Girl Planting seeds

A Light at the End of the Tunnel-And Some Skills to Get us There

shutterstock_120292873By Benjamin Kligler, MD
As we move into Year 2 of our pandemic experience (whoever thought we would be saying that back last March?) we are starting to see at least some light at the end of the tunnel—some hope that before too long we will be back in the movie theater, the yoga class, the family Thanksgiving. But unfortunately we are still looking at somewhere between six and twelve months before we get there, and during that time we still need to be doing everything we can to keep ourselves sane and healthy. And not to mention that this has been one of the coldest and snowiest winters in memory, from Texas to Minnesota to Brooklyn (where I live!)—which certainly makes it hard to stay sane and healthy by getting outside and exercising.

So here’s an idea: make a resolution to start up some kind of regular yoga or tai chi practice—in your home, maybe even with your family. And because we all do better with goals that have a specific timeframe attached, make that resolution just for the next month for starters. Maybe once or twice a week. And if it works and you find it helpful, make it for another month…

Both yoga and tai chi have the quality of being at the same time a physical exercise practice, and a tool for self-regulation, centering and stress management.  Both are easy to do at home with guidance from one of the many high quality online sites available. And both have been shown to be beneficial in bothMother_and_Girl_(Yoga)_crop kids andMother_and_Girl_(Yoga)_crop adults. Yoga in children, for example, can increase strength, coordination and flexibility, as well as helping with concentration and academic performance. Maybe even more importantly in thinking about this dark pandemic winter, it can significantly improve anxiety in kids and adolescents from age 3 to age 18, according to a recent systematic review.  Cleveland Clinic has an excellent site, with guidance on specific poses.   Another great resource is WholeHealth4You, a YouTube channel produced by pediatrician Dr. Larry Rosen, with all sorts of excellent options including yoga sessions (https://youtube.com/channel/UCTj0pD89qT-KIUn7ynQlGww).

Likewise, tai chi has been shown to have many health benefits. Tai chi is a gentle movement and centering practice which originated as a martial art but is now used around the world by both adults and children. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at NIH, it appears to effectively reduce anxiety, as well as improve overall quality of life, and is safe even in the elderly. As with yoga, there are many quality online options aimed at kids as well as adults; Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health Institute is a good place to start, as is Tai chi for Kids (https://www.taichiforkids.com/).

And here’s more good news: getting yourself and your children started on a home practice of yoga or tai chi isn’t just something you can do to help you get through the pandemic. It is also an opportunity to launch on a life-long practice, which many of us feel should already be part of our kids’ education and incorporated in to standard elementary and secondary school curriculum. WholeHealthEd is just one example of a number of organizations working to make practices like yoga and tai chi part of what kids everywhere routinely learn, as part of a K-12 curriculum to teach lifelong skills to promote health and well-being. But whatever you do, don’t tell your kids this new, fun yoga and tai chi practice you are all starting together is part of school!

 

 

Weaver LL, Darragh AR. Systematic Review of Yoga Interventions for Anxiety Reduction Among Children and Adolescents. Am J Occup Ther. 2015 Nov-Dec;69(6):6906180070p1-9. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2015.020115. PMID: 26565100
 

 

Dr._KliglerDr. Kligler is the Medical Advisor for The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®. He is also the National Director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center for the Veterans Health Administration and Research Director for the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. He was the founding  Director  of the Beth Israel Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine, and teaches in the Beth Israel Residency Program in Urban Family Practice. Dr. Kligler is the author of Curriculum in Complementary Therapies: A Guide for the Medical Educator, and co-editor of Integrative Medicine: Principles for Practice, a textbook published by McGraw-Hill. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.


 

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