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“Metarobics, Healing and the Power of Tai Chi” by Peter Anthony Gryffin, PhD. - A Book Review



From YMAA Publications

A Book Review by John Loupos

      “Metarobics, Healing, and the Power of Tai Chi” is ostensibly about Tai Chi, but is surprisingly apropos to Hanna Somatics, as well as many other mindful movement disciplines.

     When I undertook to review this book I was initially suspect. My first impression, based solely on the title, was that this would be one more in a litany of books in which an author coined a new term to self-promote his or her new variation on Tai Chi. Happily, and in contrast to my initial concerns, I found myself drawn into this book after just the first several pages as the author’s introductory comments were both scientifically credible and intriguing in their possibilities. Still, I wasn’t buying into ‘metarobics’ quite yet.

     A few more pages in put all my concerns to rest as the author clarified that he hadn’t so much formulated a new metarobics exercise program as he had coined this term to introduce an overarching theory – one that designates a new category, or “third school of fitness” as he calls it, for already existing methods, such as our own Hanna Somatic Education. The term “metarobics” serves to distinguish mindful and breath-oriented bodywork practices, including Tai Chi, qigong, yoga, and like practices such as Hanna Somatics and Feldenkrais work as methods that are separate from your more typical aerobic and anaerobic categories. Call it what you will (I’m okay with “metarobics”), Gryffin’s differentiated designation makes for a new paradigm in the perceptions around health, wellness, and fitness. This alone is a great service to our field of mindful body practices, which are and deserve to be considered as substantively different from other forms of exercise. By the time I’d finished reading the first chapter my tone for this review was firmly set and completely readjusted from my initial reservations. The remaining chapters held steady to reinforce my newly positive impression.

>> An important and recurring theme throughout this book addresses the relationship between hypoxia and an assortment of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and a host of other chronic health conditions, against all of which the author claims Tai Chi has now been shown to offer clinical reprieve. The reasons and research that the author cites, while specific to Tai Chi, do arguably and just as readily apply to Hanna Somatics. The many case histories, mostly empirical, are artfully interwoven throughout the text, often providing engaging insight into how the author’s own thought processes developed and came to fruition leading to this book. The author’s tone throughout the book is enthusiastic, but devoid of hyperbole or outlandish claims. The reader is never asked to make any leaps of faith. In fact, Gryffin has taken pains to unambiguously distinguish between claims for which there is evidence-based supporting research and musings as to what might yet prove to be Tai Chi’s (et.al.) as yet unconfirmed other possible health benefits.

     In conclusion, this book amounts to nothing less than a brilliant, and very welcome, treatise on its subject matter. “Metarobics, Healing, and the Power of Tai Chi” casts new and important light and credence on Tai Chi, qigong, and Somatics, etc. as health and wellness disciplines that now enjoy a credible scientific basis in addition to their empirical status. This book’s content is precisely what mindful movement providers have long been waiting for – a comprehensive body of mainstream evidence-based claims with the potential to shift both the reality and the public and medical community’s perception of Tai Chi and other mindful movement modalities from their former realm of new age curiosities to a bone fide health and wellness resource. I’ll be handing out copies of this book to physicians in my community, along with flyers for my Tai Chi school and my Somatics practice.

This is an original review by John Loupos, M.S., H.S.E.