I am currently taking the 100 hour Mindful Yoga Teacher training and am so extremely grateful for the scholarship I am receiving to be able to do so. I had been doing yoga for about 10 years, off and on, but it has really only been in the past year or so that my personal practice has taken on deeper and more spiritual meaning and intensity.I served in the U.S. Coast Guard for five years, in the early 1990’s, at a time when there were a lot of migrants trying to reach our shores for economic and political asylum. It was through my time served on a large cutter home-ported in Virginia that I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti, among other Caribbean nations. It was there that I saw such poverty and extreme living conditions, that I vowed to return one day and make a small difference in the lives of the people of that beautiful country. In 2011, I made that vow a reality and traveled for the first of many times to Haiti with a group from my church in Southbury, CT. I have been going down to Haiti every year since the earthquake and will continue to do so, leading groups as the immersion trip leader. In 2017 our small ministry grew into a non-profit corporation called Seeds of Hope for Haiti, Inc., with me serving on the board of directors. If it was not for the experiences I had in the Coast Guard to drive my passion and vision, I don’t think that this would have ever become a reality. In 2014 I had the honor to present my son Matt with his graduation certificate when he graduated from U.S. Coast Guard Boot Camp, in my uniform! I have always had and will always have such a sweet spot in my heart for service members and veterans. That is why I am excited to bring my 200 hour yoga teacher training that I have had through VETOGA, (founder Justin Blazejewski is also a MYT grad) and this 100 hour training with MYT, to veterans, active duty and their family members in Connecticut. I am currently starting work on bringing programs to various military installations in the state, along with the help and expertise of another MYT trained instructor. I hope to see this take off and become a regular offering to the service members stationed there and their families. Before I even started my yoga teacher training, I studied about trauma and how it affects the brain and how the “issues live in the tissues”. I attended the Yoga of Twelve Steps of Recovery leadership training in January in Surf City, NC. I started leading Y12SR meetings in my area in February of 2018, even before becoming a certified yoga instructor! (I had a partner who was certified who led the practice and I led the meeting.) I did not know if I would eventually become certified at first, but a few months after I had led a few sessions of Y12SR, I started looking into affordable ways that I could get my 200 hour certification. (I work full time at a local non- profit agency and do not have the financial means to be able to spend $2,000 to $3,000 on teacher training.) Through a Google search, I found VETOGA, Inc., a nonprofit run by a veteran who offers 200 hour teacher training's to other veterans, so that they could teach yoga in their communities to other military and vets. In order to gain a spot in this training, participants have to raise a certain level of funds. I set out to raise money for this organization in order to be included in the Spring 2018 class. With some hard work, and putting forth some money of my own, I was successful and headed to Alexandria, VA for training in May. It was in this training that we spent one afternoon talking about next steps, how we might partner with other similar organizations that bring yoga to veterans, or to take advantage of more training's that are in line with VETOGA's mission. Mindful Yoga Therapy was mentioned several times as the # 1 way to continue with more training in working with trauma. I was instantly curious because this was what I wanted to do from the very beginning, bring trauma -informed yoga to others. It was only natural that I seek it out after hearing from a friend that I should attend the 100 hour training, and it was starting very soon, in July of this summer. He set me up with Suzanne who offered me a scholarship and after filling out the application, I was in! Talk about timing and dharma, I felt this was the next right thing for me. I am particularly interested in what I have been learning from Suzanne at the Mindful Yoga Center. Her knowledge of working with veterans with PTSD is something that I feel can really benefit from personally, as I deal with anxiety and stress in my own life, it is a great tool in my toolbox that I can take to others. I can see myself working with others affected by traumatic stress, such as those who survived the terrible earthquake in Haiti in 2010, or just the stress and adverse experiences that are present where poverty exists. I feel strongly that yoga would benefit so many, and perhaps one day I will bring yoga and meditation to people in Haiti. This past summer on a recent trip, our group took a yoga class on a mountaintop there, and it was such a surreal experience. The clouds surrounded us, it was literally yoga in the clouds. I would love to offer more classes like that one day. Ever thankful for the opportunity to train with Suzanne and Mindful Yoga Therapy, I hope to pay it forward by carrying the tools of yoga, meditation and yoga nidra to the people in my community and abroad. Namaste, Christine
Veterans With PTSD Benefit From Mindful Yoga Therapy
Veterans benefit from yoga - Veterans struggling with the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have new hope in helping to alleviate their symptoms with Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT), according to research that finds the specific yoga practices in its protocol can help improve their physical and psychological well-being.
A group of academics from several nationally renowned health centers recently revealed the results of the research that found MYT significantly helped veterans deal with their PTSD, including reductions of almost 30 percent in their scores on the PTSD Checklist -- one of two systems known as the gold standard of assessing whether people are reducing their symptoms of PTSD.
MYT is a therapeutic yoga training program for already certified yoga instructors. In this training, they learn specific practices which are worked into a 12 week protocol that uses yoga to help teach veterans (or other populations who have experienced trauma) how to work through symptoms of PTSD. The advanced (100 hour) MYT training allows instructors to combine this protocol with clinical therapy to help develop veterans' self-control and mindfulness as a strategy to improve their wellbeing. That's critically important at a time when suicide, addiction and substance abuse due to PTSD are increasing among veterans.
The peer-reviewed study, presented at the American Academy of Health Behavior's March conference in Tucson, Arizona, offers promising findings for promoting MYT to help veterans. A group of 17 veterans -- six women and 11 men – took part in the research, attending weekly classes to learn about different yoga practices including Pranayama, Asana, Yoga Nidra, Meditation, and Gratitude, and changes in their well-being were tracked using various scales.
Among the findings, the research showed that veterans who took part in MYT over several weeks perceived their own well-being to have improved after each session. For example, one participant who was asked to rank their well-being gave it an initial score of 2.5 at the first session and showed a constant improvement over the course, including a peak of almost 3.5 at the sixth session.
The research also showed that the veterans' perceived levels of their own stress plummeted after taking part in the yoga program, showing a direct connection between MYT and reduced PTSD symptoms. Using a Perceived Stress Scale that ranks participants' belief of their own stress levels from the low of zero to the high of 40, veterans who practiced MYT, overall, recorded a drop from roughly 27 on the scale to about 20 -- a major reduction that promises to help people recovering from PTSD.
The research also indicates that the practices have benefits beyond yoga, because several participants said they used the skills developed during MYT -- such as managing anger and relieving pain -- to better inform other aspects of their life, further helping them cope with their PTSD.
The findings help to show why MYT gets such rave reviews from yoga instructors who have taken the advanced therapeutic trainings. “I had prior training in many of the yoga practices but this training was like the PhD of trauma yoga,” said Mary Beth Ogulewicz, who attended one of the MYT trainings in 2015.
The research was conducted by the REAL Human Performance athletic training facility in collaboration with the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Interact for Health, which awards grants for programs that aim to improve health and well-being. The team's results are so promising that further studies are planned to assess the long-term impact of MYT.
To view the full results from this study, click here.