The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi,12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart & Sharp Mind By Peter M. Wayne*, with Mark L. Fuerst Book Review by Tina Curran ~ (Aug 2020)

Peter Wayne gets it very right, and his book is relevant to our school because the Yang Style Short Form is his touchstone (one of several schools and teachers he has studied with), and he often quotes and always honors Professor Cheng Man-Ching.

 

Echoing our own school's development of Roots and Branches Five Element Qi Gong, Wayne has assembled exercises and classes that use tai chi principles and movements from the tai chi form, together with conscious teaching and an ability to bring deep relaxation to students, in order to promote self-healing and deepening awareness.

 

The book is about tai chi and qigong as healing arts, and about courses Wayne developed and taught as research through the Harvard Medical School (part of Harvard's increasing commitment to studying integrative medicine). Wayne's book doesn't really deal with tai chi as a martial art, though he mentions teaching push hands with his more advanced students, and he does introduce the awareness of leading, following, and listening through two-person exercises in his research classes.

 

You can hear his love of teaching in his prose, and how he works to make his material accessible, useful, and effective for his students/clients/patients and his readers. His classes (sounds better than calling them experiments) mainly include the population many of us have encountered in the past few decades: people, including some who are aging, disabled, or in poor health, who can benefit greatly from the healing—and consciousness enhancing—work of tai chi, but who don't have the desire, time or resources to learn the tai chi form.

 

The book is also a great resource for us as students and teachers in the Tai Chi Foundation, with lots of direct quotes from Professor Cheng, Lao Tzu and the classics, and with a valuable bibliography, including summaries of scientific research, experimental demonstrations of the healing effects of tai chi and qigong, and articles on the history of tai chi in early China.

 

Read this book for Wayne's compassionate approach to teaching and self-healing, shown so clearly in his examples from his classes. Read it for the analysis of tai chi's history, its journey to the west, and its place in our modern life, and read it for the research, articles and quotes. Read it to find inspiration in your own teaching and to draw on the incredible heritage we come from, in order to create the best experience for your students.

 

It's definitely worth making this book part of your tai chi library. Pick and choose from it, use what you need. I very much liked Wayne's body-as-ocean image for tai chi pouring, and have added it to my own repertoire for Roots and Branches Qi Gong classes.

 

In the end, I am grateful that Harvard, through its Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, has chosen to grapple directly with tai chi and qigong, to bring us the 'proof' we need in the Western scientific sense to bring more people around to the realization of the art's great benefits. The book makes me value even more the incredible riches of work and teaching that we have in our own school.

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