Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Mindfulness in Motion: Tai Chi helps Veterans heal
"Inhale now pause and exhale. Try to become aware of your body as you're doing this."
Air Force Veteran and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center volunteer Lester Pittman sits straight-backed in a chair, feet planted firmly on the ground and palms face up in his lap, as he guides a group of Veteran patients through a relaxing breathing routine. The exercises are part of a mindfulness class offered free of charge to Veterans, which incorporates gentle yoga moves, mindful breathing and Tai Chi, a form of martial arts.
"The important thing to remember is just to breathe," Pittman says. "This simple act is central to all mindfulness exercises and it can make all the difference. Focused breathing is one of the core building blocks of health along with movement and healthful eating."
Pittman instructs fellow Veterans to incorporate gentle, controlled stretches into their routine over time so they can slowly improve their flexibility, mobility and wellness. The class begins with a series of shoulder, neck and knee rolls that help loosen up stiff joints and are especially helpful for aging bodies. Though Pittman is quick to explain that the classes are geared toward all mobility levels and everyone is invited to participate.
"Tai Chi practitioners will often say that they are 'playing' at Tai Chi," he said. "The movements are often much like dancing. There's a sort of looseness to it and it's something everyone can do. You just work at continually improving the fluidity of the movements and, in doing that, you improve your range of motion and can often ease minor aches and pains."
The classes began in early April and are held every Monday from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Goose Creek VA Outpatient Clinic collocated with Naval Health Clinic Charleston at the Naval Weapons Station.
The group is open to Veterans currently enrolled in VA health care, their family members and other significant parties who wish to attend with the Veteran. Participants must have proper identification, either a military ID or a base badge, to gain access to the Navy base. Day passes will not be issued for attendance to these group sessions. For additional information, please call 843-577-5011, press 1, then 3145.