Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole. My mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.


Introduction to my Online Courses: Alleviate Upper Back and Neck Pain with Tai Chi & QiGong

Welcome back mind-body students! I hope you all made a smooth transition during daylight savings, and are staying active even though it is getting darker earlier in the day! Speaking of which, a great way to stay active in the winter is with one of my online Udemy courses.

This week, we present an introduction to my course for Alleviating Upper Back Pain with Tai Chi and QiGong. This is one of my most popular, most well reviewed, and most commonly requested courses! As we all know, upper back and neck problems are becoming more and more common as people spend more and more time at their desk jobs, and on computers and phones.

Just like my last course intro, for my lower back pain course, this course is very focused on fixing upper back and neck issues. However, it does contain helpful techniques and Tai Chi principles that you can apply to your whole body health, not just your upper back and neck.

Unlike lower back issues, which usually just cause pain and stiffness, upper back and neck issues can cause stress, tension, headaches, migraines, and more, in addition to the pain and stiffness that any health issues can cause. This course is not just a physical therapy program for the upper back and neck: it is a total system of wellness (mind, body, and spirit), that you can apply across your entire health and prevention journey.

This course consists of 67 lecture videos, which total over 3 hours of video time that includes both learning and practicing each technique.

What are the requirements?

  • Willingness to invest 20 minutes a day to relieve and end your lower back pain

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Relieve and end your upper back pain

  • Provide the tools that will allow you to live a more enjoyable and pain free life

  • Prevent future injuries to your upper back

  • Learn basic Tai Chi & Qi Gong techniques

  • Learn to relax and reduce stress

  • Learn some meditation and deep breathing techniques

Who is the target audience?

  • Anyone who suffers from acute or chronic upper back pain

  • People who sit at a desk much of the time and have upper back pain and stiffness

  • People who would like to be more active again

  • Stay at home moms

  • Athletes who have recurring upper back pain

I hope you, or someone you know who has neck and upper back issues, will invest in this course, and invest in not only getting relief from their symptoms, but also preventing future symptoms and working toward a system of total health!

See you next week! Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Tinnitus? Migraines? Try These Head, Neck and Shoulder Girdle Techniques

Good to have you back, mind-body students!

Over the summer, I had a few people reach out to me about health issues they were having with their head, neck, and/or shoulders. This area of the body, which are the shoulder girdles and everything that sits above them, have a similar group of techniques that we use to restore and maintain health.

Issues that people frequently ask me about in this area include: headaches, migraines, sore neck and upper back, frozen shoulder, eustachian tube disfunction (“clogged ears”), tinnitus (constant noise or ringing in the ears), and a variety of other forms of chronic issues or pain. Many many people suffer from these issues, especially due to the toll that working at a desk over a computer for an extended time can have.

For people that have issues like these, I will often give them a “mind-body prescription” that looks something like this:

Mind-Body Prescription for Head, Neck and Shoulder Girdle Health

Before we begin, it is key to know my Rule of 80% Effort. Especially when it comes to the head and neck area, you are in danger of doing more harm than good if you push your body too much. The head and neck require very gentle movements to heal and increase the flow of energy. So do 80% effort with all these exercises!

First Stretch: Iron on the Wall

For most people, the muscles between the neck and the shoulders (the trapezius muscle is the easiest to feel here) are as hard as a rock! This is because modern people are constantly looking down at their desk or their phone, as so this muscle is always under tension while trying to stabilize the head and neck.

Iron on the Wall takes the tension out of this muscle group and allows it to relax. Many people find this exercise does wonders for not only their neck, but their back, shoulders, and head as well. All of those areas are interconnected by muscles! Do Iron on the Wall for 3 minutes, twice a day. You can even do it with your kids!

Second Stretch: Elbows Over Head and Behind the Back

Next, we want to give a good stretch to your shoulder muscles in all direction, so we want to do two complementary exercises: Elbows Over Head, and Elbows Behind the Back.

The over head part of this technique opens up the lungs (the sides of the lungs especially) and relaxes the arms and shoulders. The behind the back part of the technique allows you to relax the neck, deltoids, and lats especially well. Give yourself space to relax and breath deep while you stretch. You’ll want to spend two minutes in each of these postures, twice a day.

Third Stretch: Rotating the Neck Using the Wall and a Block

The next technique is for increasing our range of motion when rotating the neck. You would be surprised how many people have lost a lot of mobility of their neck! Are you someone who can rotate their neck more to one side than the other? That is a very common issue too.

Rotating the Neck with the Wall and a Block is a great way to regain your lost mobility in the neck, as well as increase the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, and reduce muscle stress.

The neck doesn’t require stretching for a long period of time. Instead, do one version of this stretch five times a day, but for only 1 minute to each side.

Fourth Stretch: Neck and Upper Back “Emergency Posture”

This technique, the upper neck stretch on a table (also called the Emergency Upper Back posture) is great for when you are in your office and your neck and upper back are really bothering you. However, it is also a classic posture for releasing tension from your head, neck, upper back, and shoulders.

Sit in this posture twice a day for 3 minutes each time.

Final Technique: Face Meditation

Finally, you want to conclude our mind-body prescription each day with a nice meditation. In this case, you should probably be doing the Face Meditation, which focuses the mind on relaxing every layer of the face until you have the sensation of being just a skull with no soft tissues pulling on it.

Many people who suffer from chronic tension, pain, or stress in or around the face and head don’t realize how much tension they hold in their face.

You can sit in this meditation for as long as you like, but I suggest doing it for 10-15 minutes at first, and then sit longer in it as you get better at relaxing and focusing the mind on each part of the face.

As always, happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Correct Alignment in the Standing Posture

Welcome back, mind-body students!

This week, we continue our discussion of achieving correct alignment with a video about upper body alignment while standing.

I call this technique "Crane Flies." As I show in the video, you can practice this standing against the wall first in order to get a good feel for what the correct alignment of the spine and neck is. Then, when you feel like you have the posture committed to memory, you can step away from the wall and practice while free-standing.

Remember to touch the wall with your heels, sacrum, shoulder blades, and back of the head. Your lumbar spine (lower back above your hips) should not be touching the wall. You should be able to pass your hand between your lower back and the wall.

The great thing about this exercise is that you can feel, as you do the movement, which parts of your back are tightest. That way you can determine what to stretch next to release your skeleton from being a prisoner of soft tissue.

Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Correct Alignment in the Sitting Posture

Welcome back mind-body students!

This week, I want to share a video with you about correct alignment. Correct alignment is so important to a successful mind-body practice. In a similar way to how isolating the joints allows you to achieve better health outcomes during your tai chi and exercise, correct alignment allows you to achieve better health outcomes both during your mind-body practice, and when you are sitting at your desk, driving your car, walking, or doing anything really!

The first thing you need to study is this: there is a difference between what your body is designed to do, and what it probably tends to do. Things like your head craning forward, your shoulders staying shrugged, your chest and back slumping down and so on are all examples of bad tendencies our body has.

Once you learn to recognize when your body is doing those bad tendencies, you can practice correcting them. A great way to practice that is by focusing on what I call the "Major Up and Down Forces".

The three "Up" forces, which are areas of your body that should feel like they are lifting up when you are in correct alignment, are the lumbar spine (lower back), thoracic spine (middle/upper back), and the top of your head.

The three "Down" forces, which are areas of your body that should feel as relaxed as possible (without drooping!) when you are in correct alignment. They are the abdominal muscles, the shoulders, and the face.

Ideally, through practice with this video and my face meditation video, you get to the point where you can experience all six major forces at the same time and achieve correct alignment.

I have even more advice in the video, so don't miss it!

Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!

Isolating the Joints with Flexibility and Strength Essential for Health, Martial Arts, and Various Sports

Isolating the joints is a great eastern way to warm up, starting from the energetic system!

(Speaking of sports and warming up: checkout the links in this blog to my martial arts tips for sport on YouTube!)

In my class at Dana Farber and in my research class at Tufts Medical Center, I use isolating the joints as the first warm up to ignite and start-up the energetic system. Then, I continue with a three to five minute walk to also gain the benefits of the typical “western” style exercise warm up. This walk gets the heart pumping faster which then increases blood flow to the muscles and the rest of the body. I find that doing the best of both worlds for a warm up before any physical activity is the best.

Since warming up before any physical activity is a must, make sure that when you are about to take a walk, ride a bike, hike, swim, run, or do any kind of physical activity, spend three to five minutes isolating the joint first. Spend about ten seconds on each one. Then run in place or walk for three to five minutes and that should be a great warm-up for whatever activity you are about to do.

Of course, then spending five to ten minutes for some stretches, before and after, is very important as well. Once you have done that, then you are really ready!

Isolating the joints has two outcomes that you can focus on: one is better health, while the other is better martial arts.

For health, isolating the joints leads to better flow. It is like a gentle massage to both the joints and to the soft tissues around the joints. You can think of the gentle movements of the joints like “oiling the joints,” and at the same time reigniting and charging the energetic system. The gentle movements of the ligaments stimulate the energetic system.

Remember, when it comes to health purposes, move the joints with 40% to 60% effort. Move gently, like your hands are in warm water. You will get better, with time and practice, on both isolation of the joints as well as with the movement. Practice makes perfect!

You will also find that moving the joints gently helps tremendously with Arthritis and other chronic pains around the joint areas, and elsewhere. Many of my students were able to reduce inflammation in the joint or in the tendons around the joints with the gentle joint movements.

Also, over time, breathing deep and emptying the mind while practicing the joint will allow you to experience a nice form of moving meditation.

Many times, when doing the movements correctly, I experience a nice warm feeling in the joint area which then spreads into the rest of the body.

For martial arts, and for various sports, moving the joints is done slowly at first, for correct isolation. Over time, the speed increases to improve performance.

The hands joints are important for both individuals that are interested in martial arts, and for those interested in improving their performance in sports activities. In martial arts, the hands are used for blocking, grabbing, and striking.

While the lower body joints are essential for both martial arts and sport activities, in martial arts, the legs are used for kicking and taking down your opponent.

Over time, you will develop both strength and speed in the joints, which will upgrade both your martial arts and sports abilities.

If flexibility is important, both leg and upper body strength are essential.

Use this exercise to improve both leg strength and speed.

Remember the art of 40%, 60%, and 80% movements too! Each one has different purposes and goals.

That’s all for this week! Come back next week for another video about isolating the joints while doing Tai Chi and Qi Gong!

Happy stretching, deep breathing, empty your mind, strengthen your energetic system, and evoke your spirit!