Yoga is first and foremost a peaceful practice, so for soldiers who return home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or both, it can be the perfect antidote to the atrocities of war.
“Veterans [who practice yoga] report improved sleep, less irritability and anger, and better focus and concentration,” says Rob Schware, Executive Director of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, a Boulder, Colorado-based non-profit that supports and funds certified yoga teachers in under-served and under-resourced communities.
In 2010, the Give Back Yoga Foundation launched Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans, a training program for yoga teachers and a model for yoga programs in VA Hospitals all over the country. (This year, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans introduced a 100-hour certification program for yoga teachers.)
“The protocol [of the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans program] consists of a series of breathing exercises, a moving warm-up, and standing, balancing, seated and reclining postures, which seem to aid in the recovery of PTSD when accompanied by psychotherapy," Schware says.
In honor of Veterans Day, we asked five veterans to share how yoga helped them cope with depression, stress, sleep disturbances, and other war-related issues, and find a sense of belonging upon returning home.
DANA MELTZER ZEPEDA