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In a drab meeting room in West Philadelphia, a group of aging veterans with chronic back pain gathered for a dose of what their teacher called “breath as medicine.”

Psychologist Lisa Rambaldo led the mostly male group through a series of gentle yoga positions that improve balance and strengthen muscles that support the spine, along with breathing exercises that free the mind.

While they lay on the floor hugging their knees to their chests, she told them to notice any tension. “Notice the tendency to recoil or bully through,” Rambaldo said soothingly. “We breathe through tension and we exhale from it.”

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