Miami VA Healthcare System
Tai Chi and Yoga Classes for Veterans
Learning different methods and therapies to help manage pain is important for patients with chronic conditions, especially for America’s Veterans. For Veterans like Julis Brooks-Welcome, new tai chi and yoga classes at the Miami VA Healthcare System are proving to help her in ways other therapies were not.
“I tried every medical treatment,” she said. “As a nurse myself, I have access to lots of books and information, but without direction and proper guidance, treatment doesn’t seem as effective. Tai chi helps me with my PTSD.”
The Air Force Veteran started learning tai chi several months ago and was excited when she learned the Miami VA was offering classes to Veterans. She says tai chi movements are simple to learn and the instructor, Hiroshi Shintaku, helps with her mood and outlook on life.
“The instructor always comes in with positive energy, and he delivers that energy through his kind words, gestures and movements,” she said. “It’s easy to be in the negative mode, but Hiroshi gives me the training to get out of that. I always feel relaxed afterwards.”
Shintaku has been teaching a Korean form of tai chi called Dahn Mu Do for 20 years and started working with Veterans at the medical center as a volunteer in May. He describes tai chi as “moving meditation” and says the exercises can enhance physical and mental strength.
“Through the Dahn Mu Do Korean form of tai chi, many people recover their physical and mental condition,” Shintaku said. “We practice meridian, which is when energy is channeled in your body through stretching, breathing and meditation.”
While tai chi helps Brooks-Welcome with her mental health condition, the therapeutic exercises and movements can also help with physical injuries and pain.
“Tai chi utilizes slow, controlled movements within available range of motion that allow for minimal strain over a longer period of time,” said Tavis Ramsay, VA physical therapist at the Homestead VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic. “Tai chi is a safe, effective way for individuals of all ages and abilities to perform physical activity. The movements can be performed in a large group setting and can help individuals in areas such as strength, balance, coordination, cardiopulmonary, stress and concentration.”
Brooks-Welcome said she is learning new skills in the classes and hoping to welcome more Veterans.
“We learn skills in here that help minimize the pain and suffering,” she said. “Open your mind and you’ll receive good energy.”
The free tai chi and yoga classes are offered to enrolled Veterans every Thursday on a walk-in basis from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Pathways Day Activity Center, room 2C141, on the second floor of the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center. For more information call 305-575-7000, ext. 6057, or visit the Pathways Day Activity Center 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. every Monday to Friday.