Dr. Bob McBrien was introduced to Tai Chi for Health at Dr. Paul Lam’s first USA TCA instructor training workshop in 1999. Since then he has been teaching Tai Chi for Health classes as a Master Trainer in Maryland and Delaware. In addition to his BodyMind certifications, Dr. Bob is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with national board certifications in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. He is a Diplomate in Adlerian Psychology and a Fellow of the American Institute of Stress. An author, he has published articles and chapters in professional counseling journals and texts.
The IRQTC sat down with Bob to find out more about how RQTC has influenced his life and work.
Dr. Bob, what were you doing before you found Tai Chi?
I have a history of Taekwondo, with a Korean master who told me, “I’m not going to let you be a fighter, you be a trainer.” I was lousy at the spin kicks and sparring – I started late, I was just over 50 when I got my black belt – and I could never do the splits and jumping that the kids can do. This Korean Master helped me understand the Asian mindset. Instead of asking, “How are you?” or saying, “nice haircut,” he would look at me and he would say, “Energy, good today” or “Energy is down. You okay?” He read my energy and vibrations – it’s a good lesson to have learned that frame of mind.
That’s a great mindset to bring into Tai Chi. How has Tai Chi helped you in your life and practice?
From a person who is not a physical therapist, I have tuned into body and movements and some of the things that go on with meridian stretches and yoga stretches that I can do. I can’t do certain poses – but I do know that people are feeling better feelings at the end of my workshops, and I want them to get out with a smile on their face. One of the most important things about class is to do something that lifts my students up, so they don’t get frustrated.
As a Tai Chi instructor, what inspired you to take the Fundamentals Course?
We are teaching Tai Chi for Falls Prevention and I am a Master Trainer for the Tai Chi for Health Institute. I did a weekend all about sending other people out there to teach the Tai Chi for Falls Prevention program. Being me, I wanted to go beyond and get as much as I can, and this led me to take the Fundamentals Course.
From your perspective as a Tai Chi teacher & non-traditional rehab professional, why would you recommend the Fundamentals program?
The fundamentals course is a very good background on the viewpoint and mental checklist of a Physical Therapist or an Occupational Therapist teaching Tai Chi for Health. Some of the things you talk about and demonstrate go beyond Paul Lam’s teaching, but it does not conflict with what Paul Lam wants us to do. It gives people a deeper understanding.
A lot of what you have taught us is closer and closer to a TRUE rehabilitation course of study for people. There were a few things you talked about energetically, the things that you are doing with the important work regarding lymph, and the notion of the procedure for lifting the pelvic floor.
What discussions or lessons in the fundamentals program stood out to you?
A very important take away is in your discussion about parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems – you say, “If you want to have healing take place, your system has to be in the parasympathetic frame of energy.” When people are working with folks with arthritis, balance issues, people with steel knees & many surgeries – if we get them to do postures and principles, diaphragmatic breathing, a little bit of dantian breathing – becoming more and more aware – they will be on the parasympathetic side, and I as a teacher have a firm believer that healing is taking place right now.
What nuggets from the fundamentals course could immediately apply to your work or your classes?
The big nuggets are with some of the demonstrations, when you stepped away from your chair and showed them. I was VERY impressed with little experiments you did with the turn to the left which is first begun by looking left, then turning left, and so on. That is a very tactical and accurate demonstration of the concept that “yi leads the qi” – qi moves your body. Where your eyes go is where your energy is goes. Sometimes this is called gaze, and you can lose power of peripheral vision. Studies show that peripheral vision picks up movement instead of the pupil in your eye. So those are very good.
What is one last thing you want our community to know?
The answer to an awful lot of what’s going on is coming by way of neuroscience. If I could fix the world, people would be doing TRUE meditation – standing, sitting, moving – at least 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. Andrew Weil teaches us about 4-7-8 breathing, which is part of the Fundamentals program as well – this can help lower blood pressure and other conditions. The benefits may be anecdotal right now, but if one person benefits – others will benefit.