi and Qigong, it would be interesting if the same study was done for those participating in those classes. Here's part of the article about the study, to read more click on the link.
Thanks to Turning Point Now's Blog for the article.

Study Shows Acupuncture Offers Relief to Breast Cancer Patients With Hot Flashes

By Jennifer Warner

WebMD Health NewsReviewed by Louise Chang, MDDec. 31, 2009 -- Acupuncture not only cools hot flashes that occur as a result of breast cancer treatment but may offer a host of other benefits to boost women's well-being.

A new study shows acupuncture was as good as drug therapy with Effexor (venlafaxine) at easing hot flashes in breast cancer patients, but it also improved sex drive, energy levels, and clarity of thought.

"Acupuncture offers patients a safe, effective and durable treatment option for hot flashes, something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors. Compared to drug therapy, acupuncture actually has benefits, as opposed to more side effects," researcher Eleanor Walker, MD, division director of breast services in the department of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, says in a news release.

.....read more here