Friday, December 14, 2012

Tai Chi for Medical Conditions Harvard Medical School Publications

Tai chi for medical conditions

When combined with standard treatment, tai chi appears to be helpful for several medical conditions. For example:
Arthritis. In a 40-person study at Tufts University, presented in October 2008 at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, an hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. According to a Korean study published in December 2008 in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, eight weeks of tai chi classes followed by eight weeks of home practice significantly improved flexibility and slowed the disease process in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine.

Low bone density. A review of six controlled studies by Dr. Wayne and other Harvard researchers indicates that tai chi may be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women. A controlled study of tai chi in women with osteopenia (diminished bone density not as severe as osteoporosis) is under way at the Osher Research Center and Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Breast cancer. Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. For example, a 2008 study at the University of Rochester, published in Medicine and Sport Science, found that quality of life and functional capacity (including aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility) improved in women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi, while declining in a control group that received only supportive therapy.
Heart disease. A 53-person study at National Taiwan University found that a year of tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. The study, which was published in the September 2008 Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found no improvement in a control group that did not practice tai chi.
Heart failure. In a 30-person pilot study at Harvard Medical School, 12 weeks of tai chi improved participants' ability to walk and quality of life. It also reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure. A 150-patient controlled trial is under way.
Hypertension. In a review of 26 studies in English or Chinese published in Preventive Cardiology (Spring 2008), Dr. Yeh reported that in 85% of trials, tai chi lowered blood pressure — with improvements ranging from 3 to 32 mm Hg in systolic pressure and from 2 to 18 mm Hg in diastolic pressure.
Parkinson's disease. A 33-person pilot study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published in Gait and Posture (October 2008), found that people with mild to moderately severe Parkinson's disease showed improved balance, walking ability, and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions.
Sleep problems. In a University of California, Los Angeles, study of 112 healthy older adults with moderate sleep complaints, 16 weeks of tai chi improved the quality and duration of sleep significantly more than standard sleep education. The study was published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Sleep.
Stroke. In 136 patients who'd had a stroke at least six months earlier, 12 weeks of tai chi improved standing balance more than a general exercise program that entailed breathing, stretching, and mobilizing muscles and joints involved in sitting and walking. Findings were published in the January 2009 issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.

No pain, big gains published in Harvard Medical School Publications

No pain, big gains

Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn't leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here's some of the evidence:
Muscle strength. In a 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Stanford University researchers reported benefits of tai chi in 39 women and men, average age 66, with below-average fitness and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After taking 36 tai chi classes in 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower-body strength (measured by the number of times they could rise from a chair in 30 seconds) and upper-body strength (measured by their ability to do arm curls).
In a Japanese study using the same strength measures, 113 older adults were assigned to different 12-week exercise programs, including tai chi, brisk walking, and resistance training. People who did tai chi improved more than 30% in lower-body strength and 25% in arm strength — almost as much as those who participated in resistance training, and more than those assigned to brisk walking.
"Although you aren't working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body," says internist Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen."

Flexibility. Women in the 2006 Stanford study significantly boosted upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.
Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one's body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.
Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. But in the Japanese study, only participants assigned to brisk walking gained much aerobic fitness. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Finger Qigong for Relaxation

Several of my students have been requesting this short video, so here it is again:

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 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

70% of falls in elderly shown to be incorrect weight shifting

Another great reason to practice Tai Chi!

"TORONTO - Falls among seniors are a major cause of disability and death, but knowing what led to a split-second fall can often be difficult to figure out after a person is found sprawled on the ground.
So researchers used strategically placed video cameras in long-term care facilities to capture spills among residents so they could analyze the mechanics of various falls, with the goal of improving prevention.
"We've known for a long time that falls are the number 1 cause of injury in older adults, including 90 per cent of hip fractures and 60 per cent of head injuries. They're also the number 1 cause of injury-related deaths," said Stephen Robinovitch, a researcher at Simon Fraser University who specializes in injury prevention and mobility biomechanics.
"So there's been a great deal of research focusing on the cause of falls, prevention of falls and fall-related injuries," Robinovitch, who led the study published in this week's issue of the Lancet, said from Burnaby, B.C. "But really up until now, we've had no objective evidence on how and why these events occur."
To get a better sense of what happens when someone takes a tumble, researchers set up video cameras in hallways, public dining halls and lounges in two B.C. long-term care residences. They analyzed recordings of 227 falls involving 130 individuals, separating the falls into three stages: initiation, descent and impact.
"So what we found was that about 20 per cent of falls were due to trips and 10 per cent were due to being bumped or nudged by someone else, or hit by a door closing," he said.
"But the remaining 70 per cent — and the reason why we think falls are so common in this population of frailer individuals in long-term care — they basically occurred during a failed attempt at performing daily activities like walking, sitting down and even just standing quietly.
"And they were most often due to what we call incorrect weight shifting," he said, explaining that the person leaned too far past their centre of gravity, losing their base of support between the feet and the ground.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fun illustrated primer in Tai Chi Qigong meditation for children & family. Interactive eBook with FREE links to videos

Stress Relief for the Whole Family
Remember when you were a kid? Life was simpler, easy.. and now it's all about the stress: Work, exercise, home, meals, oh yes and time and mindset for your own relationship.
Kids have it easy right?
The truth is kids have stress too - their lives are not always as free from stress as adults might think.
When my grandson was 2, he enjoyed and imitated my Tai Chi moves. I realized that a simplified version of moving meditation was not only suitable for young children, but very appealing to them. How wonderful would it be for our children if they had Tai Chi Qigong in their skill set to use later on in their lives when needed?
As a Tai Chi and Qigong teacher for the past 20 years I have created an illustrated children's book with links to FREE videos that the whole family can do together: Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts - get the whole family involved with this fun interactive children's book: Breathe: Tai Chi Qigong for Children. It is available as an immediate downloadable PDF ebook with live links to FREE videos. $4.95                                                                               
Printed book now available on Amazon. Visit for more info.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I couldn't have said it better... Tips for students

 from Nicola J's article:
Using the Body to Learn
Will Westerners please leave their brains in the box provided at the door into the studio. Thank you!  Our intellect gets in the way and this is a hindrance to learning Tai Chi and Qi Gong.  We want to attach our brains to each new movement, rather than learn through the body.  Our brain gets confused as it cannot find a way to attach a past experience or association of the movements to our memory, and so our mind fights us all the way to try and intellectualise what is being learnt…… our subconscious says “I must find something to relate this to….. there is no way I am going into that body down there, I am the brains here….. oh I haven’t a clue so I’ll give up”.  We are stuck in our heads…… and it’s hard to change how we do things.  Our aim is to dampen down our critical thinking, our logical and rational mind and halt the left brain. For most of us this is unknown territory, “what do you mean you want us to stop thinking & analyzing, that’s what we always do”.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are a whole mind and body experience.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong are experiential arts.
Your body has to live them to learn them.

Read more of this great article by Nicola here

Friday, August 3, 2012

Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong: Real People tell their stories

This week has been so amazing! But it's not unusual and that is what is even more amazing! Some of my students who have been with me for over a year and some who have just started their Tai Chi Qigong classes this week have had some dramatic changes in their health and lives:

1. C who has difficulty sleeping and previously only slept for 3-4 hours every night told me yesterday she is now sleeping a solid 6 hours every night!

2. S who started just a month ago ( 4 lessons ) told me she doesn't feel jittery, and her mind feels clearer. She is loving the classes and is sorry she waited so many years to get involved.

3. M on her first lesson (at the suggestion of her MD), felt overwhelming emotion leave her body during the class and great relief afterwards.

4. E has had friends and family comment on her new calm attitude.

5. R who has Parkinsons Disease feels 'well oiled' and flexible after her weekly session.

6.  H  finds meditation helps her with the difficult caregiving of her husband with Alzheimer's.

7. D feels less frustrated and angry living with the challenges of her disability, her caregivers have recorded in their daily diaries an improvement in her daily activities and attitudes since she started the program 12 weeks ago.

8. L told me her balance and confidence has improved and she no longer is afraid to go walking alone.

9. M a new student who is 90 years old and has been an active exerciser all her life is delighted to find a new gentle way to stay flexible and mobile. She is also very enthused to connect with her Qi and told me she wishes she could do the class everyday - that it gives her some more energy in the afternoon on the days she does it.

I am getting more people being referred by their traditional western trained physician for various needs. I am glad that there are many scientific studies being done and more people are convinced that these arts are helpful, but I know it is.. people tell me all the time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When it comes to your health, are you looking at the big picture?

If there’s one thing you don’t want to cut corners on, it’s your health. Any sensible person will tell you it’s worth every cent and every ounce of effort to eat the healthiest food, exercise frequently, and when you’re sick, visit a good doctor who can prescribe you the best medicine and treatment.
What most people don’t realize is there’s another piece to the puzzle of holistic health. A step that most people never take, that most doctors won’t even tell you about, and that could make all the difference to your well being. And that is... meditation.

Why meditate? Can't I find a stress free life?
You can’t.  Stress is part of life and the only way to live stress free is not to live. However, you can manage the harmful effects of stress with various kinds of meditation. 

According to a 20 year study by the University of London completed in the early 1990s: “… it was found that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or high-cholesterol foods."

So how do you meditate? Do you join an ashram in India and give away all your possessions to meditate? Not really, simply put - meditation is just emptying the mind for a period of time- but this is easier said than done. 
According to Dr. Deepak Chopra "we have approximately 50,000 thoughts a day" and it is difficult to turn off this constant stream of thought. Take a minute and close your eyes and try to not think of anything. Most people will have thoughts flowing through their consciousness within seconds . So how do you accomplish this?

 If staring at a flower or chanting a mantra doesn’t appeal to you, another route is Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga. This kind of meditation is easier to do because you focus on the moves and breathing completely. This eliminates the overload of thoughts temporarily. 

By being ‘in the moment’ you are entering a different state of brain activity that is conducive to deep relaxation and potentially - healing. The added benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong or Yoga are that you also get a gentle physical and energetic workout at the same time.

How do you know if you are meditating successfully? If you lose track of time - you are meditating.

Any simple activity that focuses your mind in a relaxing way can be a meditation:  looking out at a beautiful view, listening to some music, counting your breaths or other breathing techniques may also get you into the ‘meditation zone’. Some repetitive physical activities such as running, swimming, paddling etc can also be meditative when you focus on the moves and relax your mind.

According to the Mayo Clinic Newsletter: “Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions.”

So spend part of your day not thinking!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

60 is the new 45

This post might seem off topic, but really it isn't.
Reflecting about my generation compared to my parents or grandparents; the 6th decade was the time of slowing down, retiring from jobs and basically getting ready for the next stage: death or infirmity.

When I observe my contemporaries, I see people in their 2nd or possibly 3rd career or business, enjoying the challenges, enjoying their grown children, grandchildren and significant other relationships. Perhaps some of this change is out of necessity, we need to support ourselves. Out of this necessity, a new reality has blossomed, for the betterment of our lives.
The rocking chair is far ahead in the future, for most of us.

Some of this shift is due to improvements in health, prevention of the diseases that our parents and grandparents had less control over. Some due to the new ways we are finding to improve our own health, such as healthier eating habits, lifestyle, fitness, meditation etc. Still some is about mindset.
How much of what you think becomes your reality ? How is it that some at 90 still run a business, and some at 70 have given up? there's no simple answer, but there is a definite link to how you see your future and what it becomes.
As we learn to expand our consciousness and embrace new attitudes, we expand our potential to live fully and richly in our later years.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tai Chi Principles for Better Balance

Balance is about our relationship to the world around us and the earth below us.

Balance is more than just good posture; it is a complex system which incorporates:
    the body   the mind    and breath

Gravity is what can pull us down but it is also what holds us up.  If our center of gravity is aligned and low we keep our balance.    

The Body: Head Position
Tai chi training helps us to align the bones of the body in such a way as to stack them like building blocks.
When the blocks are correctly placed,
not only does gravity not ‘pull’ them down; in fact it supports us.                

Creating a Better Habit The body follows your vision. Tai chi Tracking or Scanning is actively looking out at eyesight level to keep the head in alignment with the spine. 

The Body: Feet Position  
The larger the base, the easier it is to keep center of gravity above it and stay in balance. Tai Chi training keeps the feet hip distance apart = a bigger base. 

The Body: Elongating the Spine 3 legs are better than 2.
Raising the top of the head and lowering the tailbone creates a triangle base of  support by moving the center of gravity to the center of our core. We are in balance if our center of gravity is directly above our base of support.

The muscles, joints and tendons are the mechanics of balance. Properly executed, Tai Chi principles of maintaining unlocked joints and not overextending stretch keeps the muscles flexible making adjusting position easier.  
The Golgi tendon organ in the muscles messages the brain to adjust our position.

Slow and continuously moving in Tai Chi
We must ‘find’ the balance in each position.
We can ‘cheat’ balance by moving very quickly, but this is hazardous and we are more likely to fall.

The Mind: Cycle of Fear
Mental relaxation = Physical relaxation
By practicing Tai Chi and feeling balance we gain confidence and this breaks the cycle.

The Breath: Holding one’s breath = physical tension = muscles tense = loss of flexibility = loss of balance. Students are encouraged to breathe gently and regularly and to use exhalation to relax physically even more. 

By following these principles, we can have better balance even when we are not doing Tai chi, this can save alot of inury and lives.