Once again we’re heading towards World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, when people all across the world come together mindfully to send a global wave of positive energy right around the planet. Last year people in hundreds of cities across over 70 countries took part. It’s a great opportunity for tai-chiers to come together and play, but also to let others know what it’s all about, where to find classes, what the benefits are and to have a go.
It’s always the last Saturday of April, 10am local time. In previous years we’ve greeted the sunrise at Branscombe (see pic). This year I’ll be found on Cathedral Green, Exeter, where myself and other tai-chiers will be gathering and demonstrating different tai chi styles, and enjoying tea and chi at the Hub on the Green.
Do come along and join us. And if you can’t make that, head a little further afield with us to Mallorca for our Week of Wellness – tai chi, reflexology and walks, October 4-11th. Hope you can make it. Check out prices including earlybird offers.
One world, one breath.
I’m reading Cmdr Chris Hadfield’s autobiography – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. In case it passed you by, he’s the utterly wonderful Canadian astronaut who, in 2013, brought amazing images/footage from space into our living rooms via social media. He’s made space “cool” again, and his cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (filmed in space) is currently at 20 million+ hits. It makes me smile every time I watch it.
So what has this to do with tai chi? A somewhat tenuous link? Well I’m only about 30 pages in but what emerges again and again is that word “focus”. A very young Chris Hadfield was very clear and focussed about what he wanted to do with his life, and his decisions were shaped by that goal and that focus. In tai chi we employ body and mind, using our mind to focus on what our body is doing, whether it’s softening, yielding, grounding or aligning, for example. If we’re focussed, grounded and balanced, we’re in a strong position to be able to make clear choices and good decisions, in the way we move, the way we feel, and the way we respond to situations.
Cmdr Hadfield’s goal was to be an astronaut. I’m utterly delighted he’s achieved that. Delighted for himself as he seems a thoroughly lovely man, and also delighted for the folks like me who have relished the astonishing images he’s shared with us all, making the science accessible and fun.
Talking of goals, a rather shorter term one, requiring some focus, is to get yourself booked on our Week of Wellness in Mallorca, 4-11 October. Tai chi, reflexology and walks, good food and wine and wonderful surroundings. We can’t promise you a space odyssey, though previous participants have said the week is “out of this world”! Earlybird discounts until end of March 2014.
Meanwhile back to my book…!
Despite the continued atrocious weather across the South West of England, I spent a lovely afternoon with my Exminster tai-chiers, together with a film crew from the British Heart Foundation (BHF). BHF are compiling 6 case studies of people who’ve have some form of cardiac disease or cope with some disability and demonstrating how they manage/improve/retain their health through various activities. For two of the case studies that includes tai chi, with me!
Let’s call these two lovely people Freda and Fred. They’re different ages (88 yrs and mid 60’s), have lived very different lives, are managing very different conditions. Both have found something very positive in tai chi for improving their general health and wellbeing – be it around feeling more relaxed and calmer, having improved balance, increased energy levels, better mobility and stability, increased strength and not forgetting the social element – we’re focussed in class but don’t take ourselves too seriously. Freda is getting a taste for stardom. A long time fan of “Pretty Woman”, she “negotiated” with the BHF that they could only film her if they ensured Richard Gere came to town too!
I’ve been pondering on what Freda and Fred have in common. The thing that springs to mind, loud and clear, is a positive “can-do” mindset, despite pain and disability and recovering from illness. A salient reminder in itself of the importance of engaging the body AND mind in every aspect of our tai chi practise, and that bringing together of mind and body is one of tai chi’s great strengths.
I look forward to the world premiere of Freda and Fred’s videos later in the year. As for me, I felt like the startled bunny caught in the headlights when the camera turned on me. I’ll stick to teaching tai chi in Devon and Mallorca, Freda and Fred can tread the red carpet, mindfully of course :-)
And so we’ve returned from Mallorca for the last time in 2013, after a week of laughter and movement, immersing ourselves in our beautiful surroundings, enjoying the company of old friends and new, feasting on Paola and Leigh’s delicious cuisine, following our intrepid walk leader James up through the mountains, enjoying the sun on our skin, revelling in our chilledness and brewing up ideas for our next trip! It really was a treat of a week, and delightfully summed up by a friend who joined us for the first time this year.
“I had a wonderful week – truly relaxing, inspiring, beautiful (in many ways!), safe and a true holiday – “wellness at its best!”.
Several years ago I went on one of those “Superworking” courses for managers – how to be more efficient, more effective, get more done in less time, and so forth. There were many interesting, and some wacky, concepts, exercises and ideas put before us. One story really stuck with me, I’m paraphasing but hopefully you get the gist. It goes something like this:
“A woodman has 20 trees he needs to cut down in the shortest time possible. He has one axe. After he’s cut down 10 trees his axe is blunt. He needs to keep cutting down trees but the tools he has no longer do the job. The woodman believes he hasn’t got time to stop and take a few minutes out to resharpen his axe. He keeps chopping at the trees with the blunt axe, making very slow progress, getting blisters and aching muscles, but in his mind he is still heading towards his goal. In a neighbouring wood a friend has the same task. When his axe blade is blunt, he stops and takes but a few minutes to sharpen his blade, and so completes his task in a much shorter time, less tired, fewer blisters”.
Which approach do you take to life? In our busy “goal orientated” world we often don’t make the time or take the time to resharpen our axe, to recharge our batteries, to eat, drink and play mindfully. And actually when we do, we usually find we have far more energy and creativity to face our next woodcutter challenge.
So if you didn’t manage to get away over the summer, or even if you did and need a sunny boost before the winter kicks in, make time and space for yourself with us in Mallorca, you won’t regret it. Find out more including prices, last few rooms available. All inclusive, you only have to book your place and book your flight. Axe sharpened, sorted.
One of my tai chi “lightbulb” moments was when my teacher was talking about being rooted/grounded/sunk down in one side of the body, holding the body in balance with “three free limbs”. In developing that balance, through my tai chi practice, I place myself in a better position to make choices, choices about how and where I stepped.
And so it is in life. If we are in balance, physically and emotionally, we are in a strong position to take time and make choices, instead of wobbling over or bouncing around like a pinball as life comes at us from all directions. This idea has held me in good stead over the years and is now proving to be a lightbulb movement for some of my students. Fabulous.
To explore and play with your own balance, come and join us in Mallorca for our week of Tai chi, Reflexology and Walks (Oct 5-12) at the wonderful Son Ametler. I challenge you not to feel more balanced and grounded by the end of the week. To find out more click here.
Just last year a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the regular practice of modified tai chi movements was more beneficial for people with Parkinson’s than either stretching or weight-resistance training on a number of measures. In the randomized controlled study, Fuzhong Li, PhD, from the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene and colleagues, found that tai chi reduced balance impairments, improved function, and reduced falls in patients with Parkinson’s.
A new study shows not only does Tai Chi help to stop falls but is also cost effective compared to strength training.
Dr Peter Harmer, PhD, MPH, ATC, FACSM, Professor of Exercise Science, Department Chair, Senior Associate Research Scientist at Willamette University and his co-author Fuzhong Li, Phd conducted a cost-effective study comparing Tai Chi to low-impact stretching exercises or conventional strength training. Dr. Harmer said Tai chi costs US $69.00 less per fall prevention in comparison to strength training. ” The data indicates a significant potential return on investment value of tai chi in Parkinson, the authors said. “As treatment costs for injury falls continue to rise these results have important implications for reducing overall healthcare costs while protecting patient health and independence.”
And for anyone wishing to start or refresh their tai chi journey, what better way than at the wonderful Son Ametler in N Mallorca, during a blissful week of tai chi, reflexology and walks. October 5-12 2013 For details and bookings click here. Limited spaces available.
(with thanks to Bill Douglas, WTCQD and Deborah Nicholson – AllVoices for information)
Did you know eye-hand coordination in finger-pointing declines with age in time and accuracy domains? In a recently published study however, Tai Chi practitioners attained significantly better accuracy than control subjects similar in age, sex, and physical activity levels.
The cross sectional study, by researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, examined the ageing effect on speed and accuracy in finger pointing toward stationary and moving visual targets between young and older healthy subjects and whether or not Tai Chi practitioners perform better than healthy older controls in these tasks. And they consistently did! You can read an abstract of the research here.
Just another of the many health and wellbeing benefits of tai chi! And what better place to start, or refresh, your tai chi journey, than at Son Ametler, Mallorca, where you can enjoy a blissful week of Tai Chi, Reflexology and Walking, October 5-12th 2013. It’s bound to take years off you! Find out more here. Limited spaces available.