By Beverly Benson
BAMC RN/Health Promotion Educator
Army Department of Preventive Medicine
I’ve heard it said many times, “Yoga? Tai Chi? Isn’t that a bunch of hocus pocus, weird meditation mumbo-jumbo?” The answer is a resounding NO!
While yoga originated hundreds of years ago as a Hindu discipline that teaches “the suppression of all activity of body, mind and will …” it is now, in general, considered “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.” It has been “Westernized” and can include any, or no, form of spirituality.
In general, it is a focusing of the mind inward and clearing it, and the body, of negativity and stress. There are multiple varieties of yoga from a meditation and breathing only version (Yoga Nidra) to more intense Bikram or Hot yoga. All forms of yoga focus on clearing the mind and proper breathing.
Similiarly, T’ai chi is a Chinese system of exercise, developed over 2,000 years ago, incorporating slow, smooth body movements in order to achieve a state of relaxation in mind and body. Although it was originally a self-defense martial art that has over 100 separate movements, it has been reduced in the more popular versions to 18-37 moves. Like yoga, there are also several “sub-sets” of T’ai chi, but all focus on body position, clearing of the mind, or meditation, and breathing.
Both of these practices have been shown through research to improve the body’s response to stress and cause a reduction in inflammation and pain. Since there is a focus on clearing the mind of negative thought focus and deep breathing, practicing yoga or T’ai chi on a regular basis may also help build resilience to life stressors.
There are several offerings of yoga on Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center. You may consider trying one of the classes, or try a class in your area or at one of the Fitness in the Park sessions (www.fitcitySA.com) around town. NAMASTE!