Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Episode 67: Mindful Movement & Tai Chi / Qigong, with Dr. Larry Cammarata

Episode 67 of the Running Anthropologist project is available just about anywhere one listens to podcasts, including Google, Apple, Spotify and Anchor!

How can I cultivate and balance energy in my running, and in life? What is mindful running? What is the difference between Tai Chi, Qigong, and other martial arts? 

All these questions and much more are answered in this mindfully moving interview conducted between Tampa, Florida and Ponte de Lima, Portugal- shortly after a chance meeting while on pilgrimage along the "Camino de Santiago" (Camino Portugues route). APOC link to find out more about the most traveled pilgrimage routes in the western world, finishing in Santiago de Compostela (Spain), a true path of discovery for all seekers, walkers, bikers, runners or even on horeseback!

Back to our topic: Dr. Larry Cammarata is a self-described "Chi Runner", which means he applies the eastern traditional concepts of chi energy work to his running, most notably techniques of relaxation and energy balance, developed by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. He knows this eastern tradition well, and is in fact an instructor of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong, and has received advanced training in China and in the US, as well as a practitioner over the past several decades. There are many tutorials out there, but I have found this one from C. Tolle Run, produced about a decade ago now, to be a great introduction to Chi Running. So many of these concepts have been integrated into current distance running techniques and "big guys" coaching methods without the origins, it is hard to believe it was revolutionary not long ago. Nontheless, it is still true and many elements can be practiced and examined in more depth.

"Mindfulness" has been used much more often in practical ways throughout society in recent years, and applied to many facets of life. Larry is on the peaceful edge of this work, and is encouraged by the movement to slow down and bring awareness to our daily practices, including running, something he fosters in his work and life. He and his wife Linda (RN, RYT) are a dynamic team who also happen to run mindfulness retreats exploring different cultures and places across the globe. In his work as a licensed psychologist who specializes in mindfulness-based therapy and education, he includes the science and practice of mindful movement. 

In our conversation, we discuss mindfulness practices and the joy of running in the classic methodology of Danny Dreyer, Chi Running, which is described as "a revolutionary approach to effortless, injury free running" (Dreyer, 2003). Perhaps not completely effortless, this method relaxes the body and allows the energy to flow in such a way that hard effort is not felt, breathing is done with ease, and there is less stress on the body. No doubt you have seen large crowds of people doing Qigong or Tai Chi movement together at sunrise in a part, in just about any big city in the US that has a significant Asian presence?  Or perhaps traveled to Korea, China and Japan and heard music blaring early morning from public speakers at parks, as hundreds follow the same choreographed rhythm?  It is truly a spiritual and uplifting experience, seeing so many dedicated to seeking body-mind-spirit connection and community. In some ways, this has always reminded me of a running club warm-up, with the same camaraderie and spirit of encouragement. And in fact, there are many parallels, which we discuss in this episode.
This is what I had to compare it to when I was teaching in Korea, and found my way to a neighborhood group and teacher of Qigong, now over a dozen years ago. I have also found this practice incredibly helpful to warmup and cool down, calming me when revved up, or lifting my energy levels when down. Also, we discuss with Dr. Cammarata how movement can connect us to our senses, and prepare us for a more mindful and interconnected run/walk.

If you would like to know more about the above retreats or his ongoing travels and running adventures, Larry welcomes you to reach out through his own website:  www.mindfulnesstravels.com  
He is the Director of Education of Mindfulness Travels, and Director of Training for the East Bay Mindfulness Center.  He was also designated as an "Author-Expert" by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and service in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. His mindful movement work has been presented at many venues, including the 11th Annual International Scientific Conference of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.

Danny Deyer's "Chi Running" (and walking and living) runs an international training program, in which you can find instructors and groups, or do training online, at https://chiliving.com/chirunning/

"Shut up and Run" also have a great synopsis of Chi Running, as well as PrisChew and Wellthyfit, with some diagrams, including below!

Finally, you can find and reach us on Facebook or Instagram @RunningAnthropologist.
Until next time, Happy Running!