Tribe's owners recently chatted with one of our classroom affiliates, Chris Cinnamon of Enso Tai Chi Chicago, to discuss his teaching experiences with Tai Chi and Qigong in Chicago. Chris' passion for these ancient Chinese practices is contagious, and most evident in his role as teacher. Chris generously shared with us his knowledge of Tai Chi and Qigong and his journey into teaching....
What are some important things you share with people who have never heard of the practices of Tai Chi and Qigong?
For those who are unfamiliar with Tai Chi and Qigong but are curious about starting a practice, I share three big points:
1. We have a degree of choice over how we want to experience our later years and old age. One choice is to decline. By that I mean increasingly reduced function and mobility, more doctor visits, more prescriptions, more surgeries, and all the associated pain and discomfort. Another choice is not to decline, or at least decline less. By that I mean taking greater control of our health and wellness, healing old injuries, maintaining and increasing function and mobility as we age, and relying less on invasive medicine.
I teach a process through which people can choose not to decline as they age. Tai Chi and Qigong are modalities in that process.
2. Tai Chi and Qigong are not “fast food.” I do not teach how to “get six pack abs in six weeks.” To the contrary, to benefit from these practices requires reasonably diligent study and practice over the long term. That cuts against the grain of our “quick fix,” “I want it now” culture. But every student of mine that has really engaged in these practices has realized the benefits, including increased function and mobility, improved balance, upgraded health and wellness, and in most cases, much more.
3. Find a good teacher. By this I mean find a teacher that combines both the background and authentic knowledge of this ancient Chinese material with the ability to effectively teach it to contemporary Westerners. It also helps that the teacher has a style and personality you are comfortable with. There are lots of choices out there, and “it pays to shop."
Talk about your journey of becoming a teacher of Tai Chi and Qigong.
One way to sum up my adulthood is this: increasingly high performance under increasingly high stress. After graduating from the only high school in a small town in Northern Michigan, I headed east to a top tier college, graduating with honors. I then joined the Navy, completed Aviation Officer Candidate School, entered flight training, and ultimately flew the F-14 Tomcat, a carrier-based fighter jet, accumulating more than 1,000 hours in the jet and over 200 carrier landings. I left the Navy to attend a top tier law school, graduating with honors. Then I dove into private practice, making partner fast at a mid-size law firm, then founding my own firm, and serving as its leader and managing partner for years of growth and success.
So I have intimate knowledge of working under increasingly high pressure and how that can affect the body, mind, and emotions. The typical pattern is that a driven performer like me keeps ratcheting up the stress until something breaks, like the body, important relationships, even one’s sanity.
About the time I recognized I was approaching a breaking point, I encountered by main teacher, Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis. Bruce is an extraordinary individual, having trained in China at a very high level for a decade. He is a rare resource in the West for Tai Chi, Qigong, Taoist Meditation and much more.
I read one of Bruce’s books, then attended a workshop, and concluded that I had to reorganize my life to learn all I could from him.
Over several years, that has led to hundreds of hours of intense training under Bruce, thousands of hours of practice, instructor certification in Tai Chi and multiple Qigong sets, and the shifting of my life from high performing lawyer to teacher. I am now dedicated to guiding a growing community of practitioners through my process so they can take more control over their health and enjoy growing older.
How has Tai Chi and Qigong influenced your life personally?
The influence of Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation on my life is, in a word, pervasive. I am 55, and many parts of my body function better than when I was 40. I have healed back injuries, improved immune system function, lowered blood pressure, improved leg and hip strength and flexibility. My emotions are steadier, my mind is more still. I am more content, at peace, and grateful. That’s a pretty good place to be.
One recent example is how I used Tai Chi movements and principles for rehab after knee surgery, with pretty amazing results. You can read about that here.
But I am also actively learning and progressing. Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation, and the Taoist internal practices known as Neigong are fascinating to explore, providing many opportunities to delve ever into the body, mind, and spirit at ever deeper levels.
Equally important, Tai Chi and Qigong have led to wonderful relationships with like-minded people in Chicago and around the world. As a certified Energy Arts Instructor, I am part of an international network of teachers, many of whom I have spent months with in training, and they are a wonderful group of people dedicated to spreading these immensely beneficial practices.
Finally, Tai Chi and Qigong have led me to Tribe, where I have taught workshops and recently team-taught with Tribe’s outstanding Qigong Instructor Jeanne Steen. I love the feel of Tribe and, schedules permitting, look forward to offering classes there this fall.
How might others benefit from adding one of these practices for self-care?
As tools for self-care, the material I teach provides a time-tested process for healing the body, improving its function, increasing energy, calming the mind and emotions, and much more. So for people that want greater control over their health as they age, the process I teach is worth considering.
When and where do you offer these classes?
I am the Tai Chi and Qigong Instructor at Enso Martial Arts, 412 S. Wells in the Loop, offering a regular schedule of classes, plus private instruction and workshops. My website, www.chicagotaichi.org, has the details.
I am also working with Cari, Ellen, and Jeanne to bring more of what I teach to Tribe this fall.
[Note from Tribe Owners: Chris recently shared a very kind blog post about Tribe on his site. Of course, we have to share it here! Thanks, Chris!]
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
One other point that may interest your readers. June 30 is my last day with Cinnamon Mueller, the law firm I founded. I have turned the firm over to my partners, and am moving in a new direction.
My first stop will be back to the university. This fall, I begin a Masters in Science program at the University of Illinois – Chicago. The field of study? Kinesiology/Applied Exercise Physiology. My hunch is the Masters-level study of human movement and exercise science will elevate my ability to help more people enjoy greater mobility and better health as they age. Given an overloaded health care system and an aging population, this could be a big deal.
A related and pleasant surprise - I received an unsolicited offer for a position in the university’s Biomechanics Laboratory. I will be assisting Dr. Kharma Foucher with her research on improving patient outcomes after total hip replacement surgery, a key field of study as our population ages and more joints wear out. I am recruiting subjects for the study, so if you know anyone who has had a hip replaced in the past 5 years, please let me know!
For more from information, including Chris' schedule at Tribe or to participate in the hip replacement study, contact Chris directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And feel free to leave comments below. We LOVE to hear from our community-at-large!