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Not Treating Depression And Anxiety Costs The World
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BOSTON - August, 2017
indicates that practicing tai chi can be an
effective remedy for reducing symptoms for depression.
study was carried out by researchers at Massachusetts
General Hospital, who ran participants through
a 12-week training course ...
Co-author Albert Yeung, a Harvard psychiatry professor
who also works in the Depression Clinical and Research
Program in the hospital's psychiatry department, explains
that unlike previous research, the current study primarily
focused on how tai chi effects diagnosed patients who
suffer from depression.
Medical research has found that meditative practices literally/
See video below with MORE medical research on Tai Chi,
depression, anxiety, mood disturbance.
THEN SCROLL DOWN TO LEARN "HOW" TAI CHI HELPS DEPRESSION.
[Teachers, this can be a treasure of info to aid in your teaching.]
* One man's 40 year Tai Chi journey through and beyond anxiety,
depression & mood disorder
* Medical research on Tai Chi / Qigong for anxiety, depression, mood
* How do Tai Chi & Qigong help? The mechanics of mind-body practice
* FEAR ... how Tai Chi & Qigong as mind-body melts old fears
* Tai Chi as "Faith Walking" -- a mental/emotional efficacy therapy
* Qigong's "Crystal Palace" -
Pituitary/Pineal Glands & Anxiety/Depression
* News Media's role in anxiety/depression
* Tai Chi / Qigong Breathing as anxiety/depression therapy
* A Morning Qigong Habit worth having - Gratitude
* The physicality of repressed emotion, and mental stress
Why has Yoga been more popular than Tai Chi? Community?
* The very important "
community" aspect of Tai Chi & Qigong
One World ... One Breath
Therapeutic benefit of community -- World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
Being part of a global Tai Chi & Qigong Family
How EXACTLY do Tai Chi & Qigong treat depression?
Going Inside the Mind of a 40 year Tai Chi practitioner
"Before I began Tai Chi & Qigong classes, my stress
was unbearable, and depression and anxiety
were almost a way of life ..."
As you can see, from the above very first line of my book, this issue of Tai Chi for anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, is a close one to my heart and the reason I initially came to Tai Chi nearly 40 years ago.
I have a unique perspective on this issue having acutely suffered from these challenges, being drawn to Tai Chi because of them, and eventually having the rare opportunity to "pick the brains" of some of the greatest Tai Chi minds in the world as organizing World Tai Chi & Qigong Day led me around the world to meet perhaps more Tai Chi teachers than anyone on the planet -- and to discover a world far more beautiful, friendly, & HOPEFUL than modern mass media would leave us believing it is.
In addition, I have been teaching in major health institutions across the United States for nearly 25 years, so I had an ongoing clinical laboratory to refine the tools I was constantly being exposed to by Tai Chi & Qigong teachers from around the world, and see how various approaches to TC/QG work with people dealing w/ conditions.
|Teaching Tip: Why do Tai Chi students give up/drop out? (Why "I" dropped out of Tai Chi several times before sticking with it.)
The #1 challenge most Tai Chi students will have is "efficacy" their inability to believe that they can achieve the goal of learning Tai Chi. Many people come to Tai Chi these days to find relief from anxiety, depression, and mood issues, so this is very important for teachers to consider.
Therefore, as your students get the general gist of a movement you are teaching, they need to hear words like "good" "very good" "great" "excellent" very frequently.
When I say "general gist" I mean that when you first teach a form do not expect students to master details, give them space to generally have their bodies in a proximity of the form. They will evolve it as they stick with Tai Chi. Too much detail too fast confuses/strains and deflates their sense of efficacy.
When I began teaching 25 years ago, I was extremely picky about the details and minutia of every movement ... until one evening one of my students (who was a Fencing teacher) caught me after class and said, "Bill, you are trying to give them too much too fast. It is overwhelming them. Give them a general frame, and then let them evolve it over time." As I was teaching he saw my student's distress from being overwhelmed with detail.
Emotional and Mental challenges are the #1 biggest impediment to students sticking with Tai Chi. If students can be encouraged to "lighten up" and "have some fun" and "play Tai Chi" it will help a lot with this speed bump to learning.
Looking back, I realized that I too dropped out of Tai Chi several times 40 years ago, when I began studying, and it was because I really didn't believe I could "get it." When I got the efficacy after trying again and again, that's when I stuck with it.
Also, you as a teacher should lighten up on yourself and "have some fun" in your classes. Let go of your grip on perfection and revel in the pleasure of hanging out and "playing" Tai Chi with your students. 25 years of teaching has shown me again and again that "if I AM having fun," students are having fun. If I am tight and controlling, students aren't having much fun either.
A FUNNY ILLUSTRATION ... of this issue
I was at a National Qigong Association conference many years ago, I was having lunch with a bunch of Tai Chi teachers. One teacher proclaimed, "We NEVER proceed to the 2nd movement until we PERFECT the first movement."
Another Tai Chi teacher chimed in, "Man, if I did that we'd never get to the 2nd movement!" And all the teachers laughed with relief, understanding what he was saying was true. That moment really took a lot of pressure off of us.
I've spent years writing books on Tai Chi, and these free newsletters, and organizing World Tai Chi & Qigong Day because I want people with anxiety and depression find relief (just like it helped me) ... but, I don't want the above TIP to make Tai Chi teachers anxious or depressed, thinking they did something wrong because students drop out. See below ...
A CONSOLATION NOTE TO TEACHERS:
Don't hold it too heavily on your shoulders when students give up and drop out. You can do everything right, and many students will self-sabotage (and even blame you) so that they can give up. Part of us humans does not like change -- even change that can dramatically improve our life. If you see drop outs, you are not alone.
I was at an NQA conference having lunch with a bunch of Tai Chi teachers. One was complaining about how he'd had a class with 30 people at the beginning ... and by the end of the sessions he only had 3 left. Another teacher chimed, "THREE! Wow, that is GREAT!" We all had a good laugh and a lot of weight slipped off our shoulders. All we can do is do the best we can, its really ultimately up to the students to take advantage of the enormous benefits Tai Chi and Qigong can offer. I empathize with students who give up. I gave up on Tai Chi about 5 times before I finally came back and stuck with it ... because I simply felt better when I got out of my Tai Chi class :-)
AS TEACHERS - WE ARE FISHERMEN/WOMEN-HAVE A GOOD MARKETING STRATEGY-CAST A WIDE NET
Set up Meetups, a Facebook Page, Twitter, social media ... build an Email List to alert 100s of people in your area when a new multi-week Tai Chi session is about to begin. Look into Facebook ads to advertise your classes to people in your area. IF YOU CAST A WIDE NET, some will stick with you, and over time you'll have a solid following. If you teach for enough years, you'll see some that drop out, come back ... yes, like I did ... because they feel better when they do Tai Chi and Qigong.
Some teachers worry that if they don't nitpick students might get hurt or do damage. Here's an easy fix. Tell all students this, "TAI CHI SHOULD NEVER HURT. If it hurts ease up, change foot positions, and talk to me for tips to relieve the pain." This will solve that issue. I've taught in hospitals for 25 years, with students dealing with all kinds of physical challenges, and this has been an effective way to deal with the safety issue.
On my/our world's anxiety, depression, mood disturbance issue ... as you saw in the video with medical research at the top of this article, Tai Chi & Qigong offer "chemical changes" in the body which add to our sense of euphoria. But, what is it exactly about these arts' actual practice that maximizes this effect?
Being commissioned to write 4 editions of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong" by Macmillan Publishing and later Penguin Publishing sent me on
an introspective journey that helped me peel back the layers of how Tai Chi and Qigong heal our consciousness. I'll try to share a bit of what I've realized here in this newsletter, along with some important research and statistics on this global issue, that could be useful to anyone dealing with the issues,
as well as teachers of the arts.
"When the casual observer watches Tai Chi, they often think it is purely
a physical exercise. That all they need to do is make their arms/hands/legs
mimic the motions ... and then they
get Tai Chi
and all its benefits. It has
taken me 40 years to unfold the delicate petals of this lotus blossom of
Tai Chi, and what my own Tai Chi journey as a sufferer of anxiety,
depression and mood disturbance has unfolded is a precious pearl of
understanding of the depth and breadth of Tai Chi as a mind-body healing
tool. Read on ... and take this journey with me in this newsletter ... not
just those thinking of taking a Tai Chi journey for your own
mental/emotional health ... but, I invite teachers to come along as well
so you can have understanding and empathy for those dealing with
mental/emotional issues who come to your Tai Chi classes for some healing."
-- Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tai Chi & Qigong (a book the Team USA Senior Coach and Martial Arts Hall of Famer called "Visionary! Life Changing!" and who wrote that even though he'd been teaching Tai Chi for decades, had read this book 7 times, and still got something new from it each time he read it.)
Therefore, I dedicated this entire issue to this critically important aspect of Tai Chi & Qigong's benefits for Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Disturbance. I will dissect from these 40 years of personal experience
how and why Tai Chi and Qigong are such powerful solutions to much of the global epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance
... which I of course get into in much more detail in my 300 page book "
The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong
" (4th edition) ... but, I'll share a great deal of information here in this newsletter ...
I'll start with some background on my journey with anxiety, depression, mood disturbance & Tai Chi and Qigong.
I inherited my depression, anxiety, and mood disturbance from my father who served in 3 years of constant front-line combat in World War II. Let me clarify something, I have absolute love and deep, deep respect for my father. If I had endured what he did, I would have become a monster. But, I did grow up in a war zone at times. With combat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) it erupts like an epileptic seizure ... wrenching you from one moment of a calm family experience like a road trip vacation, into a battle ground where the charming, funny man you loved and adored a moment before becomes a seismic explosion of rage that literally makes you terrified of what may happen in the next moment when he looks back at you from the drivers seat of the car.
|Just to give you a taste, if you saw the first few moments of the film "Saving Private Ryan," and the horrific beach landing, you will be stunned when I tell you that my father's 45th Infantry Division out of Oklahoma endured FOUR such beach landings. Like Tom Hanks character in this film, my father was the leader of his platoon, chosen because he was the oldest man in his group, at the ripe old age of "23 years old," just a boy really. I can't imagine what it was like for him.
"Saving Private Ryan" Beach Landing
I didn't really realize I had PTSD, but my parents did eventually send me to a psychologist because of depression and anxiety. It didn't stick. Like many people in the 1970s I had the pleasant distraction of self-medicating on recreational drugs. But, when I married Angela Wong and we had children ... I could no longer rely on partying constantly for escape, and did not want to bring my father's war into their lives. When I began acting out (as my father had) with my children, I knew I had to change.
Tai Chi & Qigong can help to melt the grooves of past trauma
I found a therapist, who just happened to also be working at the VA Hospital in Southern California where he worked with Vietnam Veterans suffering from PTSD, and very quickly he recognized my depression, anxiety, and mood disturbance as being rooted in my PTSD from growing up in a PTSD household.
My therapist, Duke, had led me to explore mind-body practices. I decided to try Tai Chi because Angie's mom had done it with her when she was a little girl. That first Tai Chi and Qigong class was like a thick iron door opened in my life, and a light, a lightness was able to shine through ... and I kept coming back to it. Tai Chi wasn't easy for me to get ... but that lightness I felt that first night ... kept calling me back. And eventually Tai Chi and Qigong Meditation became a way of life for me, and eventually my career, and my life passion became spreading these tools worldwide so everyone, every one of Earth's children could have access to this beautiful opportunity they afford.
In time, I even shared some Qigong Meditation with my father before he died, and it did help him find some peace. Since then, I have taught Tai Chi in the VA hospitals for veterans dealing with PTSD and also with permanent disabilities from war.
"From the perspective of a health psychologist serving patients who are coping with chronic illness and stressful life events, I see the gentle mindfulness exercises of T'ai Chi and QiGong relaxation therapy as potentially useful for a broad spectrum of people. The author of this book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tai Chi & Qigong" explains the complexities of T'ai Chi and QiGong in the form of an invitation, easing his students into a greater understanding of the usefulness and purpose of this ancient form of meditative movement."
-Kristy Straits-Troster, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Primary Care Medicine
[Therapist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Kansas City]
"I came to realize in time that my father's war did not exist in the world of our family, it existed in the cells of his body, which had been unable to unload the horror/stress of that war of his past.
"What my 40 year Tai Chi journey led me to understand was that the wars in my life were not out there, they were within the cellular structure of my own being ... and Tai Chi and Qigong gave me a way to begin to exhale, to let go, and to release old traumas from my being."
-- Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
Author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tai Chi & Qigong"
I dedicate this newsletter to my father, and to all those in the world suffering from Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Disturbance.
Dad, I love you so much, and I am so sorry for what happened to you.
So, How Do Tai Chi & Qigong Help?
The Mechanics of Mind-Body
|Tai Chi & Qigong begin helping with anxiety issues with the "Qigong Breathing" method. Just by "touching the tip of the tongue on the gum-line behind the top 2 front teeth begins to "bring the mind back from spinning thoughts, and into the sensations of the body."
When we are "feeling" we aren't "thinking," and when we are "thinking," we aren't "feeling." The idea that we can mentally multi-task has been proven to be a myth.
"Feeling" takes us out of our minds, and into our body. So the breathing is the first in a series of falling dominos the acts of Tai Chi and Qigong initiate that change the chemistry of our body which affects our mood and sense of well-being.
Qigong Breathing, courtesy of
I met one of the nation's premiere bio-feedback researchers, Dr. Greene, who hosted a TV show. When he had me on his show he told me that biofeedback experts often call Tai Chi "bio-feedback without the computer," because Tai Chi's slow mindful movements bring us into a state where our minds are not thinking, but they are completely immersed in "feeling" our physical sensations. That is a form of bio-feedback ... the body's sensations are the feedback of the bio (the body, the tissue).
We can only consciously experience one thing at a time.
So, just by feeling the sensation of the tip of our tongue touching the gum-line behind the top 2 front teeth, which is the initiation of both Tai Chi and Qigong ... our mind comes back "out of the rat race" and the spinning of the mind is replaced with the "tactile / sensory" awareness of our beingness.
Then, the Qigong Breathing, full diaphramatic breathing in Qigong and Tai Chi, takes us deeper into the "sensory" experience ... feeling our body being breathed by the breath as we relax out of the way ... just feeling ... not thinking.
Notice the methodology of Teaching in the below videos. First the mental/physical aspects of
Horse Stance, Posture, and Sinking are explained. BUT THEN, the student is encourage to "feel"
the experience, even to close their eyes so that they can go within and move into that Yin/Experiential Observer/Passenger consciousness. Again, when we are "feeling" we aren't "thinking," and this
shift from Yang thought to Yin thought offers a meditative quality that changes brain waves and
soothes our body, as well as promoting a sense of well-being in students. This is multi-dimensional teaching. Teaching physically in mental explanations is "linear" right-brain teaching. Good,
but just the beginning. The next step is to take the student "internal" to "feel."
GOING INTERNAL "YIN-FEELING" rather than "YANG-THINKING"
Mindfulness / sensation leaves no place in the mind for fear / worry
The Slow Mindful Awareness of Our Body in Motion
"Living an extremely unhealthy life style &
taking numerous medications
for arthritis, depression,
pain . . . then
one day while browsing in the library
discovered a book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to
T'ai Chi and QiGong.
I was so
I am practicing T'ai Chi and QiGong daily I am
most of my medications. People keep telling
look "different" and that I look happy.
Well, I am
happy and I feel great!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
-- Dave Long, Washington (Military Veteran)
|Both Tai Chi and Qigong are done slowly, mindfully. They are known as "internal arts," Yin arts, where we slow down and "feel" the subtle sensations of our breath, our body in motion, our postural alignment, and a sense of relaxation that accompanies the movements and the breath, particularly the Yin part of breath, the exhalation.
The word for the most calm and serene (non-anxious) state of mind we can have is "nirvana." The world nirvana in Sanskrit means "to exhale," and "exhalation." When we exhale we "surrender" and we "let go" of control. This is at the core of Tai Chi and Qigong movements ... the act the Chinese call "the sinking."
"There is no greater sense of surrender than the release
of a full breath, a sigh, or a loosening yawn. It is not just
the lungs and mouth, it is our entire being "letting go."
When we are exasperated by life, it is common to sigh.
When we sigh it is a full body release ...
everything in us lets go."
-- Bill Douglas, author of
"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tai Chi & Qigong"
Teaching / Learning Tip ...
It has taken me nearly 25 years of teaching Tai Chi to realize that many of my new students do not know how to "let go," and do not know how to "feel."
TV/automobile/technology-plugged-in-world lives almost entirely
in our heads. Tactile sensation of the body is foreign to a surprising number of people. Looking back, I think it was to me as well when I began Tai Chi nearly 40 years ago.
I have to "teach them how to feel." I have them put one hand on their abdomen and one hand on their chest, so they can "feel" the abdomen expand as they breathe into the dan tien, and then notice how the hand on the chest expands as the upper chest fills with air ... and feel the opposite occur as they exhale.
need the sensation of the
hands to feel what is happening inside their body ... they often can't "feel" inside themselves effectively at first.
I have to teach them what it feels like to "let go." Often as teachers we use terms like "relax," not realizing that that word doesn't mean anything to most people ... at least not on the level we feel it as experienced Tai Chi or Qigong players.
I have students take a deep breath in, and then as they sigh the breath out, feel their shoulders "relax down and away from the neck, every cell of our being absolutely letting go of everything."
When we start the Tai Chi study, I walk around the room and place my hand on their shoulder, telling them, "Now take a deep breath, and when you sigh that breath out, let your shoulder let go beneath my hand." They feel their shoulder let go and drop an inch or two from the raised/tight position they had no idea they were holding it at.
As Tai Chi and Qigong teachers we can't just "explain" things ... we have to become poets ... seeking ways to help new students open to deeper, more subtle sense of self and awareness.
We forget what it was like when we first started, and the world is a lot tighter and gripping a lot harder mentally with more mental/technological immersion and less physicality than when many of us started our Tai Chi journey many years ago.
|The "sinking" we practice in Tai Chi forms is a state of absolute surrender when we absolutely "let go" and "sink" onto our Vertical Axis (rod of postural alignment), the alignment of the 3 Dan Tiens. When we first learn Tai Chi we tend to "hold" postures, because our left brain, Yang mind, has control as we try to remember where to put our hands and feet and Dan Tien. But, as we play Tai Chi dozens, hundreds, thousands of times ... we start to "let go" around the movements to "let the movements move us," and this is when the "sinking" becomes deeper and more profound.
When masters do Tai Chi they look like they are working to deepen their stance, and when new students try to mimic them it is exhausting. But, we shouldn't try to mimic them, we should do our Tai Chi in a comfortable way, and over time focus on "sinking" and "letting go" around the movements. ... As this happens over months and years our stance becomes much lower ... but, it doesn't feel like effort, it feels like letting go.
Tai Chi has been called "faith walking" because it requires us to have faith that nothing bad will happen if we "let go" and surrender into "sinking into the forms." This requires a mental and emotional faith as well ... and this ultimately translates into better mental health ... we begin to find an efficacy in knowing that when we mentally and emotionally "ungrip from control" that "nothing bad happens."
This "sinking" in Tai Chi and Qigong becomes very much like the "trust" exercise in Group Therapy in Psychological Therapy Sessions. You stand with your back to your group, and you "fall backwards." At first you hold on, you grip, because you do not trust that they will catch you. But, after they catch you a few times, you start to "let go" and relax into the fall.
When we "sink" onto our Vertical Axis, we have to let go completely and trust that it will hold us up. New students struggle with this, believing that we cannot let go and stand effortlessly, that it requires a bit of "holding on" to not fall. But, as we do it over and over again in Tai Chi and Qigong ... we find we can trust and let go.
Standing Post - Gathering Qi - Universal Post
Master Kuo Lien Ying - Grandmaster
Guang Ping Yang Style
This is exactly what the common Tai Chi exercise of Standing Post, otherwise known as Gathering Qi, or Universal Post, is designed to promote.
When we stand post, our body starts to tell us where we are "holding on" in our body/field. Then we have to breathe, and let those constricted places begin to "let go" so there is space for the Qi to expand or flow through.
It is a form of biofeedback. We are not just untangling physical knots, but often mental and emotional ones as well.
When I first learned Standing Post, I misunderstood its purpose, thinking it was a masochistic endeavor to see if I could stand more pain and discomfort than the students around me.
In order to Stand Post for any length of time (without severe pain) we have to learn to "let go" on every level. Learning this sense of surrender is more mental than physical. We have to have faith that it is okay to let go, and nothing bad will happen when we let go of control.
Therefore, this doesn't just have physical benefits of improving our Tai Chi, it has far reaching macrocosmic effects in our lives. We become more trusting in life.
Albert Einstein said, "The most important question we can ask ourselves is, 'Is the universe a friendly place?'" Saying that every decision and direction in our lives will hinge on our answer to that question. To do Tai Chi at its highest level we must answer that question with a YES, because otherwise we cannot "let go" truly, and truly "sink." This is why the greatest masters tend to be very amiable people you feel quite safe and comfortable with.
"The older I get in my Tai Chi journey, the more I realize that the light, the Qi, the energy does not abandon us. It is just that we forget that we have access to it, limitless and eternal ... that we can breathe, and sigh, surrender, and free-fall into it ... be soothed and held dearly by it ... anytime.
And I realize that Tai Chi and Qigong don't "create" the energy, but are very effective methods for helping us to remember it is always there ... everywhere ... all the time ... waiting for us to ... let go ... and open to it ... letting it flow through and expand us."
This is the essence of "the unbendable arm" which is the essence of the "sinking," and sinking is the essence of Tai Chi.
-- Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong"
ANXIETY MELTS AS WE "LET GO" OF OUR FEAR
So, the mindfulness, brings us back from the mental hamster wheel.
|The tactile internal sensations of our being, of our body, brings the mind back to "pure awareness," not the kind of mental "control" or "fear" that the mind often can get tangled in.
Then the Qigong and Tai Chi basic-staple concept of "letting go" and "sinking" and "flow" becomes a mantra that is much deeper than just intellectually "thinking" of letting go, because it is a physical experience, a knowing on a cellular level that you assimilate deeply from practicing it again and again.
As I've said before, this doesn't happen right away with Tai Chi, at first its mental, trying to memorize the moves, holding the postures, etc. But, as we repeat the forms dozens, hundreds, thousands of times, they begin to become "cellular memory" and we relax around them, and let them flow through us.
|Now, Sitting Qigong can help accelerate this experience. It did for me. The Sitting Qigong or Nei Gong Meditation lets us practice this "letting go" on a deep level, without the complications of Tai Chi form learning, so we can get a taste of this new way of being. Then in time, as the Tai Chi forms become more familiar we can carry this quality into our Tai Chi forms and relax around them and let them flow through us, massage us, and relax us on a deep physical level as well.
Over time, as our Tai Chi forms become more familiar, and the sense of full breaths and letting go as we "sink" from posture to posture, the Tai Chi forms become a type of massage, that has many benefits ... milking the lymph system of toxins, massaging and cleansing the anxiety producing "lactic acids" from the deep skeletal muscles.
But again, on a psychological level, we build an efficacy that it is "okay to let go," "okay to let go of control." This is a big deal for those of us who have dealt with anxiety and depression. In my case, it was difficult to "let go" because in my past, I had sometimes relaxed around my father who was magnetic, charming, and fun ... but, then I would do something, it could be any number of things ... that would trigger his PTSD, and then my world would ERUPT into an emotional wasteland of rage and impending violence.
TAI CHI AS FAITH WALKING ...
A mental/emotional efficacy therapy
In time, as I learned my Tai Chi Long Form well enough, I was able to bring the Sitting Qigong breathing and "letting go" into my Tai Chi forms, and realize that the "sinking" which is the foundation of Tai Chi ... was a form of faith walking.
In order to really sink, you have to really let go of everything, mentally, emotionally, and then physically (everything starts in the consciousness/mind). By doing this act over and over and over again, I began to feel safe in a world where I could "let go" and nothing bad would happen ... and by doing it again and again ... my mind, heart, and body built up an "efficacy" a "sense of trust" that the answer to Einstein's all-important question, "Is the universe a friendly place?" Was "YES!" I was safe in the world. I could breathe, and open, and relax, and even become vulnerable.
My Tai Chi teacher used to talk about how much stress and fear we hold in our Solar Plexis, that nerve bundle in the upper abdomen. She said that much of the world walks around tight in that place, "bracing for a sucker punch that never comes."
What I realized over time was that it was not other human beings that were a threat to me ... it was stress. Both of my parents and my brother died of stress disease (heart disease). Over time, I realized through my Tai Chi journey what sages have been telling us for millennia ... that the war is "not out there" it is "within our own hearts, and that is where we need to find our peace."
|ON MODERN FEAR ... NEWS MEDIA'S ROLE IN ANXIETY/DEPRESSION
Fear is at the core of anxiety and depression
What Constant Exposure To Negative News Is Doing To Our Mental Health
-- Huffington Post, SCIENCE, February 19, 2015
A student in my Tai Chi class came up to me and said, "I am so glad I came to class today for Tai Chi, I feel so much better and lighter now. I have felt so terrible all week."
Since this was one of my university hospital Tai Chi classes, I was concerned she may have had a relapse in her illness. I said, "What happened?"
She lamented, "Oh, that thing that happened in France, it was so terrible. I've felt so bad all week."
I TOLD HER THAT I HAD A PRESCRIPTION FOR HER TO MAKE HER FEEL BETTER.
She thought I was going to give her some special Qigong prescription. I told her, "TURN OFF THE NEWS!"
Here's why I encourage my students to "turn off the news." It is fear driven and it gives a false and health damaging distorted image of reality.
I tell my students, "Did you know that the planet Earth is less violent than at any time in human history? And did you know that violent crime is at 30 year lows in much of the world today?
THEY THEN LOOK AT ME LIKE I'M SPEAKING MARTIAN, STUNNED WITH DIS-BELIEF.
Here's why. Their reality is defined by TV news, and TV news cameras always find the most despicable acts on the planet to focus on. It ignores the 7 billion acts of kindness and decency that happen every day on our planet.
Read a book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature" by Harvard Social Psychologist, Steven Pinker. It makes a solid case that indeed Earth is less violent than at any time in human history.
Do a little googling for FBI and United Nations statistics/graphs on "decline in violent crime" and you'll see for yourself.
It is wholly unhealthy to stew our consciousness in distorted reality that causes stress, fear and depression.
My advice to students: Do Tai Chi and Qigong instead of watching TV news, it'll change your life for the better. Also, a lot of TV and Movie Entertainment uses the theme that the world is a horrible, evil, dangerous place. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy a violent movie "occasionally," but try not to make a steady diet of it. Catch some Indie films that have some heart, empathy and compassion now and then to even out the theme.
NOTE: No one was a bigger news junkie than I was. I watched more TV news than anyone I've ever known ... until I woke up. When I learned that Earth is less violent than at any time in history, and that violent crime was dropping worldwide--I realized the news had been distorting my sense of reality, and that wasn't good for my mental or physical health.
I teach Tai Chi and Qigong for health. I do it for health, mental and emotional. What good does it do for me to work so hard to un-stress my students in my classes ... if they go home and stew in fear-based news that is distorting reality in a way that is making my student's feel miserable. I mean, if it were a true vision of the world, that would be one thing, but it is not. Read the above book and links, research the data yourself.
Breathe ... relax ... the universe IS a friendly place.
If you have friends, family or students suffering anxiety or depression ... you should share this information with them. It would do them good.
Surround yourself with people (and news) that is true and accurate ... not that drag you down into a despairing hole that is not based on reality.
TAI CHI BREATHING ... for Anxiety/Depression
Just the Tai Chi breathing alone, full diaphragmatic breathing, as we do in Tai Chi and Qigong, often with the tip of the tongue lightly touching the gum line behind the top 2 front teeth, and letting the breaths begin in the lower dan tien, and then expand up through the chest, and the exhale all the way down to the lower dan tien ... is proven scientifically to have great psychological and emotional benefits.
|One reason we touch the tip of the tongue to the gum-line behind the top 2 front teeth, is because it changes the structure of our throat. When we breathe open throated with the tongue down, the breaths come in and out quite rapidly. But, when we touch the tip of the tongue to the upper gum, the throat narrows a bit, and the breaths come in and out much longer and more gradually (which in time, as breathing is coupled with the Tai Chi movements, slows down our Tai Chi forms and gives it that dream-like quality that we see in master's Tai Chi forms).
QiGong and T'ai Chi Bring the Mind
... Inside the Body, courtesy of
Diaphragmatic breathing is relaxing and therapeutic, reduces stress,
and is a fundamental procedure of Pranayama Yoga, Zen, transcendental
meditation and other meditation practices. Analysis of oxidative stress
levels in people who meditate indicated that meditation correlates with
lower oxidative stress levels, lower cortisol levels and higher melatonin levels.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress
The studies in this paper demonstrated that Qigong may have beneficial
effects for a variety of populations on a range of psychological well-being
measures, including mood, anxiety, depression, general stress
management, quality of life, and exercise self-efficacy ...
We see a great
potential for Qigong to be integrated for the prevention and treatment of
various chronic illnesses, including psychiatric disorders ...
Qigong exercises consist of a series of orchestrated practices including
body posture, movement, breathing, and meditation, all of which have
been designed to enhance Qi function-that is, to draw upon natural forces
to optimize and balance energy within, through the attainment of deeply
focused and relaxed states
The Effects of Qigong on Anxiety, Depression, and Psychological
|Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
|I have found great benefit from, and encourage my students, to practice a sitting meditation with the tip of the tongue lightly touching the gum-line behind the top 2 front teeth, and opening to the full abdominal (starting in the lower dan tien) inhales, and full abdominal exhales from the top of the lungs down to the dan tien relaxing in slightly.
This not only is a great meditation, when coupling the exhalation of the breaths with a sense of absolute "letting go" of the mind, heart, and body ...
but, it also helps the body train in full diaphragmatic breathing, or Qigong breathing, so that then it becomes much easier to open to full breathing when performing Tai Chi.
Its hard to do this when learning Tai Chi because your mind is so full of where the hands, feet and dan tien go and shift to. So, by doing the Sitting Qigong Breathing Meditation, it trains your body in breathing on a deep level, so that it comes more naturally when doing Tai Chi.
The combination of the mindful awareness of the body in motion, moving from the dan tien, keeping your vertical posture, and the sensation of being breathed by the breaths as we relax through our Tai Chi posture's flow ... is a powerful way to get the mind out of the hamster wheel of "fear" "worry" "control" thoughts. When this happens, we feel better, more oxygenated, more relaxed, more into the pleasure of being.
These processes also
which promotes a more euphoric sense of being as we go through our lives.
|A Caution to Students ... a Tip for Teachers
Resistance is that voice in our heads that talks us into "giving up on Tai Chi." It takes many forms, it can whisper to you that "you are not capable of learning Tai Chi," it can whisper "this class/teacher is not a good one," it can whisper to you that "Tai Chi won't work for me."
In my classes I explain to students that IF they stick with Tai Chi they will look back and realize that Tai Chi was not difficult ... it was the mind games our mind plays on us that was getting in the way.
When trying to learn a Tai Chi movement, it is not unusual for us to feel overwhelmed and confused, not remembering which hand is our "left or right hand" when our teacher is explaining a movement.
This is because of the voice in our heads that says, "I can't do this! I can't do this! I can't do this!" That voice fills our mind and prevents us from simply watching the slow movements and directions of our teacher. When we let go of that voice, we "see" where our teacher puts her/his hand, and they do it slowly, so we can follow.
What is beautiful and profound about this, is that as we let that self-sabotaging voice go into abeyance while learning Tai Chi, we untangle that tendency in all aspects of our life, and become more daring, with more self-efficacy, and we can take on new adventures more easily.
However, this tendency runs deep in our veins. After explaining this "I can't do this!" voice tendency we have, to a new student in my class.
He stayed after class, and said, "That 'I can't do this!' voice isn't my problem. My problem is I can't remember the movements."
I offered, "Do you have the DVD that teaches our form?"
"Yes." he replied.
"Do you use it, so you can repeat the movement at home over and over and over again? Because constant repetition of the movement will let you get it in cellular memory, rather than trying to hold it in your mind."
He then said, "Actually, I think I can't get this because I have an old injury in my knee, that left my knee numb."
You may see the pattern here. What he was saying at every turn was, "I can't do this! I can't do this! I can't do this!" At each turn it took a different angle ... but it was always the same message.
Remember, this circular discussion began with him assuring me that the "I can't do this!" voice was not his problem, yet at every turn, every suggestion, it led back to the fact that for this, that, or another reason, he was telling me, "I can't do this!"
IF we can let this tangle in our psyche be untangled and actually complete the Tai Chi journey ... it will not just allow us to learn Tai Chi ... it will untangle something in our field, our mind, our psyche that will echo powerfully through every aspect of our lives.
As teachers, we can offer you pearls, from our own journey, but only you can look at them and see their are precious.
Qigong's "Crystal Palace" - Pituitary/Pineal Glands and Anxiety/Depression
NIH (National Institutes of Health) Study
Meditative practices have a positive impact on mental health. The neurobiological correlates during meditation partly explain the beneficial role. Meditative practices may augment psychotherapeutic interventions ...
Meditation is associated with a sharp increase of plasma melatonin (
Tooley, et al., 2000
). Stimulation of the
by the lateral hypothalamus is responsible for the hike in melatonin. The increased melatonin may result in the calmness and decreased awareness of pain seen during meditation. It is also noted that during heightened activation,
enzymes synthesize 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a powerful hallucinogen. Several studies have linked DMT to out of body experience, time space distortion and other such mystical states (
Strassan and Clifford, 1994
Dose-response study of N,N-dimethyltryptamine in humans. I. Neuroendocrine, autonomic, and cardiovascular effects.
Strassman RJ, Qualls CR
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994 Feb; 51(2):85-97.
Spirituality and Psychiatric Disorders: Neural Correlates of
Meditation due to the neurochemical changes can produce an anxiolytic effect. The factors decreasing anxiety during meditation are an increased parasympathetic activity, decreased LC firing with decreased noradrenaline, increased GABAergic drive, increased serotonin and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The increased levels of endorphins and AVP also contribute to the anxiolytic effects of meditation (
Newberg and Iversen, 2003
Spiritual practices can have considerable
effects due to the associated increase in serotonin and dopamine. Additional factors like increased levels of melatonin and AVP contribute to the antidepressant effects. There is an observed increase of β-endorphin as also NMDAr antagonism during meditation, both of which have antidepressant effects. The decreased level of CRH and cortisol also plays an important role in allaying depression. Thus, via multiple neurochemical changes, spiritual practices can counteract depression [
Newberg and Iversen, 2003
Qigong's "Crystal Palace" is the Upper Dan Tien area in the center of the skull, where the Pituitary and Pineal Glands reside.
This is where we "hold onto control" mentally and emotionally (and physically), but it is also the gateway to ethereal experiences, and as you see above can be a doorway to positive relaxing chemical changes throughout the body.
Sitting Qigong Meditation can facilitate the "letting go" in this brain-mind area called the "Crystal Palace," and when the Crystal Palace lets go and opens to the light, so does every part of our being.
Below is a Sitting Qigong video experience that you can sit back, close your eyes, and experience this process. You will feel quite nice when you finish :-)
Sitting Qigong Meditation courtesy of
A QIGONG HABIT WORTH HAVING ...
I've come to see over 40 years of practice ... Tai Chi and Qigong, at their heart are "gratitude" exercises. As we revel in the "pleasure" of the body in motion, breathing, feeling, letting go ... we remember what beautiful gifts our bodies and sense are.
In my Tai Chi classes, I share a morning Qigong exercise I do, and one that Dr. Luk, the great Tai Chi master from Hong Kong further unfolded with me when I had a chance to have dinner with her in Hong Kong.
When I wake in the morning, I have 2 tendencies ... 1) to drowsily rise and prepare for the day, or 2) to jump out of bed and go active/left brain/yang mind.
But, often, I catch myself. I lay in bed and feel as I let the Qi, life energy expand through my body, enjoying the sensation of my body reawakening to the tingly life expanding within and throughout me as I open to the Qi ... as I breathe and let go of my rush, and feel the lighted oxygen expanding through me as I free-fall into the comfy bed I lay in.
I stay Yin mind, feeling, sensing, enjoying my sense of being. Then, I look out the window at the impending day ... the possibility shining in the world outside.
Then I say in my mind, "Thank you! Thank you for this precious sleep I just enjoyed. Thank you for this comfortable bed. Thank you for the clean water I am about to go to the faucet and enjoy." Far too many people on this planet do not have the comfortable bed I just slept in, and the clean water I have immediate access to. It would be wrong for me not to be grateful for what I have been given here, now in this moment.
Never forget the language of gratitude."
-- Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong (4th edition)
THE PHYSICALITY OF REPRESSED EMOTIONS & MENTAL STRESS ...
In my book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tai Chi & Qigong," (4th edition), I encourage everyone practicing Tai Chi and Qigong to "get massage therapy," as part of their training program.
When I was training in my school's Tai Chi program, we were expected to get "body work" a kind of energy, trigger point, massage therapy ... the goal was to work from the "inside out" with Tai Chi & Qigong, and to work from the "outside in" with body work. Our training was designed to not just teach us the physical forms of Tai Chi, but to use the tools of Tai Chi, the concepts of letting go and sinking as tools to open us physically, emotionally, and mentally ... to allow more space for the energy to expand through us.
I recall at one point, when getting body work, that when the body worker went into a certain muscle are in my body ... something gave ... and I began to weep. Not just cry, but to weep deep wracking sobs as something I had held inside my physical body suddenly let go and released through me emotionally. My body worker assured me that this was not uncommon, and encouraged me to "be with the emotion" and to "feel it" and to "let it pass through me."
Massage Reduces Anxiety in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Patients
Read study abstract:
Can massage relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress? Mayo Clinic's
Speaking of Health, June 2014
A 60-minute massage can lower cortisol, a hormone that's produced in response to stress, by an average of 30 percent. And when cortisol levels decline, serotonin - one of the body's anti-pain mechanisms - increases by an average of 28 percent after receiving a massage. By lowering cortisol and increasing serotonin, you're boosting your body's ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness.
The emotional balance massage provides can be just as vital and valuable as the physical benefits. Massage provides a safe and nurturing place for individuals to relax, refocus and find clarity. It can increase awareness of the mind-body connection. Massage can generate confidence and enhance self-image and self-worth.
Today, when I get massage therapy, I don't just lay there and get the massage, I "collaborate" with the body worker. When he/she is getting deep into my tissue, I sigh and surrender in that area, allowing space for the lightness, to enable them to go even deeper. The sinking/release tools of Tai Chi are used to partner with the body worker "to melt" allowing them get more deeply into my tissue.
I encourage my students to get massage therapy to compliment their Tai Chi and Qigong training.
MELTING THE GROOVES OF
THE RECORD OF OUR LIVES ...
Yogananda, the most responsible for spreading meditation across the planet, said that meditation "melts the grooves of our record" so that a constant newness can be born throughout our being.
At their heart, Tai Chi and Qigong are designed to do this. Tai Chi's concept of the
sinking / letting go to allow our movements to flow through us unimpeded by old grooves/grudges/prejudices/perspectives is a form of constant rebirth.
My Tai Chi and life journey has been such a path ... organizing World Tai Chi & Qigong Day took this inner (microcosmic) journey and expanded it out (to the macrocosm) worldwide ... discovering that the old ways I had seen the world as "divided and dangerous" were not reality. I discovered kindred spirits in nearly every nation in the world, were all, like me, on a path to find peace in their lives ... in our world.
My long 40 year path has led me to answer Einstein's all-important question, "Is the universe a friendly place?" with a resounding YES! And through my nearly 20 years or work expanding this vision throughout the planet, I have invited the world to join with me in this beautiful realization.
"One World ... One Breath"
The VERY Important "Community"
Aspect of Tai Chi & Qigong
Many years ago, Master/Qigong author Roger Jahnke worked with the National Council on Aging and the national YMCA organization to bring Tai Chi experts from around the nation together to consult the National Council on Aging about creating a "Tai Chi Program Efficacy Guide" to help spread Tai Chi programs across the United States in senior facilities, working with local teachers nationwide.
In the initial meeting, each Tai Chi expert was asked to give what they thought was a "key" component of a good Tai Chi program. The American teachers spoke of "Balance," "Posture," "Breathing," and all the physical components of good Tai Chi. But, a Chinese master who was part of the panel, sort of shocked everyone when he said, "Community."
It took it a while to sink in to the rest of us, but then we all agreed. Yes, "community" is one of the powerful aspects of a Tai Chi or Qigong program. We realized that when we visited Hong Kong and China, that one almost always sees "groups" playing Tai Chi and Qigong, not often is it just one person alone.
|Excerpt from The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi by Dr. Peter Wayne
7. Social Support (including Interaction and Community)
Training in Tai Chi includes significant psychosocial (how psychology ties into the social environment) interactions, including students interacting with their instructors, interacting with other students, and more broadly, feeling a sense of belonging and identifying with a larger Tai Chi community. A strong body of research suggests that these forms of social support and sense of connection have huge, positive impacts on health, in terms of disease prevention, recovery rates, and remission following events such as heart attacks and cancer diagnosis. Simply stated, being and feeling connected to others makes you healtheir and happier, and fosters a longer life. Thus, one of the active ingredients of Tai Chi is the rich psychosocial support it affords.
... lonely people
poorly, experience severe
and anxiety, have reduced immune and cardiovascular functioning, and exhibit sings of early
decline that grow more severe over time.
I realize now after 25 years of teaching that my Tai Chi classes where when I walk in the room no one notices because they are all chatting and connecting with one another ... are the classes that are most successful, lasting for years or decades. The ones where I walk in and no one is connecting/talking ... often do not survive the test of time.
In our digital, car driving, TV watching world .... we are hungry for connection. Tai Chi is the perfect model for connection. When we learn Tai Chi and Qigong, and we begin moving and breathing together as a group, we connect on a deep and profound level, not just as a physical group but on a deeper level, consciousness, field, however you want to think of it.
The flowing unison image of a group flowing through Tai Chi forms together is a profound experience of connection, and a model for our lives and society.
WORLD TAI CHI & QIGONG DAY has worked for nearly 20 years TO BRING THE GLOBAL TAI CHI & QIGONG COMMUNITY TOGETHER ... TO BEGIN SEEING OURSELVES NOT AS COMPETING INDIVIDUALS, BUT AS A GLOBAL TAI CHI AND QIGONG FAMILY.
Our goal is for every Tai Chi & Qigong player on the planet to see themselves as "part of a global family" a brotherhood/sisterhood of compatriots, sharing a common experience, sharing insights and expertise with one another. These newsletters are an attempt to foster this.
WHY HAS YOGA BEEN SO MUCH MORE POPULAR AND WIDESPREAD IN THE WEST THAN TAI CHI?
I was pondering this the other day. It is not because Tai Chi is not as effective, the medical research on Tai Chi is profound on many levels (as you know if you read our weekly Ezine newsletters). So, why is it?
It dawned on me that when I first began teaching Tai Chi about 25 years ago, I began teaching in Yoga studios. I was the only Tai Chi teacher, but the studios had groups of Yoga teachers "working together."
Looking back, I think part of the reason was that all the Yoga teachers I worked with back then were women. Women tend to be more collaborative than men. Back in those days, Tai Chi was a man's world. Today women have taken their place in Tai Chi, many of the great masters today are women.
And men like myself and many others have been influenced by their growing influence in Tai Chi, if we are wise we do. Because a sense of collaboration and community is healthy for us, and healthy for the future of Tai Chi and Qigong in the world.
Chinese culture seems to have intuited this, because as mentioned in Hong Kong and China we tend to see GROUPS doing Tai Chi and Qigong together ... but in the rest of the world, up until World Tai Chi & Qigong Day was formed, there simply was not much connection between different Tai Chi schools and styles. We thought of ourselves as rugged individualists, and more often than not ... simply as competitors.
So each year, on the last Saturday of April Tai Chi and Qigong players from around the world ... all races, all religions, all nations, all styles of Tai Chi and Qigong ... come together to celebrate our arts as a global family.
THIS IS A GREAT THERAPY FOR ALL OF US ... ESPECIALLY THOSE OF US DEALING WITH ANXIETY, DEPRESSION & MOOD DISTURBANCE. It is healing to remember that all the children of Earth are our family ... one world ... one breath.
24 Hours of World Peace -- World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
The book that started World Tai Chi & Qigong Day - "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong" ... Chapter 22.
Celebrating World Tai Chi & Qigong Day
Reading a good book that has "idiot" in the title, is way more intelligent then missing out on a good book that has idiot in the title, don't you think?
See above video for what the world's top experts in Tai Chi said about this book.
Get your World Tai Chi & Qigong Day PROMO CODE DISCOUNT on enrollment in upcoming "Symposium for Integrative Health Tai Chi Retreat"!
, and use PROMO Code: WLDTCQ
Click to enroll or for more info
ROME, ITALY - INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON QIGONG
18th WORLD CONGRESS ON QIGONG
YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN GOING TO ROME!!!!
October 28-30, 2017
Announcements on the 18th World Congress on Qigong/TaiChi/TCM and
The Fourth International Symposium on Qigong.
3 minute Trailer .
Accomodation is possible directly at the location of the Symposium. Availability is limited! Please book directly through the Seraficum:
Tel: (+39) 06 515031
Fax: (+39) 06 51503603