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.

 

Total Body Scan, Part 3: Dissolving Relaxation

Hello again Mind-Body students! This week we finish up the total body scan series with the total body dissolving relaxation (on two blocks in this video, but you can do it sitting, standing, lying down, and more!).

If you haven't checked out the previous training techniques you should use to prepare for this practice, check them out below:

Face dissolving relaxation
Light and heavy forces technique
Grounding and Rooting

And here is the how-to for the total body scan relaxation!

See you next week! Happy stretching, deep breathing, and empty your mind!

Integrative Pain Management, Part 6: Putting the Tai Chi in Motion

This is a continuation of my Integrative Pain Management series, based on content selected from my chapter of the book Integrative Pain Management: Massage, Movement, and Mindfulness Based Approaches

See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5

For in-depth routines to deal with upper back pain, lower back pain, and other conditions, check out my video courses on Udemy!


The full pain-fighting benefits of Tai Chi are experienced when the techniques, philosophies, and forms of the practice become an integrated whole. Relaxed and graceful movements, body connectedness and structural alignment, and qi circulation and evoking the spirit. Often, the tai chi master will teach just one of these principles for an entire week, until it has become habit for the student. Only then do they move on.

I encourage you to choose one aspect from the following list each time you practice. Focus on that aspect for the entire routine, and be forgiving if you do not perform the other aspects well. Slowly but surely, each aspect will become second nature.

The Major Principles of Tai Chi Movement

  1. A relaxed and open body, awareness of the alignment of spine and organs.
  2. An relaxed and open mind, alert to the body's movements, and its own thoughts.
  3. A well coordinated and aligned body, in each of the major segments:
    1. Feet planted firmly, with active arches. The body's weight balanced between them.
    2. A slight bend in the knees, keeping them directly over the middle toes.
    3. A gentle tension in the groin and anus, retaining qi through the "small heavenly circle."
    4. A small drop of the tailbone and "pushing out" of the lower back (not butt). The hips are the origin of all the power and movement in tai chi.
    5. Shoulders and elbows sink downward, become part of the torso structure and allow qi flow through the hands.
    6. The chin tucks in slightly and the crown point of the head aims straight up, allowing qi flow through the neck.
    7. The tip of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, connecting the main qi pathway.

This list is the guide to body balance. As we read earlier in the series, eastern philosophy diagnosis pain as an imbalance somewhere in the body. When the body can be moved and circulated through a balanced tai chi form, the imbalance that is causing the pain is naturally treated.

With continuous practice, all imbalances in the body are naturally treated and lessened by tai chi.

And that completes my blog series based on excerpts from the book Integrative Pain Management: Massage, Movement, and Mindfulness Based Approaches. Next time on the blog: all new content!

Happy Stretching!

Integrative Pain Management, Part 5: The science behind feeling better with Tai Chi

This is a continuation of my Integrative Pain Management series, based on content selected from my chapter of the book Integrative Pain Management: Massage, Movement, and Mindfulness Based Approaches

See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4

For in-depth routines to deal with upper back pain, lower back pain, and other conditions, check out my video courses on Udemy!


Chronic pain is not something that one can simply choose to stop having. It can be debilitating, in the mind and in the body, to deal with every day. This means that people suffering with chronic pain do not have much energy to expend on getting better. They need treatment that gives results. They need to know that the therapy they are about to try is not a waste of their most precious resources: time and strength.

So when it comes to mind-body therapies like tai chi, what are the measurable benefits? What can people expect to experience when they practice tai chi regularly?

Well first of all, practitioners of tai chi can expect all the benefits that have been linked with regular physical exercise. Tai Chi is, after all, a form of physical exercise. Best of all, it is a low impact form of exercise, which minimizes your risk of injury or inflammation, while also maintaining all of the plus-sides to an exercise routine. As I like to say: No Pain, LOTS of Gain.

What are these plus-sides I mentioned? Lower risk of heart-attack and stroke, increases in muscle strength, better coordination and balance, the list goes on and on. A simple Google search will yield many thousands of research papers written about the benefits of exercise on health.

On the other hand, tai chi is also a form of meditation, a technique which modern scientific study has begun to examine for its health benefits. Chief among these benefits are a positive immune response, and a reduction in stress levels.

Last but not least, tai chi itself has been the subject of several recent studies (which I helped create!) that found it effective for the treatment of pain related to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Scientific studies are slow and expensive, however, and in my years of experience, I have seen tai chi effectively help people who have chronic pain from all kinds of conditions, not just those three.

But remember: a mind-body program is only half of the battle. You need that program to be designed for you as a mind-body prescription by a qualified expert. You wouldn't take pain medication made by someone who doesn't know how it works, and you shouldn't fight pain with a routine made by someone who doesn't know how integrative therapy works.

Next week, we will conclude our series on Integrative Pain Management by reviewing the Core Principles of practicing tai chi, which you can apply to your routine to get the most pain relief out of it. Until next time...

Happy Stretching!

Integrative Pain Management, Part 4: Tai Chi as Balanced Regulation

This is a continuation of my Integrative Pain Management series, based on content selected from my chapter of the book Integrative Pain Management: Massage, Movement, and Mindfulness Based Approaches

See also: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3

For in-depth routines to deal with upper back pain, lower back pain, and other conditions, check out my video courses on Udemy!


Last week, we discussed how Tai Chi philosophy diagnosis pain, especially chronic pain, as an imbalance somewhere in the body. In particular, and imbalance that causes an irregular flow of our qi, or blocks our qi flow entirely. This week, we're diving into the methods by which Tai Chi treats pain inside of the category of integrative pain management.

Tai Chi's dual nature, the yin-yang balance, is often thought of as embodying both water and earth at the same time. Flowing, stable, strong, fluid, yielding, forceful, powerful, smooth. It is a lot to keep in mind while you are doing your exercises! No one masters all of these things all at once, of course. It takes years of practice to work on each facet of a well-rounded tai chi practice.

When you are able to control all these parts of your tai chi, your quality of life and function from day-to-day is highly regulated. It is consistent, balanced, and you are much more in touch with it.

The key elements of how tai chi helps treat chronic pain can be though of as the five regulations

  1. Regulating the Body: Relaxation is the first thing that people notice when they begin a tai chi routine. Most experience deep relaxation on their first time doing tai chi. The flow of blood and qi is affected by our stress levels: higher stress means higher blood pressure and worse qi flow. The better we are at relaxing on command, the better for our health.
     
  2. Regulating the Breathing: I have talked extensively about breathing on this blog. It is the foundation of regulating every other element on this list. A deep breathing practice that develops the lungs will not only increase oxygen intake, but also strengthen the energetic pathway between the outside universe and the inside universe. The quality of the breath is what allows us to experience healthy qi flow, and also to focus our qi within our body. Both of these abilities are necessary to treat chronic pain.
     
  3. Regulating the Mind: Like I spoke about in the previous parts of this series, the mind and the body are linked, and tension or pain the mind can cause similar affects in the body. Developing the ability to calm the mind, and have "thoughts of no thoughts" as I like to say, is key to sustaining the relaxed and steady state that tai chi seeks.
     
  4. Regulating the Qi: Once the previous three pieces of these elements begin to develop, the qi will naturally return to a balanced flow. This redoubles the pain-fighitng and healing effects of the tai chi practice. Regulating the body, breath, and mind is like being able to run a full mile without stopping. It is a great foundation. Further regulating the qi on top of that is like improving your time when running that mile. There is always room to grow with qi flow.
     
  5. Regulating the Spirit: This step is how you connect your tai chi practice, and your being, to the wider world. It is very important to establish the connection to feel balanced in your life as a whole. A sense of place and belonging, a sense that you are attached to the world, will greatly improve your overall quality of life.

Next week, we will examine the scientific research that has recently shown tai chi and other ind-body practices to be effective as improving health and wellness.


Don't forget! This Sunday, June 26th, I am teaching a 3 hour class on Balance and Stability at YMAA in Andover, MA from 11am-2pm. Please register and join us! I hope to see you guys there.