A Heart for Service - Whole Health
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A Heart for Service

Man teaching Tai Chi

Volunteer David Lehman teaches Tai Chi to Veterans in person and on Veteran Video Connect.

By Andrea Young, VHA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation
Monday, April 18, 2022

With a heart for service and a passion for teaching Tai Chi, VA volunteer David Lehman is serving those who served.

Every week on Monday at 10 am, Lehman goes into his home studio, turns on his camera and guides Veterans through a series of gentle movements which allow them to be at home in their bodies, increase their flexibility, and practice balance.

Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise combining slow-flowing intentional movements with breathing, awareness, and visualization. Rooted in the Asian traditions of martial arts, Chinese medicine, and philosophy, Tai Chi enhances relaxation, vitality, focus, posture, balance, strength, flexibility, and mood.

“What Tai Chi teaches is the ability to align the body, adjust the breath, and adjust the mind to the present moment,” says Lehman. Many of the Veterans in his classes are older and facing physical challenges; but Tai Chi is also helpful for younger Veterans who may be experiencing the effects of their service, including those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Lehman teaches Veterans how to move in their bodies the way they were designed to move; and to listen to the messages that the body sends which can be very beneficial for both physical as well as mental challenges that Veterans face.

After a 30-year career working alongside Veterans, Lehman decided to earn certifications for teaching Tai Chi and then approached the Castle Point VAMC a part of VA Hudson Valley Health Care in New York, to offer his services. He taught in person for a year, and then transitioned to VA Video Connect where he finds that he can reach more people.

Lehman’s students include a dedicated group of up to 10 Veterans, mostly Vietnam era, who show up every week from their homes to practice. “The Bible says it is better to give than to receive and I find it incredibly rewarding to do something that you know is helping,” he says. 

In addition to live teaching, Lehman created a series of 30-minute video classes that any Veteran can do from home.

Lehman says that a couple of his Veteran students have taken a 25-hour certification program, so they are equipped to teach Tai Chi to peers, and he hopes to see more Veterans teaching Veterans in peer-led classes.

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