Blog


Categories
Blog entries are cross-referenced in the following Categories:


Blast from the Past! 1990 LA Times TCC article

Justin Stone (1916-2012), who originated the moving meditation T’ai Chi Chih in the early 1970s, was featured prominently in the news by 1990. Here’s a Los Angeles Times article that year about Justin and TCC for those who may not have seen it before:

The Moving Joy of T’ai Chi Chih

January 27, 1990 / BOB HOWELLS for the Los Angeles Times

(Original LA Times article here.)

“It’s joy through movement,” says Justin F. Stone, who originated it.

“It’s a moving meditation,” says Bill Pierce, who practices it.

“It’s the exercise of the ’90s,” says Corinn Codye, who teaches it.

It’s T’ai Chi Chih, the practice of a series of simple, elegant movements said to enhance the flow of the “chi,” or life force, through the body. By performing these non-stressful, non-aerobic movements, T’ai Chi Chih adherents claim to circulate energy that creates a feeling of well-being.

“Everybody is looking for stress relief, calm,” says Santa Barbara T’ai Chi Chih teacher Corinn Codye. “T’ai Chi Chih is something they can do and learn quickly.”

That simplicity is the key to the growing popularity of T’ai Chi Chih–and accounts for the difference between it and t’ai chi ch’uan.

Justin Stone, a Carmel artist and musician, practiced and taught t’ai chi ch’uan for many years, but found that almost none of his students had the patience and discipline to master the 108 movements of the ancient Asian discipline. Older people had difficulty executing some movements, and nearly everyone had trouble memorizing the long sequence.

Stone decided to develop a series of simpler and fewer movements that would yield the same benefits as t’ai chi ch’uan. He developed 20 movements and postures that could be easily performed by anyone and called them T’ai Chi Chih, or “knowledge of the supreme ultimate.”

Stone began teaching the discipline in 1974. Since then, the movement has grown internationally. In the Southland, T’ai Chi Chih is taught in private classes, municipal recreation programs, community colleges and senior citizen centers.

Nearly everyone who practices T’ai Chi Chih reports such results as inner peace, “centeredness” and a greater sense of joy in living. Bill Pierce, a student of Codye’s in Santa Barbara, describes feeling “expansive” while performing the movements.

“I especially like the fluid quality of the movements,” Pierce says. “It’s like learning a musical instrument and not being so concerned with the notes, but rather the expression.”

Instructors teach that fluidity by telling students to “imagine swimming through heavy air” as they perform such poetically named movements as “bird flaps its wings” and “daughter in the valley.”

To an outsider, the movements have the elegance of hula, an appearance of expressive, slow-motion dancing. “Daughter In The Valley,” for example, is a scooping motion with the hands while the body rocks gently forward, then a separating of the hands while rocking gently back.

Though T’ai Chi Chih is easy to learn, its real benefits are said to come from daily practice–ideally, according to Stone, 10 or 15 minutes in the morning and another 10 or 15 minutes in the late afternoon or early evening.

“Properly done,” Stone says, “the result should be a flow of energy and a feeling of well-being like the aftermath of an internal bath.”

Balance is also stressed in T’ai Chi Chih–balance, that is, of the two so-called components of the life force, the yin and the yang. Yin and yang are described metaphorically: Yin is cold, contraction, the receptive, female, negative; yang is heat, expansion, the creative, male, positive.

The movements stimulate the flow of each force, then bring them together. Each T’ai Chi Chih movement ends with a balancing gesture called “the graceful conclusion”–a reverent-looking posture with the hands, palm down, at the sides and knees slightly bent.

Concentration is stressed as well, but unlike meditation, T’ai Chi Chih does not require silence, chanting or a conscious stilling of the mind. Instead, concentration is focused on the soles of the feet–”to bring energy from the heart down to flow through the whole body,” explains Stone.

Though much of T’ai Chi Chih is taught and explained metaphorically, practitioners say the results are tangible.

Pam Towne, a Cypress instructor, worked last year with professional golfer Ann Marie Palli and this year will work with other golfers on the Ladies Professional Golfers Assn. circuit. “Ann Marie found that T’ai Chi Chih was right in line with things she was working on: relaxing her body, mind, focusing on her feet to get grounded before a swing,” Towne says.

Tais Hoffman of San Clemente teaches T’ai Chi Chih in a halfway house, to women who have just completed a 21-day drug/alcohol detoxification program.

“It brings them right into the present moment,” Hoffman says, “so they’re not thinking of cravings, or what they may be doing later.” Hoffman credits T’ai Chi Chih with solving a circulation problem (“I always had cold hands and feet, but never anymore”) and giving her a “much more balanced energy level.”

*What are your memories of early T’ai Chi Chih practice in your life?*

Teachers in MS & NJ Recount TCC Benefits

Each TCC teacher — across the US and Canada, in Europe and beyond — has his or her unique story of the benefits gained from TCC practice. Here, in a newspaper interview, Mississippi and New Jersey teachers and students explain:

T’ai Chi Chih offers a range of benefits over time

By Michaela Gibson Morris, Daily Journal, 11/1/13

With gentle gestures and quiet rocking motions, the class battles with vertigo, arthritis, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure and stress.

In the years Ron Richardson has been leading T’ai Chi Chih classes like the one at First Presbyterian Church in Tupelo, his students have told him the practice has improved their balance, lowered their blood pressure and relieved their pain.

“People really have to be committed to learning the movements,” Richardson said. But when they do, “they often see great benefits.”

T’ai Chi Chih, which is sometimes described as a moving meditation, was developed in part from the ancient Chinese martial art by the late Justin Stone, who died last year at the age of 97. T’ai Chi Chih has 19 basic movements and one pose. Most beginners can get comfortable with the movements in about eight classes.

It doesn’t require special equipment, physical conditioning or stamina. The movements have descriptive names like “Around the Platter” and “Pulling Taffy.”

“The movements are so slow and graceful,” said Stephen Thompson, who leads a community practice group at Lee Acres park in Tupelo. “They’re done very easily.”

Although it’s much simpler than the traditional T’ai Chi Ch’uan – which has 106 movements – T’ai Chi Chih still requires regular practice. The benefits of T’ai Chi Chih didn’t come overnight, but they did come for Daisy Aycock, who regularly attends classes at the NMMC Wellness Center. After a severe inner ear infection that destroyed her sense of balance, Aycock said she tried T’ai Chi Chih on the suggestion of her neurologist after exhausting conventional medicine options.

“This has been a slow process,” Aycock said, and it took persistence and discipline over two years to regain a comfortable level of balance. “I’m wearing high heels again.”

The simple, soft movements and quiet practice combine to balance the body physically and emotionally. For many, there’s a spiritual component, although instructors emphasize T’ai Chi Chih isn’t a religion.

Instructor Margaret Baker, who hopes to establish a free community class in Verona, said she often will do the movements as the praise team performs at her church. The practice has improved her balance and given her a sense of calm.

“I’ve been hooked on it,” Baker said. “I do something every day.”

Although T’ai Chi Chih is often attractive to older folks who are starting to experience issues with balance as well as chronic health problems, the practice isn’t limited by age.

“People don’t need to take balance for granted because they were young,” said Richardson, who has had students in their 20s and in their 80s. “We need to nurture the balance in our lives.”

Tupelo workshop

Later this month, a nationally recognized T’ai Chi Chih teacher, Daniel Pienciak, will lead two workshops in Tupelo.

“We’ve had several workshops over the years,” Richardson said. “He will bring a wealth of information. He is a master in these movements.”

The advanced Seijaku workshop, Nov. 6 through 8, is drawing participants from across the country.

The T’ai Chi Chih workshop, which will be offered Nov. 8-10 would be great for beginners who want an in-depth experience.

“It’s a chance to delve a little deeper,” said Pianciak, who has practiced T’ai Chi Chih since 1995 and became an instructor in 1997. In 2012, he was appointed as a teacher trainer.

The workshop will focus on helping people perfect the movements and understand more of the principles Justin Stone used to develop T’ai Chi Chih.

“The more you discover, the more there is to discover,” Pianciak said. “That’s what hooks people. … It doesn’t become old hat or boring.”

[The original article lives here.]

Got Immunity? TCC Helps Prevent Shingles

A UCLA study shows that practicing TCC improves physical immunity. This study looked at the effect of TCC practice on improving immunity to shingles in older adults, but the lead researcher said this work may also have importance for preventing flu and pneumonia.

T’ai Chi Chih Boosts Immune System in Older Adults

(Excerpted from an article in Science Daily, available here.)

T’ai Chi Chih significantly boosts the immune systems of older adults against the virus that leads to the painful, blistery rash known as shingles, according to a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study.

The 25-week study, which involved a group of 112 adults ranging in age from 59 to 86, showed that practicing T’ai Chi Chih alone boosted immunity to a level comparable to having received the standard vaccine against the shingles-causing varicella zoster virus. When T’ai Chi Chih was combined with the vaccine, immunity reached a level normally seen in middle age. The report appears in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The results, said lead author Michael Irwin, the Norman Cousins Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, confirm a positive, virus-specific immune response to a behavioral intervention. The findings demonstrate that T’ai Chi Chih can produce a clinically relevant boost in shingles immunity and add to the benefit of the shingles vaccine in older adults.

“These are exciting findings, because the positive results of this study also have implications for other infectious diseases, like influenza and pneumonia,” said Irwin, who is also director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. “Since older adults often show blunted protective responses to vaccines, this study suggests that T’ai Chi Chih is an approach that might complement and augment the efficacy of other vaccines, such as influenza.”

The study divided individuals into two groups. Half took T’ai Chi Chih classes three times a week for 16 weeks, while the other half attended health education classes — including advice on stress management, diet and sleep habits — for the same amount of time and did not practice T’ai Chi Chih. After 16 weeks, both groups received a dose of the shingles vaccine Varivax. At the end of the 25-week period, the T’ai Chi Chih group achieved a level of immunity two times greater than the health education group. The T’ai Chi Chih group also showed significant improvements in physical functioning, vitality, mental health and reduction of bodily pain.

The research follows the success of an earlier pilot study that showed a positive immune response from T’ai Chi Chih but did not assess its effects when combined with the vaccine.

The varicella zoster virus is the cause of chickenpox in kids. Children who get chickenpox generally recover, but the virus lives on in the body, remaining dormant. As we age, Irwin said, our weakening immune systems may allow the virus to reemerge as shingles. Approximately one-third of adults over 60 will acquire the infection at some point.

“It can be quite painful,” Irwin said, “and can result in impairment to a person’s quality of life that is comparable to people with congestive heart failure, type II diabetes or major depression.”

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Aging and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

TCC Helps Change Old Habits Into New Ways of Life

Most people who begin TCC lessons do so for physical reasons, but life-changing spiritual benefits can also be realized, said TCC originator Justin Stone. What may seem at first like a simple set of movements becomes a deeper practice over time. Here’s an article by Justin with an explanation, reprinted with permission from the Fall 1987 issue of The Vital Force.

. . . . .

Most people who come for T’ai Chi Chih lessons do it for physical reasons, either because of ailments or because they feel it will help them in the areas of energy, hypertension, etc. Thus, they think of TCC practice as a form of therapy, which it undoubtedly is. However, they may later find that they have derived much deeper– Spiritual–benefits,which they did not expect.

How do these come about? How does TCC affect our Karma?

We are the products of our Habit Energies (“Vashana” in Sanskrit), and we in turn have built these Habit Energies. Thus it can be a vicious circle. When these Energies grow too strong they become Tendencies (“Samskara” in Sanskrit), and these may last through many lifetimes. These Tendencies are some of the reasons people have uncontrollable drinking problems–which they don’t understand–explosive temper outbursts, fits of despondency, etc. It is hard to fight against such things when you don’t know what you’re fighting.

How does all this begin? When there is a release of energy, accompanied by the mental stimulus associated with it, a “Vritti” (Sanskrit) or shallow groove is formed on the brain. Repeated release of the same energy–as when one finds solace in drink and therefore imbibes each time a  disappointment is encountered–develops the shallow groove into a deeper Habit Energy. This in turn takes over our lives. If you will introspect, you will find that most of our actions are habitual. We practise piano to develop these Habit Energies so our playing becomes “muscle memory”. We learn languages this way. Some actions become so habitual, such as shaving in the morning, that we often don’t remember whether we performed them or not.

So we are a product of these Vashanas, which we ourselves built! We are, in a sense, our own creators! We build our own Karma.

I have often spoken of the “Reciprocal Character of Mind and Chi” (“Prana” in Sanskrit). The character of the Chi greatly influences our State of Mind, and our State of Mind greatly influences ‘our’ Chi. How can we break into that circle to change influences for a more desirable effect? We do T’ai Chi Chih, circulating and balancing the Chi. As the Yin-Yang elements are brought into better balance, this not only balances the Chi but it also influences how we think. Ultimately we are what we think; this creates our Karma.

The state of someone’s Chi creates “vibes”, as we all know. Sometimes we meet someone and get “bad vibes” when that person’s Chi is out of balance. We can’t explain it–and we often ignore it–but we are reacting to that individual’s energy field. Such reactions are usually reliable.

By changing the quality of the Chi (thru TCC practice) we are actually performing the deepest Yoga, going back to the cause and erasing it so the affect will be improved or will disappear. This is, in a sense, “de-hypnotization”.

In this respect TCC has the same deep purpose as Yoga and Zen, but it is a much easier practice. Few are capable of following either Zen or Yogic life to its deepest levels, particularly in our busy society. But we can practice TCC and have the deepest Spiritual effect on ourselves.

Justin Stone
Reprinted with permission from The Vital Force, Fall, 1987

Benefits of TCC Practice Seem Endless!

A newspaper in Albuquerque, NM here interviews Justin Stone, the originator of TCC, then nearly 90 years old. Among the sometimes-surprising health benefits TCC practitioners recount, this article also includes the story of a mother’s problem pregnancy and how TCC helped.

“T’ai Chi Chih Practitioners Believe Balance of Energy Means Balance of Health”

By Rick Nathanson

Albuquerque Journal, July 28, 2005

(The article is available online here.)

Judy Hendricks won the lottery. She was 35 years old and six months’ pregnant when her water broke. She was admitted to a local hospital, where doctors told her that 80 percent of women in this situation will deliver their babies within 48 hours. They also told her that babies delivered so early in pregnancy have only a 60 percent chance of survival, “and the ones who do survive are often born with health problems,” she recalled.

Hendricks remained upbeat despite the dreary prognosis. She had been practicing T’ai Chi Chih for three years, and she continued to practice the slow, deliberate, graceful movements each morning in her hospital room.

Three weeks into her stay, the baby still had not arrived. Tests revealed that the rupture had resealed and the amniotic fluid had replenished itself.

“They couldn’t believe it,” said Hendricks, who was sent home, continued practicing T’ai Chi Chih, and delivered a full-term baby girl.

“When I entered the hospital, the neonatal specialist told me the chances of delivering a healthy baby were about as good as winning the lottery,” said Hendricks, 40, a cancer research scientist at Sandia National Laboratories.

Daughter Anastasia, now 5, has begun to learn T’ai Chi Chih (pronounced Tie-Chee-Chuh).
And so can anybody.

The 20th annual T’ai Chi Chih Teachers Conference will be held in Albuquerque— the birthplace of T’ai Chi Chih— from Aug. 4-7 at the Albuquerque Marriott. It is expected to attract more than 170 teachers from across the U.S. and around the world.

An open practice for all practitioners of the system, regardless of level, will be held Aug. 6, starting at 3:45 p.m. Interested observers are invited to attend the open session. It will also be a great opportunity to speak with Justin Stone, the 88-year-old founder of the system, which now has more than 2,000 certified teachers and more than 1 million practitioners worldwide.
The system began spreading rapidly in 1994, when local PBS affiliate KNME-TV produced a 13-part series on T’ai Chi Chih. The series aired on PBS stations around the nation and continues to air in reruns. Tapes and books on the system are now mailed to practitioners around the world.

‘Just do it’
T’ai Chi Chih differs from the more familiar system of traditional T’ai Chi Ch’uan, which has 108 movements and self defense applications. T’ai Chi Chih has only 19 movements done from one stance. “It is not a martial art, so it won’t help in a fight, but the vibration you develop from studying T’ai Chi Chih will keep you from getting in a fight,” said Stone. “It’s more of a moving meditation. When people ask me about it, I say ‘Just do it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t philosophize about it. Just do it.’ ”

Of course, you can’t totally get away from talking and philosophizing about Eastern concepts that are still foreign to the Western mind-set.

Practicing T’ai Chi Chih is about finding equilibrium between the two polarities of Yin and Yang— positive and negative, hot and cold, light and dark, male and female.

Once the Chi, the vital internal energy force, is balanced, it flows easily throughout the body. The mind, body and spirit become centered, and inner serenity, good health and vitality result, Stone said.

Physicians have long touted the health benefits of exercise, and now Tai Chi Chih in particular can cite a growing body of anecdotal as well as scientific studies to prove the point.

Letters received by Stone or addressed to the T’ai Chi Chih Center’s newsletter, Vital Force, from practitioners all over the world claim to have had their lives dramatically altered.

By practicing for about 30 minutes a day, people say they’ve been relieved of knee, back and hip pain. Headaches, migraines and insomnia have vanished. Stress and blood pressure levels have fallen. Mobility has returned to the arthritic, stamina to the asthmatic. Symptoms of depression, menopause, and anxiety disorders have been alleviated, and athletic performance and spirituality enhanced.

Scientific studies published by the University of California Neuropsychiatric Institute, the Journal of Gerontological Nursing and IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine back up many of these claims.

“It changes peoples lives,” Stone said. T’ai Chi Chih is easy and it’s accessible. I call it ‘the effort of no effort.’ ”

Meet Justin Stone
Justin Federman Stone was always something of a Renaissance man. Born in Ohio, he studied music at Cornell University and subsequently had a career as a composer, arranger and keyboardist with big bands in the 1930s and ’40s. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and then worked as a broker on Wall Street in New York. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s where he hung out with counter-culture figures like Paul Rep, author of “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,” among other works.

Always interested in Eastern arts and philosophies, Stone met T’ai Chi Ch’uan master Tin Chin Lee during a 1958 trip to Hawaii, and continued to study the art in California under master Wen-Shan Huang. He spent much of the 1960s traveling around Asia and India, soaking up all he could of the different cultures.

During a 1971 trip to Albuquerque to visit a friend, Stone wandered into a bookstore. The owner asked what he did and Stone gave voice to the first thing that popped into his head: “I said I teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan,” he recalled. That comment immediately generated so much interest from the owner and customers that classes were soon organized for Stone to lead.

One of his new students was a local book publisher who asked Stone to write about T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Because a definitive text on the subject had already been written by Huang, Stone was not keen on the idea. Huang, however, had shown Stone three movements that Stone modified and used as a warm-up. These were not part of the original 108 movements of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. The publisher then suggested Stone write about these instead.

“It was just a few movements, so there wasn’t much to write about, but then, over the course of the next week, movements just started coming to me along with their names,” Stone said. Those movements, “Bird Flaps its Wings,” “Around the Platter,” “Joyous Breath,” and more, became the basis for T’ai Chi Chih, along with additional movements that continued to come to him over the next few years.

While certified teachers of the system earn money from leading classes, Stone said he has never financially benefited from T’ai Chi Chih, which translates as “Supreme Ultimate Knowledge.” But there have been other benefits.

Stone’s hand shake is firm, he is sure on his feet, quick of wit and humor, and he possesses 20-25 eyesight. He continues to write music and he supports himself primarily by dabbling in the stock market and selling his own paintings.

And even if it sounds a bit corny, or even pretentious, Stone is completely earnest when he says that the spread of T’ai Chi Chih is about “service to mankind.”

Remembering TCC Founder Justin Stone

When Justin Stone, originator of the moving meditation practice T”ai Chi Chih, died in 2012, hundreds of people who knew and had learned from him came together as communities on Facebook and this blog to share remembrances. To learn more about Justin, TCC and its benefits, just read a few of the comments, posted below. Gratitude, inspiration , love and dedication flow freely. The following are some of the 165 Justin remembrances posted in 2012.

“My fondest and most profound memory of Justin was one morning after breakfast at his last meditation retreat in Albuquerque when we were the only two people left sitting at the table. The night before, Justin had asked me to share with the group of some 40 people gathered for his meditation teachings the reason why had left the formal ministry in the “Church”. That morning, when we stood up to leave, Justin put his hand on my shoulder, and told me that now it would be time for me to find something else to believe in….and he said, “what that something is, is yourself”. Thank you, Justin for new-found confidence and for helping to re-formulate a new a fulfilling life.”

“The T’ai Chi Chih community will miss Justin very much. There will be many more teachers and students who will continue to practise and teach this life enhancing, loving meditation now and in the future. We owe great thanks to this very special man. Special thoughts are with those closest to him…lots of love to you Justin.”

“Thank you for the gift of T’s Chi Chih. My life is greater because of your gifts.”

“Thank you, Justin. Your chi is still in the universe, and we will continue to share you and T’ai Chi Chih with all we meet. What love!”

"“The essence of T’ai Chi Chih is softness and continuity.” — Justin Stone. The core of my life has been soften by continued mastering the gentle movements of the inner discipline called “T’ai Chi Chih: Joy Thru Movement.” Your legacy to humankind will be passed on by the crowning “jewels of T’ai Chi Chih – its teachers. Thank you, Justin. With deep respect.”

“I never planned to be a teacher, but the Universe provides us a path if we chose to follow. After learning and practicing T’ai Chi Chih I began wanting to be of service to others by sharing the peace and joy through movement I have found when doing T’ai Chi Chih. When I went to Teacher Training and met Justin I was moved and inspired by his desire that T’ai Chi Chih not become a business, that it a gift to humanity. I honor this wish through my volunteer teaching of T’ai Chi Chih, and I am thankful we have been blessed to have had Justin as our Guide and Leader for so many years. May we all continue to honor his gift to humanity through our practices of T’ai Chi Chih.”

“My discovery of T’ai Chi Chih came in answer to a prayer to be of service. I feel so fortunate for the opportunity to carry on a part of Justin’s legacy, the class inside Folsom Prison. His visit there is still remembered fondly, and the class has helped the men beyond measure. So here, I convey their immense gratitude as well as my own. Thank you Justin, for helping to heal humanity.”

“I experience a long list of health and personal benefits. T’ai Chi Chih brightens me, my family and those I touch each day. Many thanks to Justin and the teachers of T’ai Chi Chih.”

“T’ai Chi Chih practice feels like the truth of who we are. It’s a gift that keeps on teaching and giving, and so the gratitude continues.”

“Justin, the man will be missed. TCC will continue to change the lives of all who practice it regularly. I can’t imagine a day without a practice. To be able to align oneself with the harmony of the universe is a gift beyond gratitude. My heart expands to meet you.”

“Having broken my foot a week ago, i have been struggling with patience, self-pity etc. Today, Wednesday, March 28, feeling very stiff all over and in a very low space, I could hear Justin’s voice say, “practice when you want and practice when you don’t want “. I had no choice but to pull up a chair and bingo! Felt the old familiar release of tension and clarity just as I usually do when in standing position. It had been some time since my last practice and I felt like a huge weight had lifted from my body. To hear of his passing today after this experience validates the power of my ‘connectedness’ with him as well as with the greater TCC community. There is no separation in true love. Justin and i had never met in the physical but yet his hand-written note acknowledging my teacher accreditation and his wisdom will sustain me, as well as his gift of T’ai Chi Chih. I tingle all over when I read the quote, which I heard inwardly before the news. My condolences to all those who worked and supported Justin these last few years.”

Cold hands? Try Circulating the Chi

Sometimes learning more about the science behind the benefits of T’ai Chi Chih is helpful in explaining the positive benefits so many teachers and students experience. Still, there’s a lovely bit of mystery in considering what the Chi is, and how it works, to bring about the scientifically-explained results.

Beneficial Healing Of Hands

By Diana Daffner, Sarasota, Florida

For almost 20 years, my husband Richard and I have led a free, weekly T’ai Chi Chih practice session at sunset on Siesta Beach here in Sarasota. Tourists and other visitors often stop by; sometimes they realize that they have encountered the movements before. One such visitor was Dr. Alan Dattner, a physician of Integrative Medicine and Dermatology in New York City. He shared with us this important story about the benefits of Around the Platter Variation:

“On a particularly cold morning on Stratton Mountain in Vermont, my fingers practically froze trying to deal with my skis outside of the lodge. On that day, when I was in my 20’s in medical school, we decided it was too cold to ski. Unfortunately, my hands never seemed to be the same after that. When it was cold, my hands would get cold and the vessels seemed to tighten up so that the blood couldn’t flow to warm them up.

Years later, in the early 1980’s at a T’ai Chi Chih class in Northeast Connecticut, I experienced an exercise of making a ball and pushing it away at shoulder height, and I found that my hands got warm. I realized that something about this movement relaxed the constriction of the blood vessels in my fingers and caused the blood to flow into my hands. I presumed it broke a localized sympathetic nervous system controlled vasoconstriction in my fingers that cut down blood flow and made my fingers cold. I was extremely impressed by the ability of this technique to change the response of my fingers to cold, then, and any time that I repeated the exercise.

As a result, I have showed this movement to patients with cold hands caused by Renaud’s disease and other similar conditions with cold hands. I believe that this maneuver is very important for regulating the autonomic response in the hands and upper extremities, and hope that formal research studies are done to demonstrate this. I have done different forms of T’ai Chi on an infrequent basis over the past 36 years, and have found that doing this particular exercise to be one of my most vivid experiences of immediate benefit.”

Reprinted with permission from the Feb. 2014 issue of The Vital Force

Benefits of TCC? Just ask a newcomer!

“From start to end, I have grown mentally, physically and, especially, emotionally. I am so very thankful that I can maintain my positive attitude and keep myself motivated. I am also more focused than ever.”

By TAM, Ellicott City, Maryland

When signing up for a T’ai Chi Chih summertime class, I thought it would be somewhat like yoga. For a year I practiced hot yoga, taught in a vinyasa yoga tradition. In practicing this type of yoga, I was able to relieve stress, lose weight and focus better.

At the beginning of my TCC class, I was stressed, full of anger, and a million things were going through my mind on a daily basis; I didn’t know what I should focus on more and what was more important. When I started getting the movements and doing the practice outside of class, I started paying attention to my breathing and my thoughts. One by one, I started to prioritize what needed my immediate attention and what, especially, I was able to control. I learned to let go of the things I could not control.

I’m an open-minded individual; ask me anything, anything at all and I am willing to answer. Doing TCC allowed me to be even more open-minded, to really think outside the box and not to limit myself to what I’m used to doing. It is definitely a stress reliever. I worked two jobs, took two summer courses, interned at the IT department at a well-known corporation and planned my dream wedding. Talk about overload. But again, doing the practice outside of class helped a lot. My anger subsided and when I’m stuck in traffic, I listen to music and really pay attention to what’s happening around me.

One class assignment required that we turn off the music in our car and notice what was happening around us, especially the little things. Not only was I able to hear my own breathing on the way home, I can now hear my thoughts. And I learned to appreciate the beauty of a gorgeous day; even when it rains, I enjoy watching and listening to the raindrops falling. I’ve begun to appreciate how far I’ve gotten in my college career. You are how you treat others; I’ve learned to not hold grudges against people. I’ve learned to let go of the past so I can move into my future.

With TCC, I have more energy to get things done, and I feel a lot better about myself. I had gained weight when I started college and I always doubted myself in anything that I did. Putting on that weight had left me feeling lazy and unmotivated. But doing TCC practices outside of class has helped me stay motivated to work out every day. Although most people do not know, I have had asthma for as long as I can remember. It used to be so severe that I used an inhaler two or three times daily. However, my condition isn’t as severe as it was before; I now use my inhaler once every day or two (which is amazing and such a stress reliever).

From start to end, I have grown mentally, physically and, especially, emotionally. I am so very thankful that I can maintain my positive attitude and keep myself motivated. I am also more focused than ever. I definitely look at things with a whole new perspective and I take my days one day at a time. There’s no need to rush through traffic or curse at the driver next to me, or even try to multitask. Time is the one thing that I cannot control, but with the patience that I have been cultivating, I can work with time.

Excerpted and reprinted by permission from the February 2014 issue of The Vital Force.

 

Research Shows TCC Helps Relieve Depression

Nine percent of adult Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  At any given time, about three percent of adults have major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, a long-lasting and severe form of depression. In fact, major depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the CDC.

That’s why academic research by experts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) showing that practicing T’ai Chi Chih can help relieve depression is such important news that needs to be more widely known.

Here’s the basic information from the researchers’ Abstract that accompanied the study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2011. The full paper can be downloaded here free of charge.

Background

Nearly two-thirds of elderly patients treated for depression fail to achieve symptomatic remission and functional recovery with first-line pharmacotherapy. In this study, we ask whether a mind–body exercise, Tai Chi Chih (TCC), added to escitalopram will augment the treatment of geriatric depression designed to achieve symptomatic remission and improvements in health functioning and cognitive performance.

Methods

One hundred twelve older adults with major depression age 60 years and older were recruited and treated with escitalopram for approximately 4 weeks. Seventy-three partial responders to escitalopram continued to receive escitalopram daily and were randomly assigned to 10 weeks of adjunct use of either 1) TCC for 2 hours per week or 2) health education (HE) for 2 hours per week. All participants underwent evaluations of depression, anxiety, resilience, health-related quality of life, cognition, and inflammation at baseline and during 14-week follow-up.

Results

Subjects in the escitalopram and TCC condition were more likely to show greater reduction of depressive symptoms and to achieve a depression remission as compared with those receiving escitalopram and HE. Subjects in the escitalopram and TCC condition also showed significantly greater improvements in 36-Item Short Form Health Survey physical functioning and cognitive tests and a decline in the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, compared with the control group. [See full section included below.]

Conclusion

Complementary use of a mind–body exercise, such as TCC, may provide additional improvements of clinical outcomes in the pharmacologic treatment of geriatric depression.

You can read the full research paper here free of charge.

Extended Results Discussion

Among the TCC participants, depression response rates were high, with 94% of the subjects achieving HAMD scores of 10 or less and 65% achieving remission, as defined by HAMD, with a score of 6 or less, in contrast among the HE participants, with only 77% achieving HAMD scores of 10 or less and only 51% achieving remission (χ2[1] = 3.68; p< 0.06). Figure 2 reports group differences on the mean HAMD scores over time. Both intervention groups demonstrated improvement in the severity of depression, with greater reductions in depressive symptom severity among those taking escitalopram and participating in the TCC compared with those taking escitalopram combined with HE (group × time interaction: F[5, 285] = 2.26; p<0.05).

On the basis of our prior studies, we also hypothesized a beneficial effect of escitalopram and TCC on the secondary outcomes such as health functioning, cognition, and inflammation. Table 2summarizes primary and secondary outcomes that differentially changed in the two treatment groups. Secondary outcomes reported in Figures 35 are particularly promising in terms of the overall benefit for depressed elderly. As compared with escitalopram and HE, escitalopram and TCC yielded greater improvements in 36-Item Short Form Health Survey physical functioning (group × time interaction: F[1, 66] = 5.73; p = 0.02) and cognition (i.e., memory; group × time interaction: F[1, 65] = 5.29; p<0.05) as well as declines in the inflammatory marker, CRP (time effect: F[2, 78] = 3.14, p<0.05 and group × time trend in posttreatment period: F[1, 39] = 2.91; p = 0.10).

Practicing What We Preach – Self-Care

“I used to do everything for everyone and kept forgetting about myself.” Sound familiar?

To Speak Or Not To Speak

By Dr. Pauline Bacani Quimson, Pittsburg, California

One my physical challenges has been repeatedly losing my voice. And it’s not just a figurative thing of not expressing myself. I literally start saying something and nothing comes out, except for a whisper of a sound. It used to happen once a month or so while growing up, and although it gradually lessened, it still regularly happened throughout my life.

Looking back, I realize that it was my body’s cry for help. I used to do everything for everyone and kept forgetting about myself. My body wanted a means to voice what I needed but could not hear (or even have a slight awareness of).

As an adult and teacher, now spending more time getting quiet, getting to know myself better, I am becoming more aware. I noticed that when I was super-busy with nonstop medical outreach projects, trauma relief services and integrative healing workshops (especially for those left orphaned and homeless by the aftereffects of the super typhoon that hit Leyte in my home country of the Philippine Islands), I forgot to do my T’ai Chi Chih and Seijaku practices, when that was what I needed to practice the most. (As Justin Stone would say, “Practice when you feel like it … and even more so, practice when you don’t feel like it … One cannot appease the hunger by reading the menu.”)

So here I am with one week of cancelled trips and patients, finally paying attention to what my body is telling me. Pause. Stop. Reflect. Rest. Relax. Rejuvenate. Reintegrate. Breathe. Had it not been for losing my voice, I may have pushed myself to total exhaustion as I had done so often before.

I have found this to be true with thousands of attendees at my workshops and seminars, especially those caring for so many – patriarchs and matriarchs of families, presidents of banks and corporations, heads of non-government organizations, cooperatives, volunteer groups, church groups, charismatic groups, business owners and more. It is often evident that the leader expected to carry the group forward has no one to care for him or her (or does not realize the need to care for him- or herself).

How can one inspire and lead when one’s own spirit, mind, body and emotions are weakened by stress and overburdened with work, with insufficient time to be quiet, to be your highest? That is the pure love, light and joy that we truly are.

Even more so now, I appreciate the wisdom and beauty of what we share – the Chi – as both continuing students and teachers of TCC, as we help individuals transform their own lives, help themselves, to better their situations in life. To empower. Starting with just five minutes a day, building up slowly to a 45-minute practice. No blaming, no one at fault. Nothing to think about. Just being and luxuriating in the pure energy that is the Chi as we harmonize, release and let go of anger, sadness, fear, hurt, guilt, pretending or trying to be something or someone we are not, limiting beliefs, unforgiving. Being magically transformed into love, gratitude, joy and courage. Revealing our true nature.

To answer my own query: to speak or not to speak? It’s so simple. Speak when there is something to be said for the highest good. When we practice TCC regularly, we cannot help but harmonize, circulate and balance the energy, this Vital Force, this precious gift of the Chi as we rediscover and get to know each day, the Supreme Ultimate that we carry deep inside. Let it shine forth. Then can we truly speak, not just through words, but also with our bodies and minds as beings of light and bearers of pure and overflowing joy.

Reprinted with permission from the February 2014 issue of The Vital Force.