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Thread: Tai Chi, Veterans & PTSD

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    Good story

    Tai chi helps heal deep military trauma
    'That wood starts to burn and I hear the snapping and cracking… I’ve got to walk away... '
    George Koerner
    Posted on Friday, July 10, 2020 9:00 am Posted in ChooseVA, Health, Mental Health by David Walter

    The image is seared into George Koerner’s brain.

    Koerner served with a U.S. Air Force fire rescue and recovery unit in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He remembers responding to a fire in an airplane hangar.

    “I heard this tremendous scream and realized I couldn’t get them out,” Koerner said. “It took us hours to put that fire out.”

    Once inside the hangar, body bag in tow, Koerner found one of the victims – or what was left of him.

    “The only thing left was the belt buckle and zipper,” he said. “But you have to take everything you can. And you have to live with that.

    George Koerner demonstrates the tai chi moves he said helped put his trauma at bay.

    It’s hard to do that.”

    “When you see your brothers the day before… you have a bond with them. You maybe talked to them the day before or hours before.

    “To this day, it’s hard for me to sit by a campfire. That wood starts to burn and I hear the snapping and cracking… I’ve got to walk away. Those are the same noises I heard trying to rescue our brothers.”

    That was just one of the horrors Koerner, 72, saw during his six years in the military. He also recalled taking wounded soldiers off helicopters – soldiers mortally wounded but still clinging to life, the pain muted by morphine running through their veins.

    “You would see them torn up; you could smell the blood and see the tears in their eyes,” he said. “And you’d lie to them. We would tell them, ‘You’re going to be OK.’ I tried to do everything I could, but I lied a lot to those brothers.

    “And you’d see all those flag-draped caskets.”

    To deal with the pain, Koerner, then 21, would drink. Excessively.

    “I drank a lot. That’s how I suppressed my memories,” he said. “We would work 24-hour shifts, and when they gave us two or three days off, we drank… from morning to night. Many times I didn’t know where I was when I woke up.”


    Koerner was discharged on Dec. 23, 1971. He remembers coming home to Milwaukee with $35.

    “The uniform came off, and it was no more,” he said.

    But at home, there was no escaping what he had been through and how life had changed.

    The connection to longtime friends had been severed due to the war and the sentiment stateside surrounding the war.

    “I drank a lot. That’s how I suppressed my memories. We would work 24-hour shifts, and when they gave us two or three days off, we drank.

    Work was hard to come by, and Koerner was beset by loneliness and isolation.

    “I was disconnected with people, I was nervous. I didn’t know what was going on. I’d be talking in the middle of the night. It was like I was right back there again.”

    He soon landed a job at Miller Brewing Co., which was both a blessing and a curse: He had good pay and good friends, but also easy access to alcohol.

    He married in 1974, and he and his wife Jane raised a son and a daughter.

    But Koerner admits it was Jane who did most of the work.

    “I worked six or seven days a week,” he said. “I couldn’t understand why my son and daughter didn’t bring their friends over. It was because their dad was a complete *******.”

    At Miller, where he ended up working for 36 years, Koerner met Jeff “Doc” Dentice, known to Milwaukee VA Veterans as the driving force behind the annual “Christmas with the Vets” program.

    It was Dentice who saw what was going on with Koerner. He saw the drinking, the acting out, the angry outbursts and recognized what it was.

    “After 39 years I finally came to VA. Ever since that day, I have been getting help. It has given me another day in my life to see the sunrise and sunset.”

    “He told me, ‘George, you need to get help,’” he said.

    But Koerner wouldn’t listen. He feared losing his job, or worse, being “put away” for being “crazy.”

    But Dentice was persistent.

    “’Come with me. You need to focus on now,’” Koerner remembered him saying. “I was afraid, but I knew I had to do something. I didn’t know what PTSD was. All I knew was how to drink and how I acted.

    “But within days I knew. It was a godsend.”


    George Koerner suffered trauma from seeing dead bodies in fires, and seeing those wounded and killed in Vietnam.

    Like many Veterans, Koerner lived with his PTSD for decades before seeking help.

    “After 39 years I finally came to VA,” he said. “Ever since that day, I have been getting help. It has given me another day in my life to see the sunrise and sunset.”

    Koerner has taken full advantage of the many services available to Veterans struggling with PTSD, including support groups, tai chi, yoga, physical therapy and working with psychologists, including Drs. Mindy Marcus and Matt Vendlinski.

    He has benefited a great deal from tai chi, saying it helps to calm his mind when he recognizes rising anger within him.

    “The slow moves, the slow motions… It calms me down a little more,” he said. “When I see something that ****es me off… I stop and I think. I go through the moves in my mind. Or if I’m in my living room, I get up and do it.”

    And that’s one of the benefits of tai chi, said Ericka Napoli of the Whole Health Department, who leads the tai chi class.

    “Tai chi uses slow, rhythmic movements along with focusing on the breath and being mindful and present. Practicing that can help decrease heart rate and blood pressure,” she said.

    “When you’re starting to feel elevated, or really agitated, going back to that breath and mindfulness approach that we teach can really help with PTSD symptoms. Controlling the power of the mind to not allow those worrisome, angry thoughts – that’s all part of tai chi.”

    Marcus agreed, saying those fighting PTSD benefit from becoming their own “self-coach.”

    “We teach them to tune into their internal experience,” she said. “That’s an important skill – to know what is happening inside of you. When things bubble up, (they realize) ‘I need to do something right now.’”

    The first step
    Koerner knows he has not been “cured” of his PTSD, but he knows he’s not that angry, bitter, isolated man he was for so many years.

    “I can see improvements,” he said. “I still have nightmares, but it’s better.”

    And he has become a cheerleader for the treatment he has received through the Milwaukee VA.

    “I tell these young Vets it took too long for us to come out, but we’re getting good help,” he said, admitting the first step is the hardest.

    “I was afraid. It was scary,” he said. “But the VA is the best. Anything I can say or do to be helpful to younger Veterans is a blessing.”
    Glad he found Tai Chi.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    Tai Chi, Yoga & Meditation for veterans

    Study: Veterans May Benefit From Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation
    By Traci Pedersen
    Associate News Editor Last updated: 26 Aug 2020
    ~ 2 MIN READ

    Complementary and integrative health (CIH) therapies, such as yoga, meditation and tai chi may help improve overall physical and mental health and reduce perceived stress among veterans receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration (VA) system, according to a new study published in a special September supplement to Medical Care.

    The study reports progress toward implementing CIH therapies throughout the VA system, part of an effort to promote a “Whole Health” approach in VA care. As required by the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the VA has expanded research and education on its CIH therapies, focusing on the impact on pain, mental health, and chronic illness.

    The study was led by Dr. A. Rani Elwy of the VA Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass, and Associate Professor in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

    For the study, Elwy and team administered a 12-month survey to analyze the impact of CIH therapies on 119 veterans who self-reported on their health and well-being. The Veterans completed 401 surveys at more than five different time points during the study. The surveys focused on patient-reported outcomes (PROs), an important target for efforts to improve healthcare. They focused on the most important problems and outcomes identified by the patients themselves.

    Veterans in the study reported using 14 different CIH therapies. Yoga was the most popular, with nearly half of veterans participating. This was followed by meditation, acupuncture and tai chi. Three CIH therapies were linked to significant improvements in PROs:

    yoga was related to decreases in perceived stress;

    tai chi was linked to improvements in overall physical and mental health functioning, anxiety levels, and ability to participate in social role activities;

    meditation was also associated with improvements in physical functioning.

    “[O]ur study showed that meditation, tai chi, and yoga appear to improve overall physical and mental health and reduced perceived stress,” write the authors.

    None of the CIH therapies were linked to improvements in veterans’ pain intensity or level of engagement in their health care. Larger studies with longer follow-up times may be needed to show significant effects on these outcomes, according to the authors.

    “It is time to focus on health and well-being, as defined by Veterans, and reaching these goals must include participation in CIH treatment approaches,” concluded the authors.

    The paper presents 11 original research papers and commentaries on the VA’s progress in implementing and evaluating the impact of CIH therapies on Veterans’ health outcomes.

    The special issue addresses strategies to build support for and implement CIH programs, to evaluate their effectiveness, and to promote their long-term sustainability.

    “We already know that CIH therapies are effective for the treatment of Veterans’ chronic pain, posttraumatic stress, depression, and other chronic conditions,” write Elwy and Dr. Stephanie L. Taylor of the HSR&D Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy, Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center. “Now we need to develop, test, and use effective strategies to increase CIH use and sustainment.”

    In a commentary, Alison Whitehead and Dr. Benjamin Kligler of the VA Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation said, “As the VA continues to develop new and better ways of making CIH approaches available to all Veterans, and to collect data on the outcomes of this expanded access for Veterans and employees, we hope to demonstrate to the rest of the U.S. healthcare system how an emphasis on whole person care and self-management skills should become the new standard across the industry.”

    Source: Wolters Kluwer Health
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    ttt 4 2021

    Pilates instructor Heather Gaussa, yoga instructor Jessica Eddins and owner/tai chi instructor Chris Hitchens at Three Treasures Health and Wellness in Bethel Park.
    Tai Chi for Veterans 'hits the mark'

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    FEB 6, 2021 9:00 PM
    Chris Hitchens knew he had to make a change.

    Medical issues and joint pain forced him to retire after 26 years teaching chemistry at Peters Township High School. His doctors suggested meditation and yoga, but he settled on tai chi.

    Before long, he became a certified tai chi instructor through the TaijiFit International wellness program and started teaching in the South Hills. In 2019, the Veterans Administration Mission Act expanded the range of treatment options the VA fully covered under insurance. Tai chi was one of them.

    Once the act was passed, Mr. Hitchens looked for his own physical location to run classes. In March 2020, he opened Three Treasures Health and Wellness center in the former Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Bethel Park, a week before the coronavirus pandemic hit. While he had to pare down and close for a time, the facility is now open at “around 10%” capacity and offers meditation, Pilates and yoga in addition to tai chi.

    The Veterans Administration Community Care Network began the official Tai Chi for Veterans program, and instructors were vetted as VACCN providers by TaijiFit International as the program rolled out across the country. Mr. Hitchens became one of them.

    Three Treasures now is the only wellness facility in the Pittsburgh area to offer Tai Chi for Veterans, which is fully insured for veterans and their caregivers through the VA.

    “I love the science behind it,” Mr. Hitchens said. “There’s a number of chemical reactions going on in the body when you do a meditative process. Tai chi has many healing benefits with chronic pain. It’s an anti-inflammatory. It helps with mobility, high blood pressure, lower cortisol levels in the body, which cause a lot of health issues. So it helped me a great deal.”

    Tai chi, an ancient Chinese tradition, combines graceful, low-impact movements based on martial arts with a focus on controlling breathing. Mr. Hitchens said Three Treasures often functions as a teaching facility and encourages clients to incorporate meditation and breathing techniques into their everyday lives.

    Now that classes are available through the program, Mr. Hitchens hopes he’ll be able to partner with local veterans organizations to provide the service. He has also offered live Zoom classes for in-home sessions.

    Clayton Crosley, a 10-year Army veteran, had been a volunteer tai chi instructor in VA clinics for six years when he decided to consult his doctor about the Tai Chi for Veterans program. After the consultation, he met with his instructor for weekly 45-minute sessions. Soon Mr. Crosley was teaching in the program, too.

    He emphasized the number of chronic pain and mobility issues helped through tai chi, and he noted the Tai Chi for Veterans version is modified to help with accessibility. He recalled a Vietnam War veteran who had trouble with balance and had a slight tremor. When the veteran focuses on the meditative movements, “his tremor diminishes to the point where it doesn’t exist.”

    “I think this is where it really hits the mark, especially for veterans,” Mr. Crosley said. “It helps you calm down and feel a little more relaxed and balanced. The breathing and the moving really helps manage PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. I think that’s a really important thing to be able to not only experience but offer, working with veterans.”

    Mr. Crosley and Mr. Hitchens met through the program as colleagues and have been excited to see the profile of Tai Chi for Veterans raised in the Pittsburgh area. They say the classes provide the social component veterans often miss upon leaving the military and credit the VA for reacting quickly to the pandemic, providing setups for instructors to provide telehealth appointments.

    “Tai chi’s not just working with the physical symptoms of a disease, it’s working on the physical, the emotional and the mental/​spiritual components of it,” Mr. Crosley said. “It takes people like Chris and all the others in the organization to help facilitate it and get it off the ground and running. It’s a very large task.”

    Despite starting out as a skeptic, Mr. Hitchens saw the benefits of tai chi for his own wellness, and thanks to the VA, Three Treasures can now provide the same healing for others.

    He said, “We’re trying to get the word out to serve as many people as we can, as many veterans as we can.”

    Tyler Dague:, 412-263-1569 and on Twitter@rtdague.

    First Published February 6, 2021, 9:00pm
    I need to set up a separate thread for TaijiFit soon.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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