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
Hello my name is Jacki Alessio and I came to know the 100 Hour Mindful Yoga Therapy program through my home studio director Suzanne Manafort. I have to first of all express my gratitude to Suzanne and my fellow student peers who have honored my brief service to the Connecticut Army National Guard (August 2017-February 2018). I truly believe I've arrived in a unique niche of the yoga community and thus my experience thus far in this training has been a transformative one.Personally,I've sought out psychotherapy for 20 years for relief from anxiety, seasonal and grief related depression, addictions and codependency, and from automatic responses as a result of interpersonal violent traumas. Professionally, I've worked in the field of mental health/social work for 10 years; empowering survivors of abuse and neglect, advocating for civil liberties at the local and state level, taking care of the elderly and those with physical disabilities/ABI's/TBI's and providing clinical support to those involved in the criminal justice system.
In November of 1978, English rock band, The Police released their debut album, …which we could argue could have been titled, The Police-Greatest Hits Volume 1. One of the songs on this album is titled “So Lonely!” It is perhaps the happiest song about being completely alone. The Police were HUGE…MEGASTARS…ON TOP OF THE WORLD. Yet, Sting the lead singer of The Police (in case you live under a rock), felt empty, “being surrounded by all this attention and yet experiencing the worst lonely feeling.” You wouldn’t have guessed it by the upbeat rhythm of the song, but by all accounts…Sting was suffering from depression. This song really peaked my interest. Why did it seem Sting was on top of the world…even though he seemingly and albeit joyfully reaching out for help? Two questions came to mind: 1) Does your individual perception of depression control the effects of depression and 2) Is it OK to be depressed?
According to a recent study, depression can be subdivided into four neurophysiological subtypes (‘biotypes’) defined by distinct patterns of dysfunctional connectivity in limbic and frontostriatal networks. This study suggests that depression is another spectrum issue that presents itself differently in every case. Jeff Masters is a yoga therapist, teacher, and author. Masters has been researching consciousness and the human energy field for over 30 years. He describes depression is a multi-phasic progression which needs to be addressed individually. It can be viewed through the lens of the Gunas as being of the nature of stagnation (Tamas) or exhaustion (Rajas). Perhaps in Sting’s case…he was exhausted by all of the attention, but felt like he had to keep doing whatever needed to be done in order to promote the album and the band. Masters adds that regardless to the source, depression requires mindful engagement…not avoidance.
Question 1: Does your individual perception of depression control the effects of depression?
Jeff Masters has been a somatic therapist and clinician for more than 30-years. He suggests, past experiences which inform your perception of reality, and impact your reaction to similar triggers, begin to unwind and arise into your consciousness. As this occurs your discerning mind (still unconscious) is activated and, if you haven’t yet done the work within the Yamas and Niyamas, will trigger your limbic system - the seat of your emotions. Which means your past impressions are experienced as occurring in the moment as opposed to being relegated to the past.
Depression triggers the hippocampus and the amygdala to activate the sympathetic nervous system. Masters says when this happens, “We have an on-load of stress hormones into the system. This can be of an acute level - causing anxiety, panic, fear, or anger. Or it can be sub-acute causing "feelings" of unease or insecurity.”
This is a cool point! In 1978, Sting, whose real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, was just an English rockstar struggling with success. However, in 1990 he began his yogic journey and has ever since had a very strong yoga and meditation practice. Interestingly…there also have not been any songs like “So Lonely.” Perhaps, yoga and meditation work? Perhaps Sting…who could easily still suffer from depression from time to time…has done the work…and now his perception has changed, thus the way he presents it to the world has changed?
Question 2: Is it OK to be depressed?
I have been practicing yoga since 1999. Not a very long time in the grand scheme of life…but to be sure…a long enough time to have experienced the joys of relief it brings on so many different levels. I can remember when I first learned about yoga and struggled with my preconceptions. Did I have to wear a black speedo, grow my hair out and never wear a shirt again? (My first experience with yoga was a VHS tape of Rodney Yee. HA! ) Would I have to give up meat? Would I have to speak only of rainbows, unicorns, chakras, and peace? Would I have to completely change who I am? I could go into great length answering these…but I will be short in my answer: I believe yoga makes you the best version of you…regardless of any of the above mentioned thoughts/requirements. You still get to be you…just a much better version of you.
These thoughts however are valid! If yoga and meditation help with depression…then am I…or YOU…allowed to be depressed? According to Masters, there is a deep well of practitioners in Yoga / Self development field who feel like experiencing "negative" emotions is to be avoided. However, the Practice of Yoga (POY) innately accesses the recesses of our consciousness, our body, our energetic matrix which underlies it all. As this occurs and we continue the practice, we will increase the transformative heat within these specific aspects of being. In other words, as we do the work, there is a good chance past trauma can surface and present itself as anger…and over the long-term if not properly addressed…depression.
So…if I am understanding this correctly…YES…it is OK to feel angry and perhaps even depressed! The important aspect is what we do when these feelings arise. Masters says, “Your state of consciousness at the moment that you re-experience these impressions is crucial to denature or down regulate these mental and emotional triggers.” He suggests before these feelings become uncontrollable to set a Boundary of First Resistance, “take a breath and back off slightly. Begin surrounding the practice with the breath and stay as centered as we can in the calm awareness of the Buddhi mind (where the Mind and the Prana are one).”
The practice of Yoga WILL bring things up. Masters says to avoid the artifacts and their echoes that arise, is to “re-embed the traumas.” The goal of yoga/meditation is to assess the breath (prana and the mind), adjust the practice and to take refuge in the sadhana. Additionally, Masters highlights the importance of Self-Awarness and Ahimsa…aka no shame, “if you feel that the experience is too overwhelming to manage, then seek out assistance in the form of Sangha or even professional assistance. When in doubt seek it out (help).”
David Bowie - Changes I still don't know what I was waiting for And my time was running wild A million dead-end streets Every time I thought I'd got it made It seemed the taste was not so sweet So I turned myself to face me But I've never caught a glimpse Of how the others must see the faker I'm much too fast to take that test
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange) Turn and face the strain Ch-ch-Changes
At the most basic level...Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is a natural response to an unnatural event. Of course from this point...there are many jumping off points we can explore which would further define what PTS is. It is safe to say that after a traumatic event, your body and mind...change. The opening lyrics of David Bowie's "Changes," seem so fitting when it comes to describing the changes warriors with PTS go through. For me...I could easily change the lyric: "...and my time was running wild," and replace it with "...and my mind was running wild!" Bowie continues with the lyric, "turn and face the strange." This could very well be the first step in post traumatic growth! In yoga terms we might call this santosha. Santosha has a direct translation to contentment, however, I like to translate it as acceptance. It is often very difficult for those struggling with PTS to feel...to feel comfortable being themselves...to face the stranger that is now them. - Chris Eder | MYT Director of Communication
Mindful Yoga Therapy strives to provide the appropriate tools to help those who suffer from PTS. Additionally, our 15 and 100-hour training programs strive to provide a teaching protocol that will help cultivate not regulate a daily practice for these warriors. Perhaps...even leading to some amazing life changes.
These changes often extend to the yoga teacher as well.
We asked our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta how the 100-hour MYT training changed him! Here is his answer:
The Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT) training pretty much changed everything about my practice. I feel that it took my understanding of yoga much deeper than the physical and into the layers of the subtle, mental and emotional bodies through our in-depth exploration of the nervous system. MYT training asked me to both learn about and then directly experience how the various tools of yoga affect the nervous system. For example, MYT taught me how to use yogic tools such as the breath in relatively simple ways that can have profound results on the practitioner. For those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD,) we are perpetually stuck in the fight/flight response with our ‘foot on the gas pedal’ and in MYT we learn how to ‘pump the breaks’ and balance out the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic or relaxation response via the yoga practices in the MYT toolkit. As someone with PTSD, I find using the tools of MYT in my yoga practice to be very supportive and grounding. I have found a lot of healing in a regular practice of Yoga Nidra, which MYT training helped me to explore. Perhaps, the most significant change to come from undertaking the MYT training was that it laid the foundation for my formal seated meditation practice. Prior to MYT training I had dabbled with many different forms of meditation but never settled into a formal daily practice. That all changed when MYT Founder and Director, Suzanne Manafort, challenged us to commit to sitting for 40 days straight during our 100 Hour Training Program. If we missed a day, we would simply start again and continue until we strung together 40 consecutive days with a seated meditation. I had a few slips before I completed the challenge but it was highly effective in teaching me the benefits of a daily mediation practice. I have not missed a single day since I completed the challenge and that was over a year ago. Hands down the greatest change in my life and my practice to come out of MYT training has come from the meditation practice that I learned. It has been a total game changer.
It's funny...the more I depend on technology to make me more efficient, the more it seems my life is full of things to do. I feel the very same technology I use to keep up in this fast-paced life...the more hectic my life becomes. Sometime to the point where I don't even get to...or more importantly...forget to enjoy it!
Mindfulness in its simplest form breaks down like this: paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, and without judgment. The mindfulness aspect of Mindful Yoga Therapy consists of two primary components:
1. Paying attention to the present moment 2. Maintaining an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment
Today, Suzanne Manafort, MYT Founder, follows-up with Part 2 of Mindfulness which deals with acceptance. Acceptance (Santosha)
Acceptance is an important part of mindfulness, and santosha is a key component of any therapeutic yoga practice. Santosha is the yogic principle of contentment and acceptance of what is actually arising in the body-mind. This acceptance does not at all infer non- action, but rather is the basis for transforming patterns in the body-mind. Santosha involves a degree of “allowing” that can be practiced only when inner support, grounding, and connecting to the earth have been firmly established.
The emphasis on acceptance is especially important for veterans with PTS due to the high incidence of guilt and moral injury that arises from the traumatic events they experience during military service. Many veterans have participated in activities that they later feel intense guilt and shame about. Conversely, other veterans feel a strong sense of guilt and shame about things they did not do or could not prevent. These negative feelings about past events, and the tendency to replay these events in the mind, prevent many veterans from living in the present moment. This negativity is often manifested as anger, restlessness, struggling, and isolation from others. By fostering santosha in our students, we can help them not only feel better about these past events, but also become more comfortable living in the present.
Peace & Love,
When Susann Spilkin first tried yoga during the early 70's, it wasn't to learn the ways of the enlightened, rather it was a way to escape for a night out with her husband. However, it wasn't long before the allure of listening to the Beatles playing in the yoga classes that yoga turned from 'something alternative to try,' to 'joy from being inside her body' in a way she had never been before. Similarly, that is the one of the goals of Mindful Yoga Therapy. The tools provided in the MYT practices are a powerful complement to professional treatment for Post Traumatic Stress. Tools that when used in tandem with professional talk therapy help veterans reconnect to their bodies. Susann's father was in the Air Force Reserves. She recalls a trip to the Detroit VA where she took her father for an appointment. While walking through the hallways she experienced great joy, much like her first yoga experience. She really enjoyed sharing a smile, or even eye contact with the Vets at the VA. Perhaps a felt experience, or perhaps an authentic experience. Susann's Veteran connection begins and ends with her dad, but that doesn't mean she isn't connected. "I may not have experienced anything our vets have experienced in their service, but we are more alike than we are different; we all want the same things….to feel good and to live a life with as much peace and joy as possible."
Susann is in fact spreading peace and joy. She teaches yoga using the MYT principles to veterans at the Detroit VA Medical Center as well as the Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program. Additionally she has presented MYT at the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals Annual Conference in the hopes of introducing MYT into the Michigan Veteran’s Treatment Courts. Rolf Gates often says in his class, "plant good seeds...and good fruit will grow. Well, the seeds have been planted and they are already beginning to grow. Susann has been contacted by the Ann Arbor, Michigan VA Transition Management Team to bring yoga to their post-911 vets; the Detroit VA Medical Center Military Sexual Trauma Department for a women’s only MYT program; and the Macomb County Vet Center wants a MYT program as well. If you think that is a lot of work for one person to handle...you're right! Three of our recent 100-hr graduates are stepping into these opportunities.
A mindful, embodied yoga practice can provide relief from symptoms and develop the supportive skills that veterans need in their everyday lives. Yoga has proven to aid in a veteran’s healing journey. This healing power, or journey is not only for the veteran. It is a two-way path. Susann believes her personal practice has been fortified by her MYT training and teaching. She says the principals were always present but now have a deeper meaning. "The actions and effects that I took for granted truly seem like precious gifts now. Gratitude plays a much bigger role in my own practice/teaching and life. I am more aware than ever of the power of the practice to support a balanced nervous system and can equate that to the yogic quality of sattva."
Getting a yoga student to take a teacher training class is pretty easy. Easier still is getting a yoga teacher to take a yoga class. However, it still seems somewhat elusive to get veterans to try yoga. Susann offers this advice. "Remember the old Life cereal advertisement?....'Try it, Mikey likes it!' Ask your buddies who have tried yoga; you are more likely to believe and trust them than me. Those who have tried it are likely to tell you they are sleeping better, have a handle on their anger, that their relationships with their families have improved and they have a level of self-acceptance that they haven’t felt in a long time. You are likely to hear them tell you that they are less often numb or controlled by their emotions and that they are feeling more and in a good way."
Solid advice to be sure. However, what if you don’t have a buddy letting you know how yoga has given them tools to deal with life? Susann suggests grabbing one or two of them and finding out together.
If you're a veteran and are looking to try yoga, but are not sure where to start...contact our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta. If you're a yoga teacher who is interested in taking one of our programs, check out the program schedule for a class near you.
The principle of support preceding action states that if we want to feel connected and integrated in our movement, we need to know where our support is coming from before we engage in any action. For example, in Mindful Yoga Therapy we learn to recognize the earth firmly beneath us in order to allow ourselves to receive its support. Knowing we have the support we need before we make any move forward, take our next step in life, or even simply move into a yoga posture is essential. In other words: Support Precedes Everything
Maintaining your own practices and keeping your body and nervous system healthy are of utmost importance. Your personal yoga practices are as important as what you are teaching. Your Pranayama, Asana, Yoga Nidra, Meditation, and Gratitude should not be neglected.
The grounding connection to earth lets us know that we have the support we need to move forward safely and with stability. This earthy, grounded feeling provides a calm presence, steadiness, and sense of ease.
With continued practice, our students may find new sensations of having support under them in many different areas of their bodies. They may begin to spontaneously initiate movement from those supports. When our students know where their support is coming from, they find more comfort. Finding this connection and relationship with earth may help our students begin to find a renewed relationship with themselves as well. Finding and nurturing this relationship with the self, and feeling fully supported by the earth, allows them to begin to explore their relationships with others.
One of the 6 supports
Connecting to Earth
Connecting to earth, or grounding, is one the earliest supports we begin to explore and this creates an active relationship between earth and us. Planting our feet or hands on the earth is the primary foundation for nurturing an understanding of what it is to be in relationship. By yielding into the earth, we are better able to receive its support and stay grounded in the present moment. This process teaches us to be in relationship with ourselves as well as with the earth on which we stand or rest.
We ask students to imagine being able to walk through life feeling fully connected to earth and to themselves. Developing a conscious relationship between self and earth fosters an ability to trust the support beneath you. This trust may lead to a sense of ease in relationships with others as well. There are many free resources available to help you find support. You can find them HERE!
Support Precedes Action is one of the...say it with me..."most important tools" in the Mindful Yoga Therapy toolbox. But what does it mean to you? Tanya Del Priore is a Navy Veteran and yoga teacher who completed the 100-hour MYT training at Studio Bamboo in Virginia Beach. Here is what Support Precedes Action means to her.
By Tanya Del Priore, 18 Jan 2016
I first encountered the phrase and principle of “support precedes action,” during the Mindful Yoga Therapy 100-hr teacher training in Virginia Beach, VA. The best explanation of the expression is an exploration of how the principle manifests itself in everyday life, on and off of the mat. I have reflected over my 52-years of life and have come to understand two things. First, I have been practicing this principle of support precedes action even though I had no words to describe it. Secondly, in life, things always happen in patterns. When two patterns are put together, a third will appear. Let me explain.
My first pattern in life occurred during my childhood where I experienced a traumatic event. I received immediate support from my family members and was able to move forward in life. The action was moving forward and not hanging onto the traumatic event. Learning, at a young age, how to move forward will serve me well during my next pattern in life. My second life pattern was serving for 23 years in the United States Navy. I was supported by years of training that taught me how to “react” appropriately in a stressful and traumatic events and I have been exposed to many unnatural events. I have fought fires onboard ship, collided with other ships, swarmed by low flying unidentified aircraft, I have seen many people seriously injured, and witnessed suicides. I was able to manage my way through each of these events with the support of fellow Sailors; you could say we were all in the same boat (a Sailor’s term of endearment for ship). It was the support of these Sailors and the sense of community that supported me through things that do not happen naturally in life.
After serving for 23 years, then came my time to leave the Navy and I retired in 2008; I was happy and sad at the same time. I was happy to be with my family at home but sad to leave my Navy family community behind. Then a third pattern emerged when I started practicing yoga in 2011. I was supported by those in the class and by the teacher. I was sharing the expressions of yoga poses even though our individual experiences were different. I met so many people who shared yoga with others for different reasons. Why did this place of yoga feel so familiar? It was because if felt similar to the place I had recently left and had served with for 23 years, the Navy. Today, I practice yoga because I am supported by others and I support them. I practice yoga because every pose is a “safe action” and for 23 years in the Navy I experienced plenty of “crazy military action”. Yoga provides a safe place for good, appropriate, and natural occurring action to happen. Each day, I practice recognizing patterns, triggers, and then I support myself with the tools of yoga to help me “act” (not “react”) in a manner that is beneficial to my health and well-being. Remember, support ALWAYS precedes action.
There are many free resources available to help you find support. You can find them HERE!
Twenty Yoga Teachers Graduate from 100 hour Mindful Yoga Therapy Certification Program
Meet our second graduating class! The Mindful Yoga Therapy 100 hour certification program awarded certificates to 20 new graduates in November. We're so proud to have worked with this group, and honored to know they will share what they've learned.
The 100 hour journey for these teachers began in 2015. To build on what they had learned in our 15-hour program, they enrolled in the 100-hour, one-weekend-a-month program at Studio Bamboo Yoga in Virginia Beach, VA. With Suzanne Manafort and Ann Richardson, they learned the set of tools to help Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress “to find a calm and steady body/mind to continue productive and peaceful lives through the support of the mindful practices of yoga.”
In November, they graduated with their certifications, and aim to bring the practice of Mindful Yoga Therapy into the world.
We’re honored to congratulate the graduates of Mindful Yoga Therapy’s second 100 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program. We are grateful for every one of you, and look forward to hearing from you all.
Are you a certified yoga instructor interested in taking our next 100 hour course? For teachers who have completed our 15-hour program, we offer 100 hour courses in Newington, CT beginning in March, and Virginia Beach, VA beginning in July. Please check our schedule page for program details and registration information.
MYT's Anthony Scaletta was interviewed on Reload Radio. Listen to the full interview here.
Anthony, Mindful Yoga Therapy's Outreach Coordinator for Veterans and a graduate of our 100 hour certification program, served as a US Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC) with Naval Special Warfare Group 1 out of San Diego, California from 1998-2003. He was an 11 Meter RHIB operator and did two deployments to the Northern Arabian Gulf region conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations and reconnaissance missions.
As a result of his service he was diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety, Depression and OCD. He also suffered chronic pain and underwent spinal fusion surgery. It was through these “opportunities,” which he used to call obstacles, that yoga found Anthony--and it immediately resonated with him as the way to heal and reintegrate after his military service.
Meet Anthony and learn more about his Mindful Yoga Therapy mission.
Today the New York Post features an article on John Neib, Vietnam vet and student of Mindful Yoga Therapy. John talks about how Mindful Yoga Therapy helped him sleep better and his love of the community at Newington Yoga. He plans to assist MYT founder Suzanne Manafort in a future yoga teacher training program.
Read the full article on the New York Post site.
Teaching Mindful Yoga Therapy in the Middle East We set out on May 22nd 2015 for Tel Aviv with our training manual and Practice Guide translated into Arabic for the trainings. It was a 10-hour flight.
There were 5 of us. The group consisted of me (Suzanne), Rob Schware (Executive Director, Give Back Yoga Foundation) Rama Jyoti Vernon and Ruth from 7 Centers Yoga Arts. The last two yoga teachers have worked in this area before. Alice Trembour, Rob’s wife, joined us the next day, and she provided a tremendous amount of support as Rob was not allowed into the women’s trainings.
We stayed in Jerusalem overnight and headed for Palestine in the morning.
We did four trainings in Ramallah and were greeted by a group from Farashe Yoga Center (the only yoga center in Ramallah) who also provided us with translators.
The first training was for women yoga teachers.
For the first group, we conducted a four-day training split between Mindful Yoga Therapy training and the other two yoga teachers that came from Arizona.
The participants were incredibly eager and hungry for as much information as possible. They also shared some information with us about their culture, experiences, and their lives. They were convinced that these practices would make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.
The second training was a private training for a young yoga teacher named Mohammad.
A young Palestinian, that would love to see change in his country and the world, Mohammed believes yoga can help to do that. He is also training for the 2016 Olympics as a sprinter. After the Olympics, he is committed to teaching yoga in Palestine and using it to change the world. I believe that he will!
The next two trainings also separated the men from the women. They were for psychosocial workers that work in the refugee camps and with trauma on a regular basis. We were asked to bring them training on some simple practices that they could use with their patients and an explanation on why they work. They too are planning to use these practices as much as possible personally and professionally.
This trip was such a cultural experience, and the people of Palestine are the warmest people I have ever met. If you admire something they have, they will buy one for you. They are so kind and generous!
The cultural difference took a little getting used to. An example is the separation of men and women. Some people shook hands, and some people touched their own heart when they met you. I am still unclear on when to shake hands or not shake hands.
Mindful Yoga Therapy brought them each a mala for their new mediation practice. They couldn’t have been more grateful and seemed very committed to using and teaching these practices.
The truth is, trauma is trauma no matter what culture you are submerged in and, in fact, some cultures and populations experience more than others. Our hope is that these yoga practices are adopted in this place, half way around the world, and that they are as successful as they have been for us.
We returned home on June 6th 2015. We (The Give Back Yoga Foundation and Mindful Yoga Therapy) will be working a plan to support our programs in this country and others. Stay tuned.
Ali Warrick (Yoga With Ali Warrick) and Chris Eder (MalaForVets) are leading the charge for a 22-Day Challenge to raise awareness about the daily rate of Veteran suicides. The two hope to raise, not only awareness, but funds for two non-profits making a difference in the quality of life of Veterans: Save A Warrior and Mindful Yoga Therapy. For 22 days starting May 1st, Ali and Chris will post various pictures and videos of themselves performing a yoga move, yoga sequence, or fitness-related exercise on their Instagram pages (Chris: @afnbroadcaster, Ali: @yoga_w_ali ) These posts will also be shared on their Facebook pages. The goal is to encourage others to do the same. This share & post social media campaign is the thrust behind the awareness component of the campaign. To make things sweeter, Mindful Yoga Therapy has offered up some swag and MalaForVets has offered up a Strength & Courage mala. Guidelines are below on how to be entered to win
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
For 22 days (starting May 1st), post a picture of yourself doing the daily pose tagging all hosts and sponsors and using #22aDayChallenge! Beginners welcome! All of our poses will be accessible to ensure every yogi can participate!
Yoga isn’t your thing? Donate $22 and take a screen shot of your confirmation! Post and tag us using all of the hashtags to let us know you chose to support in a different way!
To be eligible for prizes:
- Follow our hosts & sponsors on Instagram: @afnbroadcaster, @yoga_w_ali, @givebackyogafoundation, @mindfulyogatherapy, @saveawarrior, @fractal.9, @flexiblewarrior
- LIKE our hosts and sponsors on Facebook: @MalaforVets, @Yoga With Ali Warrick, @givebackyogafoundation @saveawarrior, @mindfulyogatherapy, @flexiblewarrior, @heather’s treasures, @Fractal 9
- Repost this Challenge Announcement to help spread the word, tagging all hosts and sponsors.
- ADD these hashtags to all of your posts: #22aDayChallenge #SaveAWarrior #MindfulYogaTherapy #Gratitude #GiveBackYogaFoundation #Yoga_w_Ali #MalaforVets #afnbroadcaster
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Thank you to all who choose to join in on this challenge and help spread awareness for our veterans and the organizations that support them.
From Day 1, as a Marine it is ingrained in our very moral fiber never to surrender, quit, or leave a man behind. To keep the moral values of honor courage and commitment is something many Marines strive for even after leaving the Corps. For many of us in combat situations we endure things that are horrific, and painful. Though as a war fighter we shut the pain off in order to continue with the mission, often replace it with rage and heightened sensitivity. When you are deployed you live with your guys day in and day out ready to lay down your life for your buddy. There is no way to explain the bonds we create to someone who has never been. Though I can say my fellow Marines are as close, if not closer, to me than my own family.
We come home after being deployed, and we are sent to a few classes about PTS, told not to drink and drive, fight, or get into domestic disputes. We come home from being so close, and for many of us we come home to not much of any family, or social life. I often would listen to someone in conversation, and be asked “Andrew, did you hear anything I just said?” I was gone, off in my own mind.
With PTS, I began, like many of my Brothers and Sisters do, to medicate. I would drink, until I was medicated, then the drinking stopped replaced by meds, or a combination of both I did whatever it took to be numb. My thoughts raced, I had nightmares, and I wanted to die but didn’t have the nerve to kill myself. I was miserable in my own skin, and to make it worse I had lost 3 years of sobriety when I drank coming home from deployment. The last 4 years has been a struggle, sober, drinking, depressed, and repeat. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually made suicide seem like a legit alternative. I wanted to die, and was starting to feel the courage to do it. Thank God, for God - that feeling that we get when that guardian angel whispers “no.”
I’m broken, but I’m fixable, if I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over. Today I’m Andrew; I have a problem with PTS, and Whiskey, but most of all I have a problem with what’s going on in between my ears. Today, I’m sober.
It’s very difficult to admit defeat, but it is necessary to recover, so I surrender. I need help. “Please help” was the hardest, most rewarding thing I ever did. Please ask yourself honestly, “do I want to be a testimony or a statistic?” Suicide is not the answer; whiskey, pills, depression, and isolation is not the answer. For many of us we have a dual diagnosis, addiction, alcohol, post traumatic stress. I have backup, a quick reaction force, I like to call him God. I was told, when I began my journey to recovery, to find Him and ask for His help. The shame is not in surrender, it’s in pride and ego telling you that you can do it on your own. Until that pride and ego tells you that “your nothing, no one cares, screw it,” then you may find yourself like me, seriously considering, some days, just ending my life. That’s not the answer, if you don’t see it I hope you do after you read this. Giving into PTS, or Suicide is like a 3000 mile sniper shot taking you out from the Middle East. I, for one, do not want to give those bastards the satisfaction of knowing I wasn’t strong enough to endure being here at home.
There is no difference for this Marine to stick a gun against my head or take a shot of whiskey to feel numb. It will all lead me the same place, morally, spiritually, or physically dead. There is hope though, to all the veterans out there who drink to be numb, think of friends lost, live in guilt, are hurting daily, or just waiting to punch their ticket. I just want to say I feel you, and you are not alone. Yoga, clinical professionals, and treatment are all answers. So I quote one of the men who saved my life. One of my heroes, mentor, and friend Sgt. Major Mackey, when he told me, “Stand down Marine, the battle is over, you’re not alone. Your brothers are here to help you, and the ones who didn’t make it home deserve better for their memory than you to throw away their sacrifice by messing your life up.”
Funny thing is in surrender, I have found victory, because I’m Andrew, I’m human, I’m hurting, need help. Great thing is, I found it. I found help through organizations like Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans, Treatment, and Veterans Services. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s not ok to try and survive on your own. The war is not over; we are losing the battle here with suicide, addiction, alcoholism, dereliction, homelessness, and spiritual suicide. Many veterans every day are thinking about or have succeeded in ending their own life. I’m sad to say in the course of writing this I can almost guarantee suicide has crossed a service members mind.
Yoga, along with proper treatment, and support is a great set of tools to help you along your road to recovery. So, please hear me when I say, stand down, the battle is over you’re home, we are here to help. Please, if you need it cry out for it, and stop being alone. God Bless and I hope this can help someone, because today I want to be a testimony of recovery, not a statistic.
Hello everyone! We are humbled, and excited, to announce that MYT founder Suzanne Manafort will be receiving a Karma award from Yoga Journal in September of this year.
She has also been selected to receive a Seva award! The Seva awards are awarded to "yogis who are doing seva, or selfless work, by bringing the healing practice of yoga to underserved people either in their own communities or around the world."
There will be a scholarship award given to one of the 13 Seva winners to help carry on their work.
We'd like to ask you all to vote for Suzanne by visiting her bio page.
We are eternally grateful for your support!
From Yoga Journal: "In choosing the 13 Seva Award winners, the editors at Yoga Journal, along with our advisors Rob Schware, Executive Director of Give Back Yoga Foundation, and John Kepner, Executive Director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, searched for yogis who have been volunteering consistently (week after week, month after month, year after year) for at least eight consecutive years; who are doing pioneering work with an underserved population; and who have made progress against serious odds in a difficult situation."
Once again, the Mindful Yoga Therapy program is gaining recognition in the news... In Cincinnati, Jennifer Wright is making mindful magic happen, helping veterans in the Veteran Court system.
Here she is being interviewed by Deborah Dixon of Cincinnati Local 12 News.
Local veterans with post-traumatic stress and other problems are learning how to deal with anxiety, depression and addiction in a peaceful way....
Chris Eder serves as our Director of Communications. He is a retired Air Force Combat Correspondent who now spends his days teaching yoga, making mala beads, and occasionally, getting back in front of the camera to talk about what he is passionate about....HELPING VETS!
"Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars...I'm gonna give you my heart
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars...'Cause you light up the path
Chris Martin of Coldplay
There are about 100 billion neurons in your brain. Each of them connects to another via a neural pathway. On average, each neuron receives about five-thousand connections, called synapses from other neurons. (Lindon 2007) The number of possible of connections between all of these neurons is roughly 10 to the millionth power, or a 1 followed by a million zeros. In theory, this is the number of possible states your brain can achieve. For perspective, scientist estimate the number of atoms in the universe to be "only" 10 to the eightieth power.
The same brain that has evolved over time to protect us from extinction with super survival skills is also responsible for our pain and suffering. Even though the majority of us would classify our lives as good, happy, and fulfilling, our brain is programmed to initially respond counter to those thoughts. These thoughts are known as explicit memories, or memories which you can recall. For example, I felt really good after yoga. I totally remember how I felt after the class...I was sort of on cloud nine. Here is where the problem lies...our brains have a default setting that scours our entire brain for unpleasant experiences. These experiences are known as implicit memories. This is an unconscious memory based on years of accumulated "lived" experiences. It is the jest of who you are. Scientist believe our brains are like velcro when it comes to negative experiences. In other words, that stuff sticks with us...forever! Conversely, our brains are like Teflon when it comes to positive experiences...that stuff just won't stick!
It is important to know and understand that this evolutionary development is very important to our survival. It is the President and Chariman/Executive Officer (CEO) of our Central Nervous System or CNS. There is also the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who runs the Autonomic Nervous System. (ANS) The two major departments within the CNS are the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) andParasympathetic Nervous System. (PNS). The SNS is responsible for signaling all of the different parts of our mind and body to get up and get out! The PNS does the opposite, it relaxes you and comforts you. It signals you when it is OK to chill out.
The SNS and PNS are in fact a Yin and Yang duality. We need them both. It is the SNS that alerts us that even a baby shark is still a shark...that a rattlesnake is poisonous...or that a person with a knife running towards you screaming is a dangerous scenario...you too must now run! The PNS is totally the opposite. It is cool, calm and collective. It allows us to rest and digest. Both of these two systems are automatic...hence they belong to the Autonomic Nervous system.
So...where is the problem? Well, since they are automatic, we really can't control them. Remember how our brain defaults to our implicit memories...or the negative/unpleasant? Well, when these systems are out of whack...which by the way, they are defaulted to do for survival purposes, the rest of our body systems will follow suit and thus also be out of whack. Oh...and it gets worse! According to a study by Maletic et al. 2007, even a single episode of major depression can reshape circuits of your brain to make future episodes more likely. THANKS!
We have to fight back...with COMPASSION!
"The root of compassion is compassion for oneself." - Pema Chodron
In a nutshell, we have to create more happiness, joy, love and positivity. Esoterically, we have to pull out weeds and plant new seeds. (implicit memories) Scientifically, we have to create new neural pathways. I like to call this, "Taking in the Good!" There are three neural systems if you will that will help us along this Pursuit of Compassion. Actions, Emotions, and Thoughts. If we can change our actions, emotions, and thoughts, then we can according to Dr. Rick Hanson and his book, "Buddha's Brain," bring happiness, love and wisdom to our lives. Who do you chose to feed?
This is where the REAL battle comes into play! There is an old folklore story about the two wolves that live inside each of us. The wolf of Hate and the wolf of Love. As the story goes, which ever you feed will prevail. But remember, it is so much easier to feed the wolf of Hate...it is our default setting. I liken it to getting upset almost to (and sometimes over) the tipping point when someone cuts you off on the interstate. Our first reaction more often than not is, "what a jerk!" (or some other colorful expletive!) That is is us feed the wolf of Hate. What if...the person who just cut you off was rushing to the hospital because his wife, who is in the back seat is going into labor? If you knew this...would you still think the person was a jerk? Ah...the wolf of Love! Yet another Yin/Yang battle.
Here is a very simplistic approach on "Taking in the Good." We have to change our Actions, Emotions, and Thoughts with small positive actions every day that will add up over time and build new neural structures.
ACTIONS: I had a yoga student come up to me prior to a yoga class and tell me she finally figured it out! It was her actions to others that was causing stress, not others causing her stress. Perfect! That is a clearheaded response. It is virtually impossible to change the person or thing that irritates you, that makes you mad, or causes you stress. However, you can change how YOU react to it. Sometimes called the "Second Dart" syndrome. It works like this. If I were to tell you that you were a failure who really didn't meet their true potential...you have two options. Option #1 - Strike Back! "How dare you say that to me?" "Who are you to judge me?" "You're life isn't so great either...you big loser!" (Feeding the wolf of Hate...super easy, instant gratification.) OR Option #2 - You could pause, tap into your explicit memories, rather than your implicit memories and instead of sending a "Second Dart" back at me, change you ACTIONS to that of compassion. It is nowhere near as easy. There is also a good chance there will be no instant gratification. However, you are now feeding the wolf of Love.
EMOTIONS: Our brains need to have a regulated flow of Nuerochemicals. Chief among them (for the purpose of this blog) are Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin. Serotonin regulates our mood and a deficiency can cause major depression. Dopamine controls our reward and pleasure systems and helps with our "emotional" responses. Low levels in dopamine can effect your ability to think clearly, and reeks havoc on your ability to focus and concentrate. (Think ADHD.) Oxytocin aka the kissing hormone, promotes nurturing behaviors. When we kiss someone, or are in a romantic/loving state of mind we produce oxytocin. Low levels of this neurochemical is linked to autism-spectrum disorders...as well as poor social functions and depression. We can actually think "Happy Thoughts" according to a study in the Journal of Psycharity and Neuroscience. Additionally, breathing practices and physical exercises like yoga can alter and even regulate the levels of these neurochemicals to help regulate your emotions.
THOUGHTS: Oh the thoughts..the self-doubt, the worries, unfounded conclusions. The list could go on and on. My personal opinion is that changing our thoughts is the most difficult task. We now are working on both explicit and implicit memories. However, the task is still very worthy of our attention. And...with some basic building blocks we can begin to build a practice and daily routine that will over time become very powerful and rewarding.
Start with smiling! Yep...that easy. The simple act of smiling excites several neurochemicals in our brains and we begin to feel...HAPPY! Try this. Sit in a comfortable and supportive position. Close your eyes and listen to your breath and pay attention to your thoughts. After a few minutes, put a smile on your face and notice how your thoughts change.
We can also bring change to our thoughts through meditation. There are many different styles and approaches to meditation. I believe meditation is like pizza. There really is no such thing as bad pizza, nor bad meditation. For the purpose of this article, I would highly recommend compassionate/kindness-based meditation. Meditation that will trigger neurochemicals (limbic-system) such as oxytocin (rewards/emotions) and will begin to engage your Prefrontal Cortex. (PFC) The PFC is kind of like the quarterback in your brain. It sets goals, makes plans and directs actions. It also allows and sometimes inhibits us from doing things. It works mostly on a conscious level. One of my favorite types of compassionate/kindness based mediation is Loving Kindness Meditation. (KLM) In KLM you will be meditating for...bringing love and kindness to, three different people. The first is someone who you love...who brings value to your life. The second is someone who you'd much rather slap in the face...so to speak. In other words, someone who brings strife or conflict. Perhaps the person who cut you off on the highway. :) The third person...and this might be the most difficult person...is YOU! Self-Compassion as Pema Chodron describes it above. I have added a sample of one that I really enjoy. I would highly recommend keeping a journal next to where you meditate to keep track of who you are picking as your #1 and #2 just to see what happens of the course of time. Another word of caution...if you are new to meditation, I would recommend not going for the jugular for your #2. Start small and work your way up. I went right for the biggest issue in my life and got very sick.
Another real easy compassionate-based practice is the practice of Gratitude. Mindful Yoga Therapy uses this practice with Veterans with PTSD. The simple act of taking time to be grateful for something no matter how big or small is very powerful. It too triggers all the same neurochemicals that simply and easily make you feel good! Or as is the case with Vets with PTSD...simply feel...something.
There is one person in this world who holds all the power, maybe even the greatest power over you. It is the future version of you. You have the ability to be the best you that you can be. It might not be the You...you're use to, nor the You...you once were. It is however...the You...that you are...NOW! The power is in your hands...in your control. Which wolf do you choose to feed?
You see, if we know that our brains are programmed to default to highlight negative experiences, our goal is not to suppress our negative thoughts into a deep dark place. Instead, we need to cultivate more positive experiences. Taking in the Good! We do this by practicing on a conscious level. We practice changing our Actions. We practice by changing our Emotions. We practice by changing our Thoughts. In the beginning we act happy, loving, kind, grateful, and calm. Over time, millions of new neural pathways will shape...and instead of "acting," we will simply...BE!
_()_Namaste - Chris
Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans is taking root in Long Island, thanks to teacher Danielle Goldstein, founder and owner of Mindful Turtle Yoga & Wellness. Beginning in May, Mindful Turtle will offer a special class that veterans and their families can attend free of charge. Danielle is also partnering with Suffolk County United Veterans to launch a Mindful Yoga Therapy pilot program for vets - the first step toward developing a formal county-wide program.
Suffolk County is home to the largest population of veterans in New York State, with nearly 160,000 vets calling Long Island home. Studies show that nearly 20% of returning veterans are impacted by post-traumatic stress and other behavioral health disorders, and the need for a complementary alternative treatment like Mindful Yoga Therapy is great. We're honored to be making a difference - and grateful to Danielle for taking the lead!
About Danielle Goldstein
Danielle has had a dedicated yoga practice for over 15 years and has studied many traditions of classical yoga, particularly the Ashtanga Yoga Method, developing a respect and appreciation for yoga and its life changing possibilities. Her classes are motivating, inspiring and compassionate.
Her training includes both a 200 and 500 hour yoga teacher training from the Yoga Teacher Training Institute under the guidance of Ma Mokshapriya Shakti and Marianne Mitsinikos. She has an additional 500 hour certification in Classical Ashtanga Yoga with with Beryl Bender Birch of The Hard and The Soft Yoga Institute, has assisted Beryl at various workshops, trainings and is a faculty member of her yoga teacher training.
Danielle is also a parent and child counselor with over twenty years of experience in the fields of education and counseling. She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. She also serves of the board of The Morgan Center, a preschool for children undergoing chemotherapy.
Danielle has studied Mindful Yoga Therapy extensively with Suzanne Manafort, and is passionate about bringing this work into the world and supporting Vets with PTS and trauma.