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Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System

 

Tai Chi Helps Reduce Stress, Increase Flexibility

A woman does Tai Chi

Iraq War Veteran Karen Genn participates in a Tai Chi class at the Jack C. Montgomery East Clinic.

By Nathan Schaeffer
Thursday, August 28, 2014

For centuries, the Chinese have used Tai Chi as a martial art and means of self-defense. Today, people around the world use Tai Chi as a form of exercise to reduce anxiety and stress and to increase flexibility and balance.

Considered an alternative medicine, Tai Chi is often referred to as “moving meditation” and involves slow, deliberate movements, meditation and deep breathing.  Because it puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, Tai chi is considered safe for all ages and fitness levels.

While scientific evidence does not yet support the health benefits of Tai Chi, many believe it aids in the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders, skin diseases, depression, cancer and many other illnesses.

The Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center (JCMVAMC) Behavioral Health Service offers a Tai Chi class at both the Jack C. Montgomery East Clinic in Muskogee and Tulsa VA Behavioral Medicine Clinic for Veterans who receive mental health treatment.

During the one hour class, which is held once a week, participants watch an instructional DVD and learn how to perform the 24 forms of Tai Chi.

“Tai Chi is a really good way to keep them moving and active,” said Marlene Diaz, a Peer Support Specialist who facilities the Tai Chi class at the Jack C. Montgomery East Clinic. “It helps with weight loss, back and knee problems and it’s a good way to relax as well. It also gives them a place to come, socialize and gets them out of the house.”

A man does Tai Chi

World War II Veteran James Beal participates in a Tai Chi class at the Jack C. Montgomery East Clinic.

World War II Veteran James Beal, who is 91, said Tai Chi has benefited him both physically and mentally.

“I wanted something to make me feel better and loosen me up because I was getting too stiff,” said Beal. “I can turn my neck a lot farther than I use to. It just makes me feel better since I’ve been doing it.”

Iraq War Veteran Karen Genn, who served 18 months in Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division, said Tai Chi helps her cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has helped her improve her balance.

“It’s very relaxing,” said Genn. “It calms me down. Mentally and physically, it has helped me out. I really like this class.”

While the Veterans are focused on improving their overall health, they also want to complete the 24 forms which are performed in one seamless movement.

“There working towards it as a group, being able to do the 24 forms as a full motion,” said Diaz. “We’re breaking the forms down to the most basic steps. They’re excited about it. They’ve come a long way. They help each other out and want to see each other succeed.”

To help reach her goal, Genn said she also practices at home by following online videos.

“I’m trying to work on it more at home,” she said. “I’d love to be able to do it without missing a step.”

If you are interested in participating in a Tai Chi class, please contact the Behavioral Health Service at 918-577-3699.

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