Back pain causes and help

Back pain comes from many different sources and we all suffer from it, from upper back tension, to the pulled-something pain of the lower and middle back. There’s a saying in Chinese Medicine, “Trying to get healthy after you are sick is like digging a well when you are dying of thirst.” Here are a few things we can do to help our backs to prevent the pain.

My husband asked me once why I exercise every day. I told him some people take pills for the pain, I’d rather spend 10 minutes on the floor exercising and not have to take pills or go to the doctor every few months. Plus, it gives me a few moments to get close to my dog, have a little fun with him, give him some attention that he craves. Nothing like stretching and loving at the same time 🙂

Exercise is obviously important, and the right kind of exercise will ease the pain, building up the support we need to prevent future pain. This site has a great list and videos of various moves, I do a variation of many of these most every day to prevent sciatic pain, which I developed back in the early ’90’s.

From a young age we are taught to sit up straight, but is this always good advice when it means pushing out our chest and feeling uncomfortable? I mean, if that felt comfortable, we’d always sit that way, right? This Ted talk video (also shown below) shows us a different and more comfortable way to sit.

Reasons to do Tai Chi

49 Reasons to do Tai Chi as compiled by the Tai Chi guy Larry Costner

​1. It’s enjoyable — exercise that feels good while you’re doing it
2. It’s meditation in motion — you don’t have to sit still
3. Helps alleviate stress
4. Reduces anxiety
5. Helps fight depression
6. Increases awareness and focus and concentration
7. You can do it with friends
8. You can do it alone
9. It leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed
10. It leaves you feeling energized
11. No special clothing needed
12. Graceful, flowing movements
13. No huffing and puffing, but it burns calories
14. Aerobic benefits without the huffing and puffing
15. Gentle and low-impact
16. Works your whole body from head to toe
17. Cultivates and balances your qi
18. Improves your balance
19. Improves coordination
20. Improves flexibility
21. Improves your posture
22. Lubricates your joints, which helps keep them youthful
23. It’s good for arthritis
24. Strengthens legs and the core of the body
25. Helps build strong bones (’cause it’s a weight-bearing exercise)
26. Lowers the risk of osteoporosis
27. Eases headaches
28. Helpful for chronic pain
29. Slow, mindful movements — teaches you to slow down and be in the moment
30. Relaxes tight muscles and helps keep them relaxed
31. Gives your brain a workout (’cause you gotta learn and remember all those moves)
32. May help keep memory sharp and ward off Alzheimer’s
33. Gives your immune system a boost
34. Lowers blood pressure
35. Reduces bad cholesterol levels
36. Raises good cholesterol levels
37. It’s a different way to exercise — not like other workouts
38. Experts recommend it for fibromyalgia
39. Experts recommend it for back pain
40. Experts recommend it for Parkinson’s disease
41. Eases insomnia and helps you sleep better
42. Reduces the risk of falls as you get older
43. Doesn’t require special equipment
44. You can do it almost anywhere
45. Suitable for all fitness levels from couch potatoes to uber-athletes
46. Can be modified for most health conditions and injuries
47. You can practice at any age — young, old or anywhere in between
48. It looks graceful and soothing — and it is.
49. It’s fun!

World Tai Chi Day 2018 was a rousing Success!

Attendance at Mountain Park Park celebration of World Tai Chi Day 2018 in Lilburn doubled in size from last year, with teachers of Wudang, Yang and Chen styles leading the group in their forms. Plus a student of a Korean style of Tai Chi showed her moves.

Here’s the official, if somewhat amateur, video production and some photos of the event. Thanks to Diana Dice and Paula Sandlin and Lucy Ronkfor joining in the fun of leading the group! And especial gratitude to my husband Bernie for manning both video and still cameras. If you have any photos you’d like to share, please send them to me.


Below are a few of my favorite shots. If these are not enough for you, check out this gallery!

Diana Dice

Diana Dice

Jan doing the Wudang 49 form sword set


Jan doing the Wudang 49 form sword set

Jan doing the Wudang 49 form sword set

Paula Sandlin

Paula Sandlin

Lucy Ronk

Lucy Ronk

World Tai Chi Day is almost here!

World Tai Chi Day is celebrated around the world at 10am local time.

Locally, Jan Stittleburg and Diana Dice, Tai Chi instructors, will be hosting the event at Mountain Park Park, 5050 Five Forks-Trickum Road, Lilburn 30047, at 10AM on Saturday April 28th. This will be the third year for this event in Lilburn. Last year about 20 people came to practice Tai Chi, lead by Jan and Diana. This year we are inviting all Tai Chi practitioners to come join us. Other teachers will have the opportunity to show and lead their style to the group as well. There is no cost to join us, just wear something comfortable and weather appropriate, and bring water to drink. We will be meeting on the Pounds Road side of the tennis courts, by the small child playground.

Come join the fun, even if you don’t know what Tai Chi really is. This a great opportunity to meet some members of the community and practice together, or just get an idea of what Tai Chi is.

 

Tai Chi in Action

Many people do not know that Tai Chi is based on martial arts, hand to hand combat skills. What we do is very structured and full of intent, each hand has a purpose and meaning in its movements.

This video of Wudang Tai Chi is one of the best videos I’ve watched to see the application of various forms. It would be even better if there was an English translation! Watch carefully as the teacher shows the form, then breaks apart the movements as an attacker approaches.

While Tai Chi in the United States is primarily taught for health benefits (relieving stress, toning the muscles, improving balance, lowering blood pressure, meditation in motion, etc.) when we learn the reason behind the movements and the purpose of each form, it has just that much more value. My classes are NOT intended to be self-defense classes, but just knowing the movements can add to your self-confidence and understanding. Your muscle memory may just surprise you in the moment of an attack.

World Tai Chi Day Celebration

We had 18 in total practicing together

We had 18 in total practicing together

The last Saturday in April is World Tai Chi Day. We celebrated in Lilburn’s Mountain Park Park with two teachers and their students sharing their formsets, and finishing with a tai chi sword demonstration by yours truly. We all had fun, and shared some good qi with each other! Many thanks to all who participated, Bernie Stittleburg and Diana Dice for the photography.

Finger Dexterity

Most of the hand movements in Tai Chi involve the whole hands, not individual finger motion. But that’s no reason to neglect your digits. Here’s a really cool video on finger exercises, designed in particular for musicians, but it can help us all.

Take your time, don’t try to do all the exercises fast and with lots of tension. Remember your Tai Chi training, breathe slowly and deeply, move gently at your own pace, and start with just a few if your hands are tight. Come back to this video every day for a week or two to do the whole set. Make a qigong set out of this, focusing on your energy flowing to your hands and through your fingers.

Don’t feel surprised if your fingers just don’t want to do some of the exercises. Just play with them, stay calm and enjoy a laugh at your incoordination. This too will get better in time. Be patient and just have some fun. Then when you get really good, like this guy, you can impress your friends and relatives!

Out of This World Tai Chi

Tai Chi performed in space by Chinese astronaut:
Liu Yang

Six Harmonies of Tai Chi

A teacher of Tai Chi, Huang Sheng Shyan, came up with this list of the six harmonies:

Three internal harmonies
• The heart harmonizes with the intention
• the intention harmonizes with the Chi
• the Chi harmonizes with the movement.
Three external harmonies
• The hips harmonize with the shoulders
• the elbows harmonize with the knees
• the hands harmonize with the feet.

What does this mean? Starting with the external harmonies, we are to keep our hips in line with the shoulders. This means we turn from the center of the body, so that the shoulders move with the hips and not on their own. The elbows stay in alignment with the knee; as the knee bends the elbow sinks, as the knee extends the elbow opens. You can see this very clearly in the high kicks to the corner in the Yang 24 form.

The hands harmonize with the feet, also referred to as the wrist and the ankles. This one is more in-depth, as we consider the opposing statements that “If the feet follow the hands, you will never be defeated” and “there is a connection that occurs throughout the body that starts punch from the sole of the foot to the squeeze of the palm of the hand resulting in the punch itself.” When we move we start with rooting one foot to the floor, the energy sinks from the dan tien down to the floor, and returns up that leg through the body to the extended hand. The other foot moves, with the movement of foot and hand stopping at the same time. According to a post on LinkedIn by Gene Golden, “Both the sole of the foot and the palm have the unique element of many more nerve endings than occur almost anywhere throughout the epidermis. I believe it is part of an integrated communications network that inform the body of the critical element of timing. Pressure to the earth through the sole of the foot alerts the body that it is doing something, squeeze of the fist tells the rest of the body that it is where it is going to culminate. Next the energy flows through the 6 harmonies in a synchronized flow of expanding energy and finally you have punch. How well you integrate these principles and the shorter amount of time it takes place in, determines the amount of power you will have in your punch.”

As to the internal harmonies, it can also be said that the mind leads the breath, the breath leads the blood, the blood leads the power. So we start first with our mind, our intention of how and where we want to move. Our breath, and our qi, follows the mind movement which then leads the power of the muscles to move as our mind has directed. Just a note here, the Chinese do not separate the heart and brain as we do in the West, their concept is more of a heart/brain unity which leads the intention, yi.

As we combine the harmonies of each movement into a fluid form, we realize more about our body, it’s relationship with the world around us, our mind settles down into a focused state, and our energy flows more naturally throughout our bodies, giving us more physical power and greater health.

Benefits of Tai Chi forms

Recently a friend forwarded this description of the benefits of Tai Chi forms written by Great Grand Master Kellen Chia. Grand Master Kellen Chia created the Tai Chi Society to introduce Tai Chi to Australia where he’s been teaching for 20 years. I’ve edited his list to the 24 forms that I teach, and a few qigong moves.

Tai Chi practitioners all over the world have been asking for centuries about the healing benefits that each Tai Chi posture has on the body. They want a complete list of how each Tai Chi posture treats the organs of the body. Generally, people know that Tai Chi improves one’s health, but they don’t know the full details. I now release the result of my work on how the movements of Tai Chi affect the organs of the body. Each Tai Chi posture treats a different part of the body, thus a certain organ or organs of the body. Tai Chi heals the body by improving the flow of vital energy ( Chi ) through the acupuncture meridians, eliminating the imbalances or unblocking the blockages. I have chosen to release to the general public my knowledge of these Tai Chi movements because it is these movements (forms) that are commonly practised. The list below details which organs are treated by each posture.

Grasp sparrow’s tail
Pull back
Squeeze forward
Sit back ready
Press forward
These postures benefit the large intestine; they also treat constipation.

Single whip benefits the liver and digestive tract.

Snake climbs a tree benefits the large intestine, digestive tract, stomach disorders and the full length of the vertebrae.

Lift hands benefits the liver.

Shoulder press benefits the central nervous system.

Stork spreads wings benefits the central nervous system and the full length of the vertebrae.

Brush knee and twist step benefits the heart, lower digestive tract and stomach disorders.

Sage points the way benefits the small and large intestines.

Apparent close up benefits gastric problems. (closing move in 24 form – js)

Embrace tiger return to mountain benefits gastric-intestinal functions.

Press to the northwest benefits the central nervous system.

Fist under elbow benefits the large intestine and pancreas.

Step back and repulse monkey benefits the small and large intestines, gallbladder, kidneys and spinal cord.

Stroking horse’s mane benefits the small and large intestines, gallbladder, stomach and lungs.

Strum a lute benefits digestive disorders.

Golden needle at sea bottom benefits the small intestine.

Fan through back benefits the pancreas and stomach.

Turn around and chop with fist benefits the small and large intestines, pancreas, stomach and liver.

Upper cut, step forward, parry and punch benefits the small and large intestines, pancreas, kidneys and digestive disorders.

Wave hands like cloud benefits the large intestine, pancreas, spleen and stomach.

Lifting up the heavens benefits the liver.

High pat on horse benefits the liver.

Drawing the bow right benefits the liver and stomach. (qi gong move – js)

Separation of right leg benefits the kidneys, stomach and liver.

Spin around and kick with heel benefits the kidneys and stomach.

Right heel kick benefits the kidneys and stomach.

Double wind goes through ears benefits the liver.

Step up parry and punch benefits the stomach.

Slant flying benefits the small and large intestines, pancreas, lungs and spleen.

Fair lady works at shuttles benefits the small intestine.

Snake creeps down benefits the large intestine and kidneys.

Golden cock stands on one leg benefits the stomach.

Inspection of horse’s mouth benefits the pancreas and stomach.

Step forward to seven stars benefits the small intestine.

Spin around and lotus kick benefits the kidneys and spleen.

Shoot tiger benefits the lungs. (qi gong move – js)